Robots will become an important part of the future of the hotel industry, according to new research.
A study of artificial intelligence expected to feature in hospitality before 2020 has suggested hotels are in line for robot receptionists, while iris scans will replace room keys.
Some 80% of the 6,000 surveyed by Travelzoo said they expected robots to feature in travel and hospitality by 2020. Three-quarters said that was a good thing, in terms of improved travel experiences.
Many of the world's largest hotel groups already employ robots, albeit largely for PR value. Marriott has Mario welcoming guests in Ghent (pictured), Hilton has Connie the concierge at a Virginia hotel, powered by IBM's Watson supercomputer; while InterContinental's robot butler Dash delivers room service at the San Jose Crowne Plaza.
But, if the customer is always right, they could become much more widespread within the next five years, according to the poll.
Within hotels, roughly three-quarters of people polled would accept robots working as porters, and roughly two-thirds would accept them providing room service and reception.
Travelzoo European president Richard Singer, who will be speaking at The Caterer Digital Summit in May claimed hotel robots would soon move beyond marketing stunts and become, for example, "an integral part of a hotel's customer relationship management strategy. That's where robots become really interesting."
However, the firm said robots would complement rather than replace people, which was borne out by survey findings. Over 80% of respondents would prefer to ask a human member of staff about the local area of the hotel they are staying in.
Perhaps those views will change when people start experiencing robot interaction in hotels, which might not be too far away.
Major electronics firms including Toshiba are already refining human-looking androids, which are being deployed in hotels and retail. In the meantime, even those that look like they have been made from next generation Lego are receiving rave reviews from their employers as well as guests.
While Mario would not be mistaken for a human, Roger Langhout, general manager of the Ghent Marriott, said guests love the little robot and that the hotel has "received feedback from guests of all ages about the great experience he is able to provide."
Robots, said, Langhout, "are an important part of the future of the hotel industry. Guests want a personalised, tailored and unique experience at every step of the customer journey, and robots are able to deliver this".
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