Hotel rooms will serve as the newest homes for Amazon's Alexa starting this summer. Amazon announced a special version of its virtual assistant, Alexa for Hospitality, that will live across Echo devices placed in hotels, vacation rentals, and other similar locations.
Alexa in these devices will be able to do special things for both hospitality professionals and their customers. Amazon claims its Alexa for Hospitality experience will let hotel professionals "deepen engagement" through its voice controls that customers can use. Hotels can also customize some of the experience that they want their customers to have by choosing default music services, creating special Alexa Skills that only their guests can use, and monitor device online status and other connectivity issues.
Guests staying in a room with an Echo device will likely find the experience either convenient or invasive. Guests can ask Alexa to do things like order room service, answer questions about hotel services, control some in-room connected devices like lights and blinds, and more. Alexa Skills will also be available, so guests can use a Skill such as Flight Tracker to check the status of their flight before checking out.
Those who already embrace Alexa will also enjoy a feature coming soon after Alexa for Hospitality's launch: the ability to temporarily connect your Amazon account to an in-room Echo device. Doing so will allow guests to access their own content like music and audiobooks from the hotel's Alexa-enabled device. Once guests check out, their account gets disconnected from that Echo device.
Those who aren't as enamored with Alexa may not be happy to stay in a room with a constantly-listening virtual assistant. According to a report by the Verge, Amazon programmed Alexa for Hospitality with a few special privacy measures: recordings of Alexa commands are deleted daily, and hotels can't get access to guests' voice recordings or Alexa's responses to those voice recordings. However, hotels will be able to "measure engagement through analytics and adapt services based on guest feedback," which likely means that they will have access to some information regarding guest interaction with in-room Alexa devices.
While those are good safeguards to have in place, there will still be guests who don't want Alexa anywhere in their hotel experience. The introduction of Alexa for Hospitality comes shortly after Amazon confirmed that Alexa on an Echo device recorded a private conversation and sent it to a person in the user's contact list as a message. Device logs confirmed that the Echo in this case accidentally heard "Alexa" and "send message" within the conversation.
All Echo devices have a mute button that disables the microphone, and you can always unplug the in-room Echo completely. It's unclear if Alexa for Hospitality devices will have another disconnect option for guests who are adamantly against having Alexa in their rooms. Ars reached out to Amazon for more details about this, and to see if the company has more information on just how many rooms in each partner hotel will contain Alexa-enabled devices.
Alexa for Hospitality rolls out this summer starting at Marriott Hotels, Westin Hotels & Resorts, St. Regis Hotels & Resorts, Aloft Hotels, and Autograph Collection Hotels.
Update, 10:31am ET: According to an Amazon representative, hotel guests can request for the Echo device to be removed from their room if they do not want to make use of Alexa during their stay.