Are robots really shaping the future of hospitality?

Two staff behind the bar, both shaking drinks, one customer waiting at the bar

Since the start of the pandemic back in 2020, the hospitality industry has been impacted by the loss of staff members going to find other employment. It appears that new technologies are being introduced to help with the staffing shortages since the hotels returned to business.

This blog plans to uncover why exactly hotels are struggling for staff and how hotels are dealing with the good, bad, and ugly sides of this new ‘robo’-life.

Staff Shortages

There is a significant labour shortage in the hospitality sector, with 62 million travel jobs lost globally since the pandemic. As of the end of 2022, there were 146,000 vacant positions in the hospitality industry, with the UK seeing a 26% decrease in the number of workers from the EU due to Brexit.

Why do individuals not want to work in the industry?

The hospitality industry has been defined by low pay, irregular hours, and shift schedules. The hotel business is impacted by this in two ways: employee turnover is high, and employee recruitment and retention are challenging. A common explanation for shortages is that workers are searching for higher-paying positions because their wages are not as high as they might prefer.

What effects do staff shortages have on customers?

With staff shortages, increased stress on staff is inevitable and can heavily impact their relationship with customers.

How are hotels overcoming this issue?

To aid their understaffed and overworked teams, hotels have used technology to automate front-of-house tasks and help ease the pressure on staff. Some examples of these amenities are keyless entrance systems, chatbots on booking websites, and online check-in services.

With the advancement of technology, employers now have the choice of whether they need human staff or whether technology can aid staff shortages. Elon Musk had his opinions on the matter, stating that people “can have a job if [they] want to have a job for personal satisfaction. But the AI would be able to do everything.” Some experts predict that by 2030, robots will make up around 25% of the workforce in the hospitality industry.

Will technology replace staff in the workplace?

  • Yes (65%, 11 Votes)
  • No (35%, 6 Votes)

Total Voters: 17

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How are hotels implementing new technology?

With the increase in interest in using robots and artificial intelligence in all aspects of hotel operations, the main debate around this topic is whether it is going to cost more to have robots or staff. Will this technological movement be the end of face-to-face interaction within the hospitality industry?

Many hotels are increasing the use of self-check-in kiosks for guests, as well as smart hotels introducing Amazon’s Alexa to rooms. Instead of searching for local attractions on their mobiles or wandering down to the front desk, guests can now shout “Hey Alexa” to get all the information they need, as well as turn off lights and open the curtains without having to even leave their bed!

Hotel Robot Staff

Today, robots are shaking cocktails, delivering food to tables, and ensuring guests have amenities upon request at all times. With robots not needing lunch breaks, and having the ability to work around the clock, they can cover more shifts and free up the need for human employees for certain tasks.

Aloft launched its robot butler service in 2014. Going by the name of Botlr, the robots had the job of delivering items to guests’ rooms, such as towels and toiletries. Guests absolutely loved this service, and the hotel stated that their guests enjoyed the convenience of around-the-clock room service.

However, not all robots work out successfully, with the Henn-na Hotel having had quite the negative experience with their robots. Causing more inconvenience for the human staff, the Japanese hotel had to fire almost 250 robots for failing to photocopy accurately and annoying guests by not giving straight answers!

Is it worth it?

Previous studies have highlighted that the unsuccessful adoption of hotel robots is due to their high costs, technical difficulties, and maintenance and repair issues. However, hotels have discovered that utilising technology and robots is an effective way to reduce staff costs, even with maintenance expenses. By assigning repetitive and time-consuming jobs to robots, human staff can focus on improving interactions between staff and guests and on tasks that robots cannot do.

Do you feel confident using the technological practices that are being used within hotels?

  • No (53%, 8 Votes)
  • Yes (47%, 7 Votes)

Total Voters: 15

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In what ways is technology influencing the expectations of guests?

