Gazing into the crystal ball – Part 3: ROBOTICS

Where will we be in five years’ time?

Floor BleekerFloor Bleeker – Chief Information Officer, Mövenpick Group

“Robots will be used on a wide scale in hotels’ back-of-house areas for tasks that are physical or risky. We have already seen robots that clean the exteriors of tall buildings and this will extend to other heavy-duty areas such as kitchens and outdoor facilities. The front-of-house is a different story. Human interaction is one of the key differentiators of our industry. Only once robots and other cognitive technologies like speech recognition mature, could they potentially be used to replace some of the human-to-human interactions.”

Chris ChanChristopher Chan – General Manager, Research & Technology, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels, The Peninsula Hotels

“It depends a lot on the hotel itself. It will be replacing manpower in a lot of the lower-end three or four star hotels, because they will provide services like checking-in and checking -out, cleaning of the back of house area or even front of house, serving meals and so on, they will be a huge hit. For five star properties, a lot of what you pay for is the service – the human touch. I do see 5* hotels using robots in back of house areas, working on simple cleaning and tasks that can be completed overnight without requiring the use of staff.”

Hansen ScottC. Scott Hansen – Director, Guest Technology, Marriott International

“I have not done a lot of research in this area but have seen some examples of robots in hospitality with towel delivery to rooms and luggage management in the lobby. Again – efficiencies create opportunities so we will continue to review, but for the vast majority of our hotels it will be some time before physical robots will greet you at the front door.

Much of the automation will be driven by user mobile devices interacting with on property systems. Perhaps in those markets where labor costs are significantly burdensome you may see opportunities arise more quickly.”

Christian LundénChristian Lundén – Director of Future Business, Nordic Choice Hotels

“A majority of the processes we do in back office will be automated and handled by “robots”. Less time is now spent on repetitive and boring tasks which gives staff more time to give a better and more personalised service.

This is used in many different areas within a hotel chain such as accounting, revenue and call centres. But we also use it in guest contacts to make the booking, check-in and other parts of the guest journey related processes.”

Monika NergerMonika Nerger – Global Chief Information Officer, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group

“Without a doubt, the use of robots in the hospitality industry will become more viable in the next five years. Robots will be used to augment human skills, and will be supervised by workers. This will be especially true of repetitive physical tasks such as mowing grass for more efficient landscaping, or vacuuming guest rooms, meeting rooms and corridors. These technologies are already being seen in the consumer space. What I think is most interesting is the evolution of robots with “empathy”. While I don’t envision that robots will fully take the place of hospitality workers any time soon, robots that understand guest reactions and sentiments and can react to them could certainly upend our industry in years to come.”

Josh WeissJosh Weiss – VP – Brand & Guest Technology, Hilton Worldwide

“No doubt we will see an increasing presence of “wow”-type guest-facing robotic experiences in limited brands and geographies, with more practical applications of guest-facing robotics in limited places – where the client base is more familiar with these kinds of interactions. The focus should remain on helping hotel team members take outstanding care of guests.

Several valuable applications for robotics, however, will likely be in places like engineering, operations and maintenance. Here, again, they will not be replacing staff, but will be used more and more in helping team members deal with problems, assisting with detecting issues and repairs to systems, vacuuming, window washing, or even cleaning parking lots.”