Foresight and innovation in
the global hotel industry

Leading with generative AI: From enablement to empowerment

Founder & CTO, Apaleo
Chief Information Officer, citizenM
Stephan Wiesener darkStephan Wiesener lightMike Rawson darkMike Rawson light


Stephan Wiesener of Apaleo and Mike Rawson of citizenM emphasize the transformative potential of generative AI in hotel operations, predicting it will be a crucial technology decision for the next 10-15 years. They advocate for a dual focus on AI-driven automation and personalization at scale, leveraging platforms like Apaleo to unlock AI's potential. Key to this is an API-driven MACH (Microservices, API-first, Cloud-native, Headless) ecosystem, enabling seamless integration of AI tools and fostering innovation without overhauling core systems. The flexibility of such platforms allows hotels to experiment with AI-driven applications and create custom AI extensions, democratizing AI by making it accessible through natural language prompts. This approach not only enhances guest experiences but also streamlines operations, positioning AI as an essential, evolving tool in hospitality.

How you integrate generative AI into your hotel operations will be the most important technology decision for the next 10 to 15 years. Just like the internet redefined our world, AI is set to do the same, and possibly even more.

Identifying your north star is crucial when considering where AI can most benefit your business. CitizenM, a rapidly growing global hotel chain, is guided by a dual focus on AI-driven automation and personalisation at scale. This approach drives significant outcomes for staff and guests, hinging on their property management platform, Apaleo, to unlock AI’s full potential.

The future of property management must evolve to enable AI innovation, making it quick and easy for hoteliers to integrate constantly evolving generative AI into daily operations. Instead of merely tackling current challenges, a property management system should maximise AI's benefits, offering scalability and flexibility for new innovations to come.

The big question is how to achieve this while keeping costs down and avoiding the need for a large tech team.

Your backbone, fully accessible via APIs

Your first crucial step is ensuring your technical ecosystem is flexible enough to embrace new innovations. AI needs seamless access to your property data and business logic to make informed decisions. This is why a PMS fully accessible via APIs is at the heart of your AI journey. It ensures all your property data and capabilities are available and easy to integrate with your entire ecosystem, spanning multiple third-party hotel apps and touchpoints, including AI.

An API-driven platform with MACH architecture (Microservices-based, API-first, Cloud-native, and Headless) places APIs at the core. Unlike pre-built solutions that only address specific problems for a narrow range of users, this approach unlocks endless possibilities for your AI-driven innovation. In the next few years, this could even eliminate the need for a traditional PMS user interface, allowing property data to be accessed and managed directly through APIs via voice assistants, text messaging or future AI-driven channels, which we don’t even think of today.

Trying out ready-made AI-driven apps

You don’t have to be tech-savvy to notice how quickly businesses and newly funded start-ups are launching their AI-driven apps. According to research by Gartner, by 2026, 30% of new applications will use AI, up from less than 5% today. Similarly, the market of hotel apps is evolving at an incredibly fast pace.

One of the benefits of an open MACH ecosystem is that you can plug in the best third-party tools available whenever you want. These tools often come with free trials and 1-click connections, making it easy to integrate, test, and find the best fit for your needs.

With such open ecosystems, the onboarding or offboarding of AI tools can be completed in just a few hours. This flexibility allows you to integrate top third-party tools for various AI applications, including voice-assisted reservation management, upselling, inventory optimization, and in-room energy usage controls.

A MACH ecosystem can provide a stable, long-term foundation to cope with the highly dynamic development of AI and AI-driven applications. From a technology perspective, using a MACH platform allows hospitality businesses to try out and roll out the latest AI tech without replacing their core systems; they only need to plug in new apps.

Create your own custom AI extensions

One of the most exciting and competitive aspects of AI integration is the ability to connect your MACH platform directly to large language models (LLMs) like OpenAI’s Custom GPTs, enabling AI to execute automated workflows tailored exactly to your business ideas and needs. Think of AI extensions as your intelligent assistants behind the scenes, engaging guests and streamlining your operations across all aspects of your business, whether it's managing reservations, front office communication, marketing, or maintenance. This positions AI as the first line of defence, handling repetitive tasks and significantly reducing the burden on your staff.

AI extensions excel when integrated with your property data. Unlike generic chatbots, these AI extensions offer flexibility to act seamlessly on your business processes, using your hotel's data in real-time. Since the triggers come from APIs and the actions are executed via APIs again, an API-driven MACH platform is crucial in this process.

Democratisation of AI

When connecting an LLM to your MACH architecture you can write requests and give instructions in plain language, and it will handle them. These commands are called "prompts." You don't need developers for this; it's like talking to your hotel software. In the past, you had to program software for this, but now it's more like having a conversation in everyday language with your team.

This will lead to the democratisation of AI in hospitality. In a MACH ecosystem, AI prompts can be easily published and shared like code snippets. Imagine a community of hoteliers, consultants, and developers who are constantly evolving and sharing AI recipes that can be picked up and adapted to the specific business needs of individual hotels. AI transformation in hospitality is ultimately about collaboration, instant sharing, and continuous learning.

Final thoughts on the future outlook

Anticipating future needs is challenging - we can only discover what AI will truly bring as time progresses. Many of the AI applications that will shape the future are ideas that haven’t even crossed our minds yet. All technology implementations are dynamic and iterative processes, and with the business landscape constantly in flux, choosing a rock-solid, compliant, and secure AI-enabling foundation for this journey is essential.

Navigating AI doesn’t have to be overwhelming. By partnering with forward-thinking organisations like citizenM, we’re leading AI innovation by integrating your property management platform with LLMs, exploring endless possibilities to elevate your business.

Embark on your AI-driven journey with confidence, free from limitations. Together, we’re shaping and acting on the future as it emerges in the present.

Top acronyms explained

  • API (Application Programming Interface): The foundation of connectivity in your ecosystem, allowing seamless access to your property data and functionality. They allow different systems to communicate effectively. For example, external apps for guest communication, CRM, or staff collaboration can easily access reservation details, guest names, occupancy, rates, and more.
  • MACH (Microservices, API-first, Cloud-native, Headless): A software architecture that separates the user interface from the business logic, enabling the use of best-in-class technologies. This approach allows different components to communicate via APIs and can be replaced without affecting the overall system.
  • LLM (Large Language Models): LLMs are advanced AI models that handle text-based tasks. ChatGPT, for example, is powered by OpenAI's GPT models, which are a type of LLM. These models have gained significant attention worldwide for their impressive capabilities in understanding, generating and acting upon human-like text.

citizenM Miami World Center - Photo by citizenM Hotels

citizenM was launched in 2008 with a purpose – to disrupt the traditional, stale hotel industry. Rattan Chadha – the founder of the global fashion brand Mexx – was inspired by his employees to create a hotel for today’s frequent travellers, giving them everything they need and nothing they don’t. This means central locations in the world’s most exciting cities, but at an affordable price. Not just a place to sleep, but somewhere to work, relax and play – just like home. Somewhere with superfast free Wi-Fi, tech that makes life easy, and world-class art that isn’t ‘hotel art’. A room with an ultra-comfortable XL bed to crash in, and a powerful rain shower to wake-up in. Rattan Chadha called this ‘affordable luxury for the people’. The first citizenM opened at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport in 2008. As of November 2023, citizenM’s portfolio has 33 hotels in 20 exciting cities: London, Glasgow, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Paris, Copenhagen, Rome, Zurich, Geneva, New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Boston, Seattle, San Francisco, Washington DC, Chicago, Menlo Park, Taipei and Kuala Lumpur.