The application of technology in tourism and hospitality services is growing each day. Using robots in hospitality establishments is becoming more and more popular, mainly because it can help cut labor costs, increase efficiency and reduce human contacts.
The hospitality and tourism industry was a late adopter of service robots because many tasks are required to respond to customers’ needs. Robotic services have been implemented in many hotels worldwide for errands such as check-in, vacuuming floors, conveying items to visitors, and attendant services. In the travel and tourism industry, robots perform various tasks, including preparing beverages, engaging visitors, guiding visitors, and providing data to visitors.
The Henn-na Hotel in Japan is one of the first in the field, with robots serving as the entire staff. In the last five years, hotels in the United States, such as Aloft Hotels and Hilton Hotels, have used robotic services.
Back-office (for example, to control fluid when serving bar drinks) and front-office activities such as BellBot; and robots as receptionists, bellboys, exhibition hall guides, ‘attendants, maids, servers and barkeeps, gear stockpiling staff, conveyance robots, stewards, and room service help, chatbots and online customer care staff are all examples of how robots can be used in various help settings, jobs, and activities.
Robots perform other tasks like storing luggage, cooking omelets, delivering toiletries, greeting, providing information about local attractions, room delivery, riding elevators, playing music, dancing, removing trash, and changing linens.
Companies in the tourism and hospitality industries can use service robots to create physical separation. Robotic room service and cleaning, food/parcel delivery robots, autonomous vehicles, delivery drones, and other robots eliminate physical contact between tourists and employees, reducing the risk of infection.
The experience of the COVID-19 pandemic shows that as robots are not affected by the virus, robotic technology could be used efficiently and effectively for cleaning, disinfection, delivering food and medicines, and providing information about the pandemic to people (although a computer virus can infect them). Furthermore, suppose a guest is infected and must remain in the room under quarantine. In that case, a hotel can use robots to deliver food, linen, and other items without jeopardizing the staff’s health and safety.
Robots are also beneficial during the pandemic for helping nurses deliver food to patients. Otherwise, nurses have to wear protective suits, which take at least ten minutes. With robots, health risks for nurses are prevented, and they use their time for more important medical treatment tasks.
Service robots may help keep a high level of physical distancing, which helps provide a more secure service to tourists during a pandemic. People may be more concerned about their safety in a post-viral world, so robotics may become more common; safety and security may be one of the main factors influencing tourists’ choice of a destination and specific tourism/hospitality service provider.
A technological barrier provided by robots separates tourists and tourism/hospitality employees. As a “people business,” tourism heavily relies on human employees to provide services. Customer perceptions, service experience, and service quality are influenced by the service staff’s empathy, emotional intelligence, appearance, and efficiency.
As a result, the automation and robotization of tourism and hospitality services may result in the loss of important aspects of the customer experience. All in all, robotic services can improve guests’ intellectual, sensory, and behavioral experiences and these enhanced experiences lead to customers posting positive comments online.