Hotel operators and hospitality experts say they expect to see a rise in demand from consumers seeking to minimise human interaction, for robots to clean and sanitise rooms and deliver food and drink.
Robots are not new in the hospitality industry, and a 2018 University of Houston study estimated that by 2030, robots will make up about 25% of the workforce in the hospitality industry.
In 2014, Starwood placed two robot butlers at its Aloft Hotels, followed by Hilton teaming up with IBM to create “Connie” (named after Hilton founder Conrad Hilton) stationed in Virginia.
Connie, a Watson-enabled robot concierge, could inform guests of nearby restaurants, tourist attractions and hotel amenities, while in Japan, Henn Na Hotel made headlines in 2015 when it staffed its workforce with more than 200 robots to help with checkin and luggage delivery. However, many of these schemes fell foul of unions and labour forces, and that opposition combined with the cost and complexity in rollout has led to many being mothballed.
This article discusses the pros and cons of robot staffing from helping keep areas pristine clean to guests not having to tip for services.