Dubai’s concierges have largely welcomed the newly introduced Google Assistant feature, ‘Interpreter Mode’, which debuted at CES 2019.

The Interpreter Mode allows Google Assistant to translate languages in conversations between two people, and currently supports up to 27 languages – including Arabic, Mandarin, English, and Russian.

It was launched in a pilot across a number of hotels in the US: Caesar’s Palace Las Vegas, Hyatt Regency in San Francisco and Dream Downtown in New York City.

According to a blog post by Google Assistant vice president of product Manuel Bronstein, the new feature will be “rolling out over the next few weeks on Google Home devices and Smart Displays”. He added: “You can ask the Google Assistant to help you have a conversation in dozens of languages. Just say “Hey Google, be my French interpreter” to start Interpreter Mode and get real-time spoken and (on Smart Displays) written translation to aid the conversation.” According to multiple reports, the technology can work with Google Home speakers, including the Google Home Hub and Home Mini, and will be rolled out to other devices moving forward.

Hotelier Middle East reached out to a number of hoteliers to find out how this development could be of use to them. According to official figures, Dubai welcomed 8.1m international overnight tourists in the first six months of 2018, with the top five source markets during that period being India, Saudi Arabia, the UK, China and Russia.

Dubai International Hotel, by virtue of its location within the airport, deals with a multitude of travellers. Its concierge, Janet Eranes, told Hotelier: “[Dealing with them] can be both interesting as well as challenging at the same time. Interesting because we get to experience cultures like we have never known before, and challenging because of the communication gap. Guests often want to communicate something but are unable to articulate it in a way that we would comprehend, which makes it difficult for us to provide the service we would like to. Having an interpreter service could just be the answer we all need and will definitely make our lives easier so that we can serve our guests even better."

Renaissance Downtown Hotel Dubai lead navigator (chief concierge) Cleatus George told Hotelier Middle East that the development of a number of apps has definitely changed the lives of concierges. He said: “As Dubai is a key tourist destination that welcomes guests from all around the world, I personally believe Google Assistant can be a great tool to help our guests in their own languages. This will bring down the language barrier between the concierge and guests and it would be much easier for us to connect with them more closely.”

However, he cautioned that while this is a useful tool, technology will never be able to replace personal service and emotional bonds. “I always like to think that a service professional should go on a partial emotional journey with the guest, just enough so that the guest feels empathy and care but not so far as to be intrusive,” he explained.

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Habtoor Palace, LXR Hotels & Resorts chief concierge Harold Abonitalla agreed with George, and said that with the number of tourists in the city, it’s quite often that guests come from non-English speaking countries. “[The interpreter] is a vital tool that can help break any language barriers that may come across during our daily tasks. Based on my personal experience, a non-English speaking guest could make the job of a concierge challenging,” explained Abonitalla. He revealed that in the past, when the team experienced a barrier in communication, sometimes tools such as Google Translate were used. However, he cautioned, this sometimes resulted in inaccurate translations and were not in real-time either. “With Google Assistant Interpreter, we can get translations in real time. In a fast-paced hotel operations, this technology can help us work more efficiently and effectively. It can also be a tool to provide a more personalised service to guests as they will trust the concierge and come to us to communicate with during their stay.”

Millennium Airport Hotel Dubai assistant marketing manager Sheryl Aquiatan noted that advances in technology have helped unlock opportunities to improve customer satisfaction and boost internal efficiency. Speaking specifically about the new Interpreter Mode with Google Assistant, Aquiatan commented: “Looking at the future and upcoming plans of Dubai especially for 2020, we expect the arrival of more tourists. Through the support of Interpreter services with Google Assistant, it will help us to conduct a conversation in dozens of languages between our hotel guests and team members. However, since it’s a digital interpreter, there is a possibility that words can be mistranslated, and it will create a confusion on how the conversations should flow.”

What do you think about the introduction of the real-time Interpreter Mode through Google Assistant? Would your hotel be interested in using this technology? Let us know via the comments below!