(Yicai Global) Jan. 25 -- Alibaba Group has opened a new hotel called FlyZoo to act as a showcase for cutting-edge technologies in the industry.
The smart hotel is located in the tech giant's hometown of Hangzhou, capital of China's eastern Zhejiang province, according to a statement. It applies artificial intelligence, mobile payments, intelligent robots and other technologies at the location, which is affiliated to Alibaba's travel agency unit Fliggy.
The traditional front desk has been replaced by a self-service terminal and guest use facial recognition to check in. Transactions do not require cash and instead use Alibaba's third-party payment affiliate AliPay. "Users can also complete all procedures from room reservation to check-out remotely through an app," the hotel's Chief Executive Officer Wang Qun told Yicai Global.
The hotel rooms also use smart home technology and guests can control lighting, curtains, TV and room temperature using their voice.
Intelligent robots made by Alibaba's AI Lab deliver items around the hotel. "Compared with manual labor, robots are unaffected by emotions and will not affect customers' experience in that way," Wang said.
The ultimate goal of using the various new technologies is to provide guests with convenience, Wang added. "What is important is that AI and robotics improve our backstage productivity where customers cannot see them," he said.
"To some extent, we can say that we have partially reduced the labor cost by half because hotel operations involve a lot of repetitive labor, and now we have handed it to AI and robots," Wang added.
A traditional hotel of a similar size to Flyzoo may require an investment of at least CNY5 million (USD736,000) to deploy the same high-tech system, Wang projected, adding that annual maintenance would cost around CNY1 million. This is not a small investment so Alibaba will continue to work hard to reduce transformation costs.
"We hope to enhance the entire hotel industry including overseas hotels, though, during the initial stage, we will focus only on the Chinese market because we have such a large population," he said. "Our reservation system is also connected to the Alipay which is a popular mobile payment tool in China."
"FlyZoo does not aim to become a new competitor in the hotel sector but looks to inspire the industry," Wang said. "Alibaba is not just shaping future hotels but also working hard to create a future lifestyle for the new generation."
Editor: William Clegg