How AI Could Revitalize Lebanon’s Hospitality Industry

Dr. Pierre Y. Akiki

Founder and CEO, Next Ideaz, an international hotel and restaurant consulting group based in Lebanon & USA.

Hotels, resorts and restaurants around the world are fast ramping up their operations to integrate artificial intelligence into every business function and being richly rewarded for it. To date, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt are the main actors in the Middle East to adopt this trend. It is time for Lebanon and other countries across the region to harness the transformative power of AI in order to streamline operations and improve guest experience.

Based on a market size of USD 90 million in 2023, AI promises to take hospitality into lofty spheres in the next decade, with a forecasted CAGR of 60% by 2033. Manifold growth drivers are behind this transformation, chiefly a demand for a better guest experience, the integration of dynamic pricing and real-time responses from customers.

The benefits to hotels and restaurants are largely equivalent, allowing for differences based on the nature of each business type.

The term “hotels” includes: luxury hotels, resorts, mid-scale and budget hotels, B&B’s and hotel chains.

  1. Personalized Guest Experience

Personalization is the main driver behind an impressive guest experience market share of over 46%. Hotels can include chatbots to answer questions and book rooms, compile data as to guests’ preferred amenities, dining selections and recreational activities. Notably significant for an international clientele, chatbots can also interact with hotel guests in their native language and remember their local etiquette and observed holidays.

  1. Efficient Operations

AI can optimize several operational processes within a hotel. For example, they can automate routine tasks such as check-ins, room service requests, billing processes, staff performance workflow analysis, resource allocation and areas needing improvement. This provides managers with a mine of information to make optimal decisions in the smooth running of their establishment with a view to a higher return on investment.

Alt text: Robotic hand holding tray with bell on it, AI in hospitality  
  1. Revenue Management

In a congested sector, a hotel’s primary concern is the bottom line. Studies have shown a direct correlation between AI dynamic pricing models and increased hotel revenues. AI systems can analyze historical and real-time data, competitor analyses, market trends and customer demand to optimize pricing. Armed with this data, hotel managers can make informed decisions to stay ahead of the competition.

  1. Predictive Maintenance

AI can be used to monitor and predict equipment failures, allowing hotels to proactively perform maintenance and reduce downtime. By analyzing the condition of assets and equipment they can offer recommendations for repairs. They can also set a schedule for routine maintenance to stave off future likelihood of failure. This can help prevent guest inconvenience and improve overall operational efficiency.

  1. Voice Assistance and Smart Devices

Hotels are retrofitting rooms with AI technology for ultimate guest comfort. With a single device or application operated through voice commands, guests can control lighting, temperature and music, order room service, request maintenance, deliveries, and information. Digital keys provide easy room access and contactless card machines guarantee secure payments.

Alt text: Robot hotel greeter standing by check-in desk, AI in hospitality  
  1. Data Analysis and Market Insights

AI is ideal for analyzing large volumes of customer data to identify trends, patterns, and preferences. These insights can help hotel managers make profitable decisions regarding marketing, service improvements, and operational strategies. AI can foster brand engagement by optimizing ad campaigns, monitor multiple social media outlets, respond to posts and reviews, and answer questions though website chatbots.

  1. Enhanced Security

An AI-powered surveillance system provides a safe environment for guests and staff, especially during busy hotel events. It monitors and evaluates live feeds, detects potential security breaches or fire hazards and alerts personnel. AI systems are adaptive, in time their overall efficiency is refined by the body of data they have collected allowing them to better distinguish between real and imagined threats.

The future of AI in restaurants, as in hotels, looms large. The possibilities are numerous and lucrative as AI can facilitate operations, increase customer satisfaction as well as revenues. It is ideal for struggling hospitality sectors like Lebanon’s, following the economic crash and staggering deflation.

  1. Customer Service and Personalization

The most significant advantage to AI integration in restaurants is the Personalized Customer Experience (CX). AI-powered engines can identify customers through facial recognition, track their choices and make dining recommendations. They can then create customer segments to target with relevant marketing messages, which prevents unrealized marketing efforts and engenders customer loyalty.

  1. Predictive Analysis and Demand Forecasting

Demand forecasting is an analysis performed by AI to predict future sales with higher accuracy. Based on historical data, algorithms can provide restaurateurs with precise information on customer demand. This helps in optimizing par-stock management, reducing over-buying, setting staff schedules, planning menus and ensuring that popular items are always available.

  1. Menu Optimization and Recommendations

Personalized menus that cater to specific tastes and dietary requirements enhance customer engagement and increase sales. AI can analyze customer preferences and behavior to suggest menu modifications and offerings that align with popular trends. It can also adjust menu prices in real-time based on seasonal demand, time of day, inventory, and market conditions.

Alt text: Robot server in a cafeteria with a menu selection screen carrying tray with a dish on it, AI in hospitality.   
  1. Inventory Management

AI-powered systems can automate inventory management, supply chain logistics, and procurement processes. By streamlining these operations, restaurants can minimize waste and ensure that the necessary ingredients and supplies are always available when needed.

  1. Enhanced Marketing Strategies

AI facilitates targeted marketing campaigns based on customer data and preferences for increased brand visibility and customer engagement. It can monitor and engage restaurant customers on multiple social media platforms, analyze social media trends and create effective marketing strategies.

  1. Streamlined Payment Processing

During a restaurant rush-hour, mistakes are most likely to happen during payment. AI-powered payment systems, including mobile payment and self-checkout make transactions faster and more convenient. They reduce errors, detect fraud, and facilitate payment reconciliation. This adds appreciably to the overall dining experience and reduces losses to the restaurant.

Alt text: Robot server in a bistro carrying tray with a plate of donuts, AI in hospitality  
  1. Kitchen Automation and Optimization

AI-driven kitchen automation tools can streamline the cooking process, optimize recipes and improve the overall efficiency of food preparation. Smart appliances can speed routine tasks; robots can chop and stir, generate recipes, eliminate food waste and set maintenance schedules. AI security systems can prevent breaches and hazards.

It’s important to note that while AI can provide numerous benefits to hospitality management, industrial robots don’t come cheap; they range from $25,000 to $200,000. They demand maintenance and that can run into money too. AI software must be regularly upgraded and requires fixing when it goes wrong. This may be a stumbling block to struggling hospitality sectors like Lebanon’s. On the other hand an investment in AI has been proven to show a significant ROI and is worthy of consideration.

Technology today is extremely advanced but nothing can replace original thinking and the ability to respond to un-programmed occurrences. What we call the “human touch” is still indispensable and AI must be used as a tool to augment and support human capabilities, rather than replace them altogether.

Established in 2007, Next Ideaz is an international hotel and restaurant consulting group based in Beirut and USA. We are specializing in Concept creation & development, brand and product development, architectural and interior design.

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