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Yesterday, the tech giant announced it has developed a version of Alexa for hotels. Called “Alexa for Hospitality,” the technology will assist hotel guests in controlling room temperature, arranging wake up calls, delivering weather updates, reserving spa treatments, and booking reservations. “Alexa, bring me wine”; ask and you shall receive.
Hospitality companies that want to use the technology will only be accepted “by invitation.” The first brand bringing it into its hotel rooms is the Marriott Group, designating select Marriott, Westin, St. Regis, Aloft, and Autograph hotels to add Alexa for Hospitality via Amazon Echos in its hotel rooms starting this summer. The first hotels to use the tech will be the Marriott Irvine Spectrum in California and the Charlotte Marriott City Center in North Carolina.
“Customers tell us they love how easy it is to get information, enjoy entertainment and control connected devices by simply asking Alexa, and we want to offer those experiences everywhere customers want them,” Daniel Rausch, an Amazon vice president, wrote in the company’s statement about the launch.
The important word in Rausch’s statement is “everywhere.” While guests can opt out of using Alexa by shutting it (her?) off, the idea of having a gadget inside your hotel room that can listen and track your activities is kind of creepy. It’s just another example of how Amazon is slowly crawling into every aspect of people’s lives, and how massive tech companies are becoming inextricably tied to our daily routines, despite growing privacy concerns. In May, a couple in Portland, Oregon said their Amazon Alexa recorded a private conversation they were having and sent it to a random contact, and last week two senators wrote a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, asking for details about how much of its users’ activity Alexa was tracking, and what Amazon intends to do with the data.
This isn’t the first time Alexa has been used in the hospitality space. In 2016, the Wynn hotel in Las Vegas put Amazon Echoes in all of its nearly 5,000 hotel rooms. Back then, the Amazon Echo focused on functions like controlling the temperature and moving the drapes. But with this latest, hospitality-specific edition, guests will soon be able to connect their Amazon account to their hotel room’s Alexa.
They can then stream music from their personal Spotify accounts and listen to books from their Audible libraries. The account would be automatically be disconnected when a guest checks out, but there’s certainly data to be collected on what guests do during their free time, and who knows what hospitality groups, or Amazon, might potentially do with that information. (Anyone else thinking about that bizarre Gay Talese piece in the New Yorker about the “Voyeur’s Motel”?)
Amazon moving into the hospitality space will certainly affect it in the long run: The Marriott Group has over 1 million hotel rooms, and other hotel companies will be sure to want to compete. They will no doubt turn to competing virtual assistant gadgets from Google and Apple, which means the sterility, silence, and (relative) privacy we love about hotel rooms could soon be accompanied by an eavesdropping gadget.
Amazon doesn’t just have its sights set on hotels: In its statement, the company wrote that the technology will make it easy for vacation rental companies “to manage their property experiences and engage with guests.” Amazon lists RedAwning and the Two Roads Hospitality portfolio (which includes Thompson Hotels) as brands that could benefit from its service, which sounds like Amazon has already invited these companies to use its technology. But what will it mean for the privacy of family getaways and wild bachelorette parties if Airbnb or VRBO hosts sign up and start popping Amazon Echos next to their Monstera plants?