For those averse to talking on the phone, hotel stays can resemble a war of attrition, testing your mettle to see how long you’ll go without calling the front desk and admitting you forgot to pack your toothbrush. But Amazon’s new Alexa for Hospitality service, which puts an Echo device in your hotel room, might let you avoid the conversation altogether, and let you bring a bit of your always-on, always-listening, always-spying smart home with you. So don’t do anything stupid.
Amazon is rolling out Alexa for Hospitality starting with Marriott International properties—including Marriott Hotels, Westin Hotels & Resorts, St. Regis Hotels & Resorts, Aloft Hotels, and Autograph Collection Hotels—this summer. The hotel chain loves using the tech du jour to show off how cool and with the times it is, but the addition of Amazon’s Echo could mean a more permanent shift in how it approaches integrating technology into rooms.
Rooms will be outfitted with an Echo device, and can control other smart devices (such as lights, thermostats, and televisions), request room service, and ask for the inevitable housekeeping visit. “Guests can also be given access to thousands of Alexa skills to check airport wait times, play games, get in a quick guided workout, play white noise to help them fall asleep, and more,” says Amazon. Hotels can also add custom skills depending on the amenities available to guests.
In the future, Amazon says guests will be able to connect their Amazon accounts to the in-room Echo device, granting them access to content like audiobooks and the music streaming service of choice. Guests will then be “automatically disconnect[ed]” when they check out of their hotel room. Whether that will actually work as planned still remains to be seen, of course.
Privacy in a hotel room is expected, but placing an always-listening voice assistant with a history of eavesdropping in a hotel room could make guests wary when it comes to doing what people do in hotel rooms (closing deals). Alexa has a history of selective hearing, interpreting other words as wake words and listening in on conversations—even sending a recording to a contact in at least one case. With Alexa for Hospitality, Amazon says voice recordings are off-limits to hotels, and automatically deleted daily. You can always mute the Echo device manually (or better yet, try to unplug it) if you’d rather avoid interacting with it at all.
There’s nothing in Amazon’s announcement that suggests it plans to prevent hotel chains from charging guests a premium for Alexa-enabled rooms, so while you might be able to “save” a few bucks by picking a regular ol’ room, it’s not hard to envision a future where every room has one, and every room has an Alexa-related upcharge. And while such a “feature” hasn’t been announced, there’s also no indication your Echo won’t chime in throughout the day, trying to upsell you on hotel services like faster wifi, or pressure you into joining some predatory membership program. Maybe that beige telephone isn’t so bad after all.