Since the official announcement was made one month ago, Alibaba’s first “future hotel”, also known as “FlyZoo Hotel”, finally opened on December 18, 2018, in Hangzhou, China. It had been four months since Tencent launched its AI Hotel in Beijing. The current price for a room is RMB1399, which is not cheap but it does not diminish people’s interest in this “intelligent hotel”.
How is Alibaba’s Future Hotel different from traditional hotels?
The rooms at FlyZoo Hotel are only available for online booking through Alibaba’s Fliggy App (Alibaba’s online travel agency). There you can choose your preferred floor, the location and the front of the room. When customers arrive at the hotel, they will see an automated check-in machine in the lobby, which can verify the identity of guests using facial recognition. This advanced technology is widely used in this “future hotel”, including the rooms, the restaurant, the fitness centre, and even the lift. Guests are taken to the floor of their rooms without having to press the button, and the bills in the restaurant or gym are automatically recorded and settled when checking out. The check-out is also conveniently processed on the App and users can complete the payment on Alipay in just a few clicks.
Each room is equipped with an artificial-intelligence management system called the "Tmall Genie. The system can perform a variety of voice-activated tasks, such as controlling the indoor temperature, lighting, and household appliances and ordering meals, etc.
What does Alibaba expect from the FlyZoo Hotel?
“We do not intend to build an unmanned hotel, but reduce the manual work that could be replaced by robots and systems,” said Wang Qun, CEO of FlyZoo Hotel. The hotel still employs humans to take care of cooking and cleaning.
Some people asked whether the technology was beneficial and the service user-friendly. Wang Qun responded by saying that Alibaba wanted to offer a digital hotel solution to lower management costs and improve efficiency. The FlyZoo Hotel is estimated to be 1.5 times more efficient than traditional hotels and requires less resource in financial management, security, and more.
Since a well-known Weibo influencer exposed an upmarket hotel using the same soiled towels to clean cups and toilets, hygiene issues have been plaguing the hotel industry in China. It is no longer the star rating that determines the level of service of a hotel. Alibaba’s FlyZoo Hotel is undoubtedly a disruptive innovation, but to lead the future of Chinese hospitality industry, there is still a long way to go.
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