Red Lion Hotels Corporation, doing business as RLH Corporation, has long been an early technology adapter and also a technology innovator. And now the company is doing it again, with the launch of an artificial intelligence virtual agent. The first-of-its-kind in the hospitality space, the AI virtual agent is designed to offer a more seamless experience for travelers and an opportunity to generate greater revenue for hotel owners.
RLH Corporation, which focuses on the franchising, management and ownership of upscale, midscale and economy hotels under the Hotel RL, Red Lion Hotel, Red Lion Inn & Suites, GuestHouse and Settle Inn brands, ranks as one of the fastest-growing hotel franchise companies in North America with Red Lion, with 90,000 rooms across more than 1,400 properties under management. Last year, RLH Corporation announced it had reached an agreement with Wyndham Worldwide to acquire the Knights Inn brand for $27 million.
Earlier this year, the company made a big splash by introducing an automated housekeeping robot. The news was unveiled at the company’s annual global brand conference. The AI-powered robot, designed as part of a partnership with Peanut Robotics, sports a prehensile arm capable of holding tools. The robot performs supplemental housekeeping work, such as cleaning toilets and collecting linens, alongside a human housekeeper.
The company also recently unveiled the launch of RLabs, with the stated goal of building new technology platforms for the hospitality industry including software, robotics, and artificial intelligence. The first offering from RLabs is Canvas Integrated Systems, which is being billed as “an all-in-one cloud-based hospitality management suite” featuring a collection of seamlessly-integrated tools designed to drive revenue, secure more revenue opportunities, automate channel management and reduce cost and friction for independent hotel owners.
Now RLH Corporation has undertaken another cutting edge technology initiative, signing on with BluIP, a solution provider whose cloud solutions portfolio includes hosted PBX with PMS integration and SIP trunking, to provide an industry-first AI virtual agent for central reservations to support all 1,400 properties under management. This latest announcement follows the successful completion of a three-month program pilot.
“We’re seeing travelers engage with the technology at a rate higher than we anticipated and are very pleased with the virtual agent’s ability to resolve traveler questions autonomously, reducing the cost of non-revenue related calls,” said April Weatherly, RLH Corporation Director of Telephony Optimization & Analytics.
“As technology continues to change, so does the expectation of the guest and how they connect to our hotels,” said Weatherly. “By providing AI through central reservations, we are opening up alternative channels and more options for our guests without sacrificing the positive experience they’ve come to expect from RLH Corporation.”
In concert with the systemwide rollout of the virtual agent, new features and capabilities have been deployed to further support travelers. The second-generation virtual agent added broader central reservations systems integration to support additional hotel information searches and the ability to confirm, modify or cancel reservations. It also enhances the central reservations office ticketing system integration to ensure a seamless transfer for the caller to a live agent when necessary.
Over the next several months, RLH Corporation will continue to build out it’s AI capabilities with further enhancements to support reservations, Hello Rewards and telephony solutions. And by then, the company will no doubt be on to its next technology-enabled business initiative.