Is full-scale adoption of robots in hotels becoming an advanced reality?

  Posted in Travel Trends

The rise of robots is something we’ve spoken about before along with many others blogs and news sites in the hotel and hospitality industry. Predictions around artificial intelligence (A.I) and the potential expansion of robotics come thick and fast – especially in regards to the guest experience and automation.

How advanced is this trend in reality and what are the real life applications for hotels? That’s a question we’re going to try and answer.

Full-scale adoption of robots in hotels still some time away

The crux of exciting developments like this is that predictions are often overblown. Attempts to create A.I generally date back to the mid 1950s and back then machines with human-like intelligence were thought to be about 20 years away. These days the estimated deadline is about the same.

Virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa have taken the world by storm, making life easier for people in the office and at home. They not only perform tasks but learn as they go, meaning each time you interact with them you can rely on them even more to take care of things like placing orders, researching, shopping, and operating other technologies.

Hotels are adopting robots, but more as a novelty than a strategic business decision – for now. Marriott has Mario welcoming guests, Hilton has Connie the concierge, and InterContinental has Dash transporting items between guests and staff.

Real progress is being made but it’s incredibly complex work and it’s unrealistic to expect an android to be checking guests in at every hotel any time soon. In saying that, the existing technology is already enough to make a big splash and have a significant impact on the way hotels deliver customer service.

The pros and cons of AI and robots in hotels

As always, there’s two sides to this story. While many welcome the day where apps and machines will take them all the way from the research phase to the checkout phase (bypassing any potential human inconsistencies), others enjoy quality ‘people time’ and believe there should be a limit on how far this technology is taken.

Business travellers in particular behind the movement, with 52% of UK survey respondents saying it would improve their trip.

Both views hold merit considering the following pros and cons:

Pros of a robot-run hotel:

  • Efficiency and productivity could reach an all-time high with A.I – the technology can work all day, every day, without suffering exhaustion or burnout.
  • Robots can be a great novelty for guests, drumming up excitement and publicity, especially at hotels looking to create a brand image that’s fun and futuristic.
  • Androids could actually make for a healthier guest service environment. By taking care of manual or routine tasks, hotel staff can focus their attention on guests.
  • Cons of a robot-run hotel:
  • Technical glitches are not 100% safeguarded against, so it’s possible guests could receive wrong or misleading information, causing mistakes to be made that lead to negative experiences.
  • Security could also be a concern if A.I or other systems could be hacked for data or even controlled by foreign entities.
  • Accessibility to this technology has been increasing but it’s still a very costly and highly complex undertaking for a business to consider

What hotel positions are most likely to be occupied by robots?

It’s easy to see the real-life applications A.I and robots could have in a hotel, with some staff careers in potential jeopardy. In general the technology could deliver:

1. A diversified booking method

2. An improved pre-arrival experience

3. More on-site guest interaction

4. Sustainable teams of hotel staff

5. Increased personalised data collection

6. Seamlessly integrated customer journeys

More specifically, here are some jobs where A.I could edge out humans in the future:

Check-in and reception services
Given check-in and front desk tasks are somewhat routine and the amount of possible queries do have limits, this is the perfect place for an android to start its career successfully.

  • Valet
    In the future, vehicles powered by smart technology could make valet services redundant or at the very least a position that could easily be handled by A.I.
  • Cleaning and maintenance
    Designing bots for specific purposes is already being done and will only become more commonplace. Cleaning tasks and routine repairs are perfect for a robot, who can go about its work 24/7 to maintain a spotless and functional hotel.
  • Room service
    No need for idle chit chat or delays. A guest could place their order with a robot and have the task completed as efficiently as possible, and with a minimum of fuss. A robot won’t get flustered or frustrated by any request.
  • Property management
    A.I will be able to optimise how a hotel deploys staff during peak and off-peak periods, along with saving energy by automatically turning off lights and appliances.
  • Security
    AI and robots can assist in the security infrastructure by monitoring the premises for scrupulous activity and report any mishaps.

So, the question remains. Is there really a rise of robots? The answer is yes and it’s already changing customer service. Hospitality is a natural fit for this type of technology so it seems inevitable to play a major role in future businesses. But don’t worry, we don’t think travellers will be demanding a robot butler any time soon.

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