Hotel robots are taking over jobs in the hospitality industry
Front Desk Check-ins
Robots have been an integral part of manufacturing automation for many years now. It’s high time the hospitality industry took advantage of the new technology not only to save labor costs but to entertain and delight guests. As part of an amusement park in Japan, The Henn-na – or “Weird Hotel” is practically “manned” by robots.
An English-speaking dinosaur will help you check in with a push of a button. For Japanese-speaking guests, a human female-looking robot sits behind a desk to greet you and provide check-in services. Soon, robots will provide services in many different languages allowing guests to interact, ask questions and make requests in their native language.
A giant robotic arm, typical of those seen all over the manufacturing floor, will store your suitcases or valuables in a box and retrieve it when you want it: essentially providing a “robot cloak room.” While a typical locker or room behind the front desk in the lobby would provide the same service, it’s all about innovation. With hotel prices on the rise, these robots are performing routine tasks that achieve higher efficiency without additional costs.
For hotels that don’t currently employ a human concierge, a small, doll-like robot equipped with voice recognition can announce information about local events, menus, and reviews of popular restaurants, weather information and tourist attractions.
However, it’s yet to be seen whether guests would prefer hearing a robot read a review of a restaurant over speaking to someone who’s actually eaten there. Currently, these concierge robots cannot call a cab or make a reservation. Some also question whether the tailored attention of a high-end hotel can really be replaced by automation. Guests at a luxury hotel still expect personal service.
The popularity of hotel robots may also depend on location and guest demographics. Millennials who are used to interacting with tech may be fascinated by robot service. In a location like Silicon Valley, CA or Route 128 around Boston, robots might be well-received as a novelty and a convenience.
Room Service and More…
Drones have become low-cost aerial photographers and delivery services for online companies and may soon deliver snacks and beverages to guests at the pool or in an atrium-style lobby. Situated within guest rooms, small robots answer simple questions about the weather or the time and control the temperature, the lights and the curtains via voice command.
A typical request for toothpaste, towels or extra blankets can be easily fulfilled with a robot dispatched to the desired room. The desk clerk simply fills the robot’s compartment, types in the room number and off it goes. The robot relies on Wi-Fi, cameras, and sensors to navigate its path and then wirelessly alerts the guest when it arrives outside the door. Some guests are so delighted, they order “stuff” simply to have the robot come to their door and then take a selfie with it. Postings on social media have been over the top, boosting marketing efforts.
Room service is often a loss-leader for hotels, so having robots deliver requested items can be a very real cost-savings. Robots can also re-stock housekeeping supplies and transport coffee to conference/meeting rooms.
The Bottom Line
The robotic trend has really taken hold in Asia and is becoming more common here in the United States. Hilton is testing a concierge robot for its hotel chain and has already installed them in Virginia at the Hilton McLean Hotel. New start-up companies have received funding to develop “autonomous robot helpers” to be placed in a variety of hotels across the country.
The feedback is mixed on the possible threat to hospitality jobs. Some industry leaders feel that robots will likely free up front desk staff for more human-centered interactions and take care of routine, repetitive tasks. Others expect robots to largely replace the concierge function as well as hotel porters and tour guides. The future of hotel hospitality is certainly entering an exciting new era in travel and guest services.