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Practical Considerations When Choosing an AI Solution for Guest Engagement

January 10, 2024
AI to help get 5-star reviews at a vacation rental / Airbnb.


For a host considering the use of AI for guest engagement, there are some important factors to weigh before committing to a specific solution:

Audio and Video 

Your AI solution should be capable of delivering responses via text, audio or video. This gives you the greatest flexibility to address topics with the right format. For example, how-to videos are irreplaceable for explaining some things to a guest.


Almost all AI solutions are using LLMs, but the underlying architecture is critical. Make sure you test the responsiveness of each solution option. Guests will appreciate AI that is fast but many won’t use it if they have to wait an extended period to get a reply.

Stand-Alone Chatbots vs. Combination AI Solutions 

Stand-alone chatbots, primarily accessed through smartphones and laptops, can easily fall into “Out of sight, out of mind” by guests. It can be more trouble to pull out your phone, find the app or link, go through an authentication process to prove you are a guest staying at the property, and then finally ask your question. Solutions that combine both in-property devices and access via guest’s phones provide significant advantages:

  • in-property devices are highly visible in common areas like the kitchen. Large screens provide digital signage that proactively provides information, and gives guests examples of topics they can ask about.
  • In-property devices can facilitate actions like guest check-out or providing a gate code without needing guest authentication. Since the guest is in the property, there is no need to add all the friction that is associated with stand-alone chatbots involved in ensuring that person is really a guest.
  • With the paired chat experience on mobile, guests can simply scan a QR code on the screen of the in-property device in order to automatically authenticate on their mobile, bypassing the form fields that are otherwise required on stand-alone chatbot solutions.
  • Stand-alone chatbots do nothing to make the property itself seem smarter. By contrast, when an in-property device is added to a home, it immediately feels different. It becomes a Smart Home with very little capital investment.

Get Beyond the Group Organizer

The guest access method for some AI solutions is through the channel that often only the group organizer knows about. For example, this is the case with vendors that can only provide communication through a PMS Unified Inbox. The group organizer may have an ongoing thread of communication with the host that was initiated pre-booking. Most others in that group will have no knowledge of cryptic email address used by the PMS to access what the AI has to offer. Even if the group organizer distributes this email address to others in the group, writing an email to an AI and waiting for an email reply is a disappointing user experience. 

Web Apps vs Installed Apps

The prevailing wisdom is to never choose a solution that requires guests to install an app on their phone in order to use it. Some solutions offer a web app option, but when you dig in you find that the functionality is significantly degraded from their ‘full app’ solution.  

Information plus Action

The value of a solution goes way up if it can take actions on the guest’s behalf, instead of only sharing information. For example, allowing a guest to check-out and initiating all the appropriate notifications to staff. Once checked-out, making it possible for the guest to initiate a review is another valuable action. Solutions should also be able to contact the right department (front desk, housekeeping or maintenance) based on the AI’s understanding of the situation. 

Impersonating the Host

To state an obvious truth, trying to pull the wool over guests’ eyes is never a good idea. Some emerging AI solutions attempt to make the guest believe they are speaking to the host. They take over the responses that would otherwise be sent through messaging channels. Solutions should always be transparent about the fact that they are AI agents. 


For larger vacation rental management companies, how a solution scales to support hundreds or even thousands of properties is critical. For example, consider the situation where a restaurant that you recommend in one local area goes out of business. If you have 500 properties, but only 150 of them had that restaurant recommended, what does the content update process look like? Is it as easy as changing the recommendation in one place, or are there multiple steps involved? 

Another example involves who gets contacted when a guest at a given property asks the AI for help from the management team. Often large teams have distinct regional responsibilities, and the solution should provide a mechanism to ensure the right person gets contacted, not everyone across the whole department or worse yet the whole staff.

Monetizing Orphan Nights

The AI solution should be capable of identifying gaps between reservations. Once identified, the AI should adeptly weave into the conversation an offer for a guest to extend their stay. This feature alone can pay for the investment in the tool.

Dynamic Localized Behaviors

Advanced AI solutions will have built-in capabilities to consider real-time and localized data about a property. For example, the weather - will it be raining tomorrow or a beautiful day? That allows tailored and proactive recommendations to be made available to guests.

Connected Content

It is important that the AI be automatically informed about establishments in the local area, without you as the host needing to keep track of things like whether a shop is open (business hours), or what the address or phone number is. It should also be possible to provide guests links to additional information and/or offers that may be available to them.

Personalization and Sentiment Checks

AI can be used to increase connection with guests vs the other way around. For example, these features are all helpful toward making them feel like they want to tell their friends and come back next year:

  • Providing welcome messages via video
  • Using their name in responses
  • Checking in after arrival to make sure that everything is to their satisfaction


AI is ready to help guests. However solutions are not created equal. To get the greatest value, be sure to ask the right questions. The considerations above will help provide a framework for choosing the right AI solution for guest engagement. Not all of these capabilities may be important to you. By selecting a tool that does meet the criteria that you care about, you can feel confident in your investment in AI and be a leader in tech-forward hosting.