There has been quite a lot of talk recently about robots taking over human jobs. Fortunately, hospitality is one of those interaction-intensive industries where the human touch is just too powerful to replace. However, it seems hotels aren’t completely immune to the robot revolution.
There is the usual fearmongering in the media about humans being supplanted or even eradicated by robots but this is ignorance talking, not reality. We had the same when Rock n’ Roll was first heard or when the internet became widely available. It seems our fear of the unknown takes over sometimes.
So when we heard that the Intercontinental Hotel Group and the Starwood Hotels Group were introducing robot room service, we were a little surprised and then amused but not afraid. The robot maid is currently being trialled in the Intercontinental Hotel Group Crowne Plaza Hotel San Jose-Silicon Valley in California. A robot butler is also being trialled at Aloft Hotels of the Starwood Hotels Group.
It will be interesting to see how they get on, both in terms of effectiveness and the guest reaction.
The Crowne Plaza Hotel robot is called Dash. It is three feet tall and looks like the bottom half of an upscale water fountain. It is silver and rolls on a grey plastic base with wheels underneath. Dash can be loaded with room service and sent to a room on any floor. It can navigate the floors, call a lift and deliver items to the correct rooms. It even calls the room to tell guests that it has arrived. Once its task is complete, it returns to a charging station at the front desk.
The Aloft Hotels robot in Cupertino, A.L.O. Botlr is the robot in question. It looks similar to Dash but is a darker colour to match the hotel uniform. A.L.O. Botlr has been in place for almost a year now and is proving quite successful. It greets guests, takes their bags, asks them about their stay and even says goodbye as they leave. It also delivers room service.
There is a definite value in having a member of staff that is always on time, never complains, does what they are told without question and will always be there for the guest. However, the human element that is so much a part of hospitality is missing with a robot. Sure it will have a novelty, but how long will that last?
Robot room service might work in Silicon Valley and Cupertino because that’s where companies such as Microsoft and Apple have their headquarters. Blackpool? Not so much. That said, we know better than to say never so watch this space…