Great news, in so many ways, released by the Office for National Statistics this month.
Figures based on the current state of the UK labour market showed that employment is at an all-time high.
Numbers of those in work are at their highest on record, while unemployment is at its lowest since winter 1974/75.
However, there is a flipside.
A second ONS report was released this week, investigating which occupations are at the highest risk of being automated. Significantly for the hospitality sector, it was mainly entry-level and routine jobs found to be at risk, especially those performed by younger people and women.
Across our industry, we rely on vast numbers of temporary, transient and entry-level employees; and part-time and female workers make up a huge part of our workforce.
Out of its predicted 1.5 million jobs across the board at “high risk” of automation, waiters and waitresses were among the top three, alongside shelf fillers and elementary sales occupations. There is also a fairly rocky outlook for chefs, cooks and kitchen staff, catering and bar staff, housekeepers, travel agents and receptionists, all at between 50 and 69% risk of being replaced.
But the news is not all bad.
We can take comfort in the news that hotel proprietors and managers are looking quite secure, at only 30% risk from automation.
Which shows that however artificial intelligence and robots may offer a viable option for repetitive tasks, there will always be a need for real people, for personal contact, to keep our experiences authentic as we travel.
It may well be that soon it’ll be a robot bringing our poolside cocktails. We’ve reported on ASAP Members trialling robot concierge housekeeping and other automation, and of course IoT, keyless entry by smartphone, and chatbots, have long been a part of our industry – without causing a sudden rush on the unemployment queue!
As we discussed at our Convention in December; keeping the customer at the centre of everything we do means that, however exciting, fast-growing and technology-focused our sector, we will never lose sight of what’s important.
Giving the guest the very best, the most consistent, and the safest experience.
At the end of last year we launched the industry global alliance with the CHPA and other markets, to raise the bar for serviced apartments and aparthotels. Working with other organisations with the same aims, we’re looking to help consumers recognise the benefits of serviced apartments, and to regard them as safe, modern and credible alternatives to that of more traditional accommodation provided by hotels.
We’ve faced challenges from the sharing economy and unaccredited actors in our industry, but we’re becoming increasingly recognised for our high quality offering, and for our own part in leading the way on getting this forward-looking and disruptive sector recognised.
We feel it’s important to create a collaborative relationship with others to help create a single voice for the industry, wherever in the world we happen to be.
And we are delighted to report that worldwide, our sector continues to make waves.
James Foice, CEO, ASAP