Technology

The future of AI and hospitality in Malaysia

During a recent trip to Japan, I noticed that most of the hotels were 100% automated, meaning there was no front-desk reception or present staff. The check-in process was through an iPad situated on a tall tabletop where we spoke over a video call with a Japanese reception who, surprisingly spoke very fluent English. After which we scanned our passports through the iPad, we were given a special code to input into a locker for us to retrieve our room keys. This way of using the best of technology to facilitate the check-in process was quite eye-opening. The house rules were also well written out in a manual book. Fast forward to the end of our stay, the checkout process was even simpler, we just had to reinsert the key back into the locker and we were all set to leave.

After getting back from our trip, it got me thinking if Japan and also China, with their first fully automated Zoofly Hotel has made a huge advancement in its hospitality industry, is Malaysia doing anything alike? To answer this, I’ve met up and interviewed Dhanvarsha Rajendran, co-founder, and director of Atamai Labs, on what her company is working on to advance Malaysia’s hospitality industry. 

GOPOS: Great to finally meet up with you, so tell us more about what Atamai is about and what it has to offer.

Dhanvarsha: Sure, glad to have you here with us today. So, Atamai Labs is a travel tech startup founded on the 3rd of January 2019.  Our aim here is to elevate the guest experience at hotels and to provide management a set of digital tools to automate processes that will, in turn, convert into guests’ satisfaction. 

These set of digital tools form Arly, which comprised of a chatbot, request management system and a web check-in tool. Arly is made to assist the front desk in terms of receiving requests such as food and housekeeping and also rids the check-in process at the counter. Meanwhile, it provides management useful insights into their customer profile so that they can direct their marketing efforts effectively. 

What makes Arly unique?

Convenience for both travelers and hoteliers,  they can simply gain access to Arly through just any web browser. What this means is that you don’t need to download an additional app or install a software, all you need is an internet and a browser.

And as mentioned above, Arly would from time to time, provide hoteliers with data and insights about their guests’ behaviors. This will allow hotels to understand and serve their guests better.

Can you give us some scenarios where these tools can be seen useful for guests and the hoteliers?

Sure, let’s start from the web check-in tool. This tool functions to shorten check-in times and eliminate long queues at the front desk. For most tourists and business travelers, long waits for check-ins can disrupt their schedule for the day. So Arly enables guests to fill-in their check-in details before arriving; after arriving at the hotel, guests just simply collect their room keys from the front desk and head up to their rooms. 

Following that, our chatbot enables local travelers as well as foreign tourists to ask any questions or make any requests in their preferred language. Our chatbot will intelligently reply to their questions so the hoteliers do not need to worry about not being able to converse in a foreign language. From the questions asked or requests made, the management will be able to turn these insights into marketing ideas and boost sales. For example, if there are many guests asking for the best nearby massage parlor, the management can invest in a spa at their hotel to bring in extra revenue. 

As for the request management system, for example, when a food request is made, it will be directly sent to the kitchen instead of going through a phone call from the guests to the front desk to the kitchen. Both the front desk and kitchen will be able to check the status of the request (Is it in progress? Is it completed?). The same applies to housekeeping, spa, meeting rooms, etc. 


Hmm interesting, seems like Arly is packed with the right tools to automate hotel systems. Are all these features an All-in-one package deal for hoteliers?
Arly is customizable to suit the various needs of each individual hotels, and therefore we also created Arly lite, comprising of our chatbot only. 

So we’ve talked about what Atamai and Arly is all about, and now we’d like to know the story behind that creation of such a brilliant idea. 

There are two parts to the story starting from one that dates back to when one of my partners traveled to Albania and encountered a lengthy check-in queue on top of a language barrier between herself and the front desk. So we wanted to create a tool that can rid this barrier and provide an easier way to check-in. The second part of the story dates back to when my cousin was traveling in China. He ordered a meal from his hotel room, went into the bathroom and came out to find his meal already delivered to his room. It got him thinking of how data management can help hotels to operate more efficiently. So Arly was also designed to benefit hoteliers on the side of operations management. 

Can you share with us which hotels are expected to implement this technology in their system?

To date, our first customer will be J-Hotel by Dorsett International. Our team is running some final tests and Arly will roll out to J-Hotel in December 2019. 

Great, are there any short-term and long-term plans you would like to share with us?

For the near future, we are planning to target hotels all over the South East Asian Market. With that, we are looking to enhance our platform with more features that will suit hotels with niche demands. Looking further ahead, we do plan to expand into the rest of Asia as well as European markets. We are also looking to grow our marketing and product team to work closely with hotels on how they can convert data analytics into well-performing marketing projects.

With that, our interview was concluded and we parted ways. It is very satisfying knowing that there are advancements too in the Malaysia hospitality industry. I believe as hotels and hospitality companies adopt more technologies like this, foreign and local tourists will enjoy more of their leisure time traveling and exploring with ease. This can potentially boost sales for hotel businesses and the country’s economy as a whole. 
For those who are interested in how Atamai Labs is working on revolutionalizing the hospitality industry, you may reach out to their co-founder Dhanvarsha at dhanvarsha@atamai.co.