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Over 2.5 billion people have at least one messaging app installed on their phone. According to the consulting firm Activate, by the end of 2018 a total of 3.6 billion users will be using messaging apps to connect with friends and businesses. Messaging really is the new social media.

Many hotels already offer messaging options, giving their guests the ability to text them through proprietary apps or messaging channels on WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or even SMS.

The real revolution is yet to come, but we can see some signs. When major messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger and Slack introduced bots in 2016, it became clear that bots will be an integral part of our future. Some travel brands embraced the new technology almost immediately , including  Kayak, Skyscanner, and Expedia.com, by launching bots of their own . In the following months, more travel brands and independent hotels will follow the trend.

But how can they benefit? Here are 5 ways.

1. New reservation channel

 Individual properties and chain hotels want to reduce their dependency on online travel agencies and increase direct, non-commissionable web business. When hotels start to be present where the users are — that is, in messaging apps — consumers will start to use this natural way of communication to book their trips.

2. Building loyalty

Chatbots will increase guest engagement and enhance the overall guest experience by giving a personalized treatment in all stages of the customer journey — from the pre-arrival experience to on-property interaction and even in the post-trip period.

3. Guest profiling

A chatbot that interacts with guests at all stages of their journey will gather valuable information, which can then be used in an automated way to provide personalized services during guests’ current stay or in future stays.

4. New source of revenue

Using guest profiling from past stays at the hotel, chatbots are able to send relevant offers to consumers — from booking an airport transfer to a massage in the spa or making a dinner reservation. All of this will be directly booked without the intervention of the staff hotel.

5. Free up hotel staff

From an operational point of view, front-desk staff are freed up to provide services only humans can, leaving everything else to the bot.

By offering instant responses and a natural form of communication, chatbots will help hotels elevate the guest experience to a whole new level. It’s unlikely that chatbots will entirely replace the need for human conversation, because guests will always want a person to deal with complaints and extra special requests. But even in that cases, bots will know when they should transfer the conversation to a human agent.

This article appeared originally on Medium.

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