Robots and artificial intelligence technologies are becoming more and more popular in the hospitality and tourism industry. The robot bellman, the robot butler, and the robot hotel concierge are no longer only movie characters. But are robots a competitive advantage for hotels, or do they deprive guests of the human touch that has since ever been at the core of hospitality? A recent study investigating consumers’ preferences during the COVID-19 pandemic suggests that today consumers have a more positive attitude toward robot-staffed hotels. In fact, the presence of robots reduces human contact and thus customers’ perceived risk. Even before the pandemic, some hotel brands with an eye on the future had already started using robots to improve the guest experience. Other hotels have recently adjusted their services in line with new post-pandemic needs and preferences. In this article, we have included five hotel brands currently using robots.
1. Henn na Hotel
The Henn na Hotel is a futuristic hotel located in the town of Sasebo, near Nagasaki, Japan. A stay at the world’s first robot-staffed hotel is always filled with unexpected surprises that will take the guests one step into the future. Once guests enter the hotel, they will be greeted by multi-lingual robots at the front desk. The robots perform exactly the same activities as a human front office agent: They help guests check in or check out. The cloakroom has a robotic arm that will store the luggage for the guests. Each room has a robot that regulates the heating and lighting, and it informs customers of the weather conditions and much more. Additionally, once guests register their face with the hotel’s face recognition system, they won’t even need to carry the room key around as they will be able to unlock the door with their face! The commitment of Henn na hotel to offer a futuristic experience with cutting-edge technologies is embedded in the name of the hotel itself. Indeed, the translation of the Japanese word “Henn” is “to change,” which highlights the commitment of the hotel to go beyond the ordinary.
2. Yotel Hotel
Yotel is a modern hotel brand with Japanese influence, highly appealing to those customers who want more than just a regular and traditional hotel stay. One of the brand’s goals is to change the status quo through its smart design and creative use of technology. Yotel is another brand using robots to improve its customer service. The brand launched its first robots in its New York City location. Fondly called Yobot, the Yotel’s robot collects guests’ luggage, allowing guests to quickly check-in, and have as limited contact with others as they wish. Simultaneously, the robots free up the human staff for other duties, saving time and money. Even Yotel’s Boston location includes more than 300 smartly designed cabins and technology-driven kiosks to help guests check in and select room service and amenity deliveries. Additionally, the hotel has recently launched a new robot that offers deep disinfection services throughout high-touch public spaces and select cabins to keep guests as safe as possible.
3. Hotel EMC2
Hotel EMC2 is a dynamic hotel located in Chicago with 195 rooms. It is owned by Scott Greenberg, a science addict that wants to offer its guests something beyond the classic boutique hotel experience. This is why in his hotel, he created the perfect mixture of art and science. The hotel includes a 12,000-book library, an exceptional restaurant (named “The Albert” after the great scientist), and a plethora of artistic design objects, such as wood-paneled walls, mid-century furnishings, hanging filing cabinets, a rose gold reception desk, and more. The hotel employs two robots: Cleo and Leo. Both robots are around 3 feet tall, and they even have a name tag and tuxedo jackets with coattails. The robots satisfy guests’ demands by supplying anything they need: an additional towel, a snack, a toothbrush, and more. The two robot employees can be seen roaming in the halls, or delivering objects to guests. Additionally, part of the hotel’s revenues finance a project called SYNCERE, which supports STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) programs in underserved Chicago communities.
4. Hotel Sky
Hotel Sky opened in November 2020 in Johannesburg, South Africa, becoming the first establishment on the African continent to introduce the use of robot staff. The hotel debuted with three robots: Lexi, Micah, and Ariel. In line with guests’ increased desire for socially distant interactions, the robots deliver room service, provide travel information, and carry customers’ luggage to their rooms. Designed by CTRL Robotics, Lexi, Micah, and Ariel are equipped with cameras and scanners that allow them to mimic human senses. The robots can even determine guests’ mood by scanning their faces! The three robot employees work alongside their human co-workers and can take turns of six hours. Once their shift is over, they automatically walk back to their docking stations for recharging.