CampaignBuzz: Robots enter the hospitality mainstream


March 14, 2016

Back in August last year, I blogged about the emergence of robot hotels in Japan. At the time, I predicted that there would be more and more hotels where robots would have an ever-more prominent role. And lo and behold – a mere seven months later – it’s happened!

The key thing for me was what robots could do in terms of increased efficiency – thus helping to reduce a business’ labour costs. And that is exactly where Savioke’s Relay robot has helped at the Residence Inn by Marriott Los Angeles LAX/Century Boulevard… making routine deliveries and bringing coffee to guests from the Starbucks in the hotel lobby.

Not to be left behind, Hilton naturally continue to set the pace for global innovation, with ‘Connie’ – a joint-venture with IBM and the first Watson-enabled robot concierge in the history of the hospitality industry. Named after Conrad Hilton, Connie will work side-by-side with Hilton’s front of house Team Members to assist with visitor requests, personalise the guest experience and empower travellers to help make their trip even more memorable.

What is this revolutionary technology actually like up close and personal? I had the chance to find out for myself last week at the International Hotel Investment Forum in Berlin. First there was ‘Mario’ – a robot who works at the Ghent Marriott Hotel in Belgium and who was on hand to give delegates an intriguing look at this kind of ground-breaking innovation. And not forgetting Toshiba’s Chihira Kanae – the technology giant’s third incarnation of a robot in ‘human form’, also there to answer questions and provoke discussion and debate.

Speaking an impressive 19 languages and able to hand out room keys as well as liven up meetings (he reads out presentations), Mario is certainly a fascinating prospect. But will guests take to him – and robots in general? A recent survey of travellers conducted by Travelzoo showed that 80 percent of consumers expected robots to play a big part in their lives before 2020. What the survey also showed: that people still wanted the human touch when on holiday.

Make no mistake – this is just the beginning of an exciting new phase for the hospitality industry. What will happen next? The possibilities are endless. In fact, they will only be limited by our imagination. But I for one will continue to watch with interest.

by Rob Conway

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