In the dynamic world of hospitality, one trend is making waves and reshaping the guest experience: virtual concierge services. These AI-powered digital assistants are revolutionizing the way travelers navigate the various services and products, aiming to facilitate seamless customer encounters and significantly enhance overall satisfaction. Let’s take a look at the emerging significance of virtual concierges in hospitality, their potential for gamification, and the possibilities they hold for the future of travel.

Author: Minna Ahlstén

Virtual Concierge Services: a Growing Trend

In today’s fast-paced world, waiting in long queues is a hassle that many travelers would rather avoid. Recent reports indicate that over 75% of people would abandon a queue due to its length, posing a significant challenge for retailers and hospitality providers alike. Enter virtual concierge systems, which offer a solution by empowering customers to find answers through self-service options, thereby enhancing the overall customer experience. According to research, about two-thirds of customers prefer self-service options as they enable quicker order completion, highlighting the appeal of virtual concierge services in streamlining processes and meeting customer needs. (Smith 2022)

In the realm of robotics, the Henn-na Hotel in Japan initially captured attention with its ambitious goal of utilizing robots for 90% of its staff. These robots were envisioned to handle tasks such as check-ins, luggage storage, and providing information to guests. However, as observed over time, the reality didn’t match the initial vision. Issues ranged from robots lacking the ability to handle complex inquiries to practical limitations such as inability to navigate stairs or operate in adverse weather conditions. Ultimately, the hotel had to lay off half of its robot workforce due to inefficiencies, raising questions about the feasibility of full automation in hospitality. (Rajesh 2015; Liao 2019)

One notable success story amidst these challenges is Pepper, the humanoid robot concierge, which incorporated a hybrid approach of combining automated responses with human intervention when necessary. Pepper demonstrated the potential for personalized service and elicited positive responses from users, particularly due to its visually pleasing design and ability to convey emotions. However, even Pepper’s success underscores the importance of human oversight and intervention in ensuring a seamless guest experience. (Etemad-Sajadi 2018)

Incorporating game design into virtual assistant services

Human beings are inherently drawn to play, using games to develop cognitive and social skills from an early age. This is a part of the digital revolution, which was explored in e-Hospitality – digital hospitality and empathy in digital tourism service encounters in the ‘new normal’ -project (LAB University of Applied Sciences 2024).  Recognizing this, video game developers have leveraged psychological triggers to captivate users and drive engagement. The concept of gamification, which applies game design principles to non-game contexts, has gained traction across various industries, including hospitality. By incorporating gamification elements into virtual assistant services, businesses can incentivize user engagement, foster brand loyalty, and enhance the overall customer experience. (Teo 2024) Here are some ways to integrate game design into virtual assistant services:

  • Implement a points system to reward user interactions.
  • Utilize reminders to encourage recurring purchases or engagements.
  • Award badges or titles to users based on their achievements.
  • Offer prizes or discounts as incentives for continued engagement.
  • Incorporate leaderboards and challenges to promote competition and goal setting.
  • Surprise users with random rewards to keep interactions fresh and exciting.

Tailoring the Experience with Sentiment Analysis and Profiling

In addition to gamification, virtual concierge services can benefit from sentiment analysis and user profiling to personalize interactions further. By analyzing user sentiments and creating detailed user profiles, virtual concierges can adapt their responses and recommendations based on individual preferences and emotions. For example, if a guest expresses frustration or dissatisfaction, the virtual concierge can respond with empathy and offer solutions to address their concerns. Conversely, if a guest expresses satisfaction or excitement, the virtual concierge can respond with enthusiasm and provide tailored recommendations for activities or dining options. (Silva-Coira et al. 2016)

Dreaming Big: the Future of Virtual Concierges

As we envision the future of virtual concierges, the possibilities are limitless. What if virtual concierges went beyond simple check-in stands and transformed into immersive tour guides, showcasing the most vulnerable cultural heritage sites in nature? Imagine an AI-powered virtual concierge capable of delivering personalized narratives, adapting to each user’s preferences, and evoking emotional connections with destinations. By incorporating structures for sentiment analysis and user profiling, virtual concierges could revolutionize storytelling, offering compelling and engaging experiences to travelers worldwide.

Virtual concierges are not just tools for streamlining processes—they are catalysts for innovation and transformation in the hospitality industry. By harnessing the power of gamification, sentiment analysis, and user profiling, virtual concierges have the potential to redefine the travel experience, making it more personalized, engaging, and memorable than ever before.

If this topic sparks your attention, one possibility to develop it could be collaboration projects with LAB University of Applied Sciences. These projects would include further concept planning, benchmarking available technical execution and also a better view of already existing examples for inspiration. As we embrace this new era of hospitality, let’s dream big and explore the endless possibilities that virtual concierges hold for the future of travel.


Etemad-Sajadi, R. (Dr.). 2018. Meet Pepper: The Humanoid Robot Concierge. Cited 12 Mar 2024. Available at

LAB University of Applied Sciences. 2024. e-Hospitality – digital hospitality and empathy in digital tourism service encounters in the ‘new normal’ -project. 2023. Project website. Cited 22.3.2024. Available at

Liao, S. 2019. Japan’s robot hotel lays off half the robots after they created more work for humans. The Verge. Cited 12 Mar 2024. Available at

Peiru, T. 2024. How Gamification Helps Create Immersive and Engaging Virtual Assistant Experiences. KeyReply. Cited 6 Mar 2024. Available at

Rajesh, M. 2015. Inside Japan’s first robot-staffed hotel. The Guardian. Cited 12 Mar 2024. Available at

Silva-Coira, F., Cortiñas, A., & Pedreira, O. 2016. Intelligent Virtual Assistant for Gamified Environments. Pacific Asia Conference on Information Systems. Semantic Scholar. Cited 6 Mar 2024. Available at

Smith, R. 2022. What is a Virtual Concierge, and Why it Matters to Your Industry? Elo Touch Solutions. Cited 6 Mar 2024. Available at


Minna Ahlstén is an RDI-specialist in LAB University of Applied Sciences and works mainly in tourism development projects. She is specialized in gamification and has researched the topic from various angles. In e-Hospitality project we explored how to co-create unique added value and meaningful emotional experiences to the customers on the interface of physical and digital services. This project was executed together with Turku University of Applied Sciences and there was also a collateral project implemented by Lapland University of Applied Sciences.

Illustration: The virtual concierge services might look very different in the future, as AI has developed rapidly (Canva 2024)

Published 28.3.2024

Reference to this article

Ahlstén, M. 2024. Emerging Trends of Hospitality: The Future of Travel with Virtual Concierges and Gamification. LAB Pro. Cited and the date of citation. Available at