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a shift in attitudes towards adopting robots and advanced technology on both the customer and service provider sides. With contactless payments becoming more common than using cash due to social distancing practices, customers are accustomed to these technological changes becoming the norm.

Below, we have accumulated a list of other technologies guests are expecting to see implemented in hotels alongside robots:

  1. High-speed Wi-Fi: With the increasing number of people working on the go, it is important for hotels to invest in an internet connection that allows their guests to work comfortably in their rooms.
  2. Smart controls for their rooms: Being able to open the curtains from the comfort of their own bed, or dimming the lights by asking Amazon’s Alexa are just two examples of technology investments guests are enjoying in particular hotels and looking to see them more often.
  3. Contactless check-in and check-out: By checking-in online, or at kiosks in the hotel, guests can pick up their keys and climb into bed quicker than if they were to engage with staff members.
  4. Smart TVs: Catching up on Gossip Girl just got easier with the increase in smart TVs and streaming devices in hotel rooms, making your hotel stay feel like a home away from home.
  5. Mobile apps: Ordering room service, exploring the choices of local attractions, and making amendments to your booking can all be done from guests’ mobile phones through an app.

Would you rather hire a robot or human?

  • Human (80%, 12 Votes)
  • Robot (20%, 3 Votes)

Total Voters: 15

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What do we think?

It is certain that future shifts in the hotel industry will result from the rapid growth of technology. Whether it is implementing technology to meet the always-changing demands of guests, automating hotels so that fewer employees are required, or deploying robots to perform routine jobs to keep labour costs down. As thrilling as this may sound, there will always be concern about whether this will change the service industry and eliminate human interaction completely.

What do you think about robots replacing staff in the hospitality industry? Is technology part of the process or is it the solution? Let us know down below!


Madeleine Matthess says:

I think it’s scary, the possibility that everything that humans can do can be replicated and replaced by AI, something that we created. I believe that in the future most low paying jobs will be taken over by AI simply because big corporations don’t want to pay those minimum wage jobs.

Aimee says:

Very interesting take on this situation – do companies want to continue paying humans or will they put all that money into robots?

Thank you so much for your reply!

Ellie says:

I feel robots will eventually take over certain career paths, such as accounting, hotel check ins, cleaning roles. I’m not sure how to feel about this. They have a lot of room for error and risks.

Aimee says:

I agree with there being a lot of room for errors. I wonder if we will see more develop on this in the next few years…

Thanks for your reply, we appreciate hearing what you think!

Daniel Matthews says:

I think that in my opinion a robot or a human does not effect my experience, however a human can have an emotions when a robot is programmed to be happy and willing to serve. A robot can only go so far within his programming to help his customers therefore a human would be more useful in unique situations.

Aimee says:

The unique situations is a very interesting take – not even the smartest and most talented programmers can predict the most peculiar situations that happen daily…

We appreciate hearing what you think, thank you for your response!

Rebecca says:

I don’t think robots will take over every aspects of hospitality as with food and drink handling if a spillage occurred it could create an electric fault in the robot . Also with emergencies that could take place robots may take more time to react which could put people in danger .However,for the likes of cleaning I could see robots eventually playing some sort of role.

Aimee says:

Do you think you will see robot housekeepers in the upcoming future? Would you trust them to do a good job…

Thank you for your reply!!

Kevin Smith says:

I believe that there needs to be human interaction in the hotel. Our experience needs that personal touch.
Can a robot actually understand all of our needs and requests, along with the many language barriers there are? Failure to understand the needs of the customer may cause unnecessary stress to the individual. A bad customer experience created by a robot would not be great for the hotel, or its chain.
I would also like to understand more about what information the robots gather from our interaction with them, more worryingly, what happens when the robot goes rogue????
In my opinion, keep the experience personal and save the jobs of hard working individuals!

Aimee says:

Thank you for your opinions on this! Very interesting that you suggested robots going rogue. Will they turn against us one day?

Comments are closed.