Hospitality Industry Welcomes Helpful Automation

Hotel management has reacted positively toward the improved capabilities of robots suitable for their industry. A recent confab of the hospitality industry highlighted the new automation becoming available to perform more challenging tasks.

Robot bellhops are already in use in some Marriott hotels and elsewhere.

One of the machines in the pipeline is a robot maid, which would be very attractive technology for hotels because of their need for cleaning staff. A May 2015 Bureau of Labor Statistics report on Maids and Housekeeping Cleaners found 926,240 persons employed in that category, many in hotels.

The Maidbot looks like an industrial strength Roomba in the following video, but advances are sure to be developed. In the meantime, a human maid can clean the bathroom counter and collect the towels while the robot vacuum does the floors, thereby speeding up the process. So fewer human maids will be needed.

Sadly, the government seems oblivious to the approaching automation juggernaut and how it will decimate America’s employment universe in the not so distant future. The only bright light in Washington has been the Senate bill limiting total immigration from Senators Cotton and Purdue.

However, the senators’ RAISE Act would merely cut legal immigration in half, which is not nearly enough, given tech experts’ projections for a jobless future. Oxford researchers forecast in 2013 that nearly half of American jobs were vulnerable to machine or software replacement within 20 years. Rice University computer scientist Moshe Vardi warns of a dystopian future in 30 years when humans become largely obsolete and world joblessness stands at 50 percent. The Gartner tech advising company believes that one-third of jobs will be done by machines by 2025. Forrester Research Inc. has a more optimistic view, that there will be a net job loss of 7 percent by 2025 from automation — but that’s still a serious deficit when more jobs are needed as population increases.

Given a future of mass unemployment that would make the Great Depression look like a hiccup, immigration needs to be retired as an obsolete government policy, along with homesteading.

Robots the talk of tech innovations at hospitality summit , Travel Weekly, February 02, 2017

LOS ANGELES — Hotel robots that perform tasks like delivering amenities to guests or cleaning rooms will be the norm within the next five years, panelists at the Americas Lodging Investment Summit (ALIS) held here last week predicted.

The anticipated growth in hotel robots was largely attributed to falling technology costs and guests becoming more accustomed to the concept.

Early hotel adopters say devices such as Savioke’s Relay robot and Maidbot are gaining favor because they are efficient at both delivering items such as toiletries and bottled water to guests and cleaning rooms. They are also a novelty among family travelers.

Executives with both larger hotel owners like Host Hotels and smaller counterparts like Southern California-based Seaview Investors both expressed satisfaction on the ALIS panels with their early trials of the robots.

“We feel that it pays for itself, more from a guest-satisfaction standpoint than from labor savings,” said ALIS panelist moderator and Seaview Investors president Robert Alter. Seaview has used a Relay robot at his company’s Residence Inn Los Angeles LAX for the past 18 months.

Host Hotels managing director Michael Lentz, said, “We’re testing Maidbots for cleaning rooms. You have to think in years ahead that there are opportunities to reduce our operating costs.”

Front and center at the conference was Savioke’s Relay robotic butler, which debuted as Botlr at select properties under then-Starwood Hotels’ Aloft brand in 2014.

Panelist and Savioke “chief robot whisperer” Tessa Lau said hotels typically lease a Relay for about $2,000 a month (the company does not sell the robots) and the device, on average, performs a front-desk-to-room delivery of smaller products like toothpaste or bottled water in less than four minutes. Lau, too, alluded to the novelty factor, noting that many families with kids take “robot selfies.”

Robotics was among the most topical subjects at the conference, where much of the on-stage discussions focused on technology and the concept of “the hotel of the future.” With amenities such as free WiFi having long been made essential and services such as keyless entry via mobile device expected to accelerate across the industry during the next few years, service robots, along with amenities like virtual reality tours of hotel properties, were discussed as the next wave of hospitality technology.

Meanwhile, Marriott International used the conference to illustrate how it has taken the torch from acknowledged technology innovator Starwood Hotels (which Marriott acquired last September) by building its Innovation Lab at the conference to show off the latest developments under its Aloft and Element select-service brands.

The use of such technology is considered more and more essential for effectively serving guests. This week, software giant Oracle will release a study undertaken by Phocuswright (a sister company to Travel Weekly) outlining how guests want hotel operators to deploy technology. Of the 2,700 U.S. and European travelers polled, almost half said hotels should use technology to perform services such as enabling guests to select a specific room location or providing in-destination activity choices. About a third said technology should be used to facilitate service requests for in-room items such as coffee, pillows or toiletries. Still, just where the line falls between effective and invasive — or even creepy — remains to be seen.

“We feel like people are suffering from digital overload,” said Niki Leondakis, CEO of hotels and resorts for Two Roads Hospitality, which oversees Destination Hotels and the Thompson Hotels and Joie de Vivre groups.

“We want to get back to hospitality, back to the human touch.”

“We wouldn’t necessarily see robots replacing team members, because we’re in the business of hospitality,” added panelist and Hilton Worldwide’s chief marketing officer, Geraldine Calpin.

Still, while even a technology-oriented person such as Lau acknowledged that the cornerstone of hotel service will continue to be based on human interaction, she added that hotels risk obsolescence by ignoring advances in areas such as robotics, data tracking and communications.

“I would love to talk to a person when it matters,” Lau said. “But a lot of the hospitality service parts are more amenable to automation.”

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