Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

March 28 2016

Will Robots Transform The Travel Industry?

Staci Wuokko

The face-to-face industry may soon be introducing some new kinds of “faces” to your attendees. According to a new Travelzoo survey of more than 6,000 global travelers, nearly 66 percent of respondents are comfortable with robots being used in the travel industry. The statistics reveal that many of us expect robots to outperform humans: 79 percent of respondents believe robots will be better at dealing with different languages, and 76 percent think robots have better memories.

“Right now is a very exciting moment in the history of the travel industry,” Richard Singer, Travelzoo’s European President, aid in a statement. “Groundbreaking technology is revolutionizing what is possible from the perspective of customer service, entertainment and personalization. Robots and artificial intelligence are making their debut on the tourism stage, and our research into global acceptance of robots working in the travel industry is largely positive.”

SEE ALSO: Slack Is Building Bots That Could Increase Workplace Productivity

Many hotels are already exploring how robots can impact the guest experience. For example, a three-foot-tall robot named Botlr delivers room service at some Aloft properties in the US. In other parts of the world, robots run the whole show. At the Henn-na near Nagasaki, Japan, the weekly payroll is most likely quite a bit lower than competitors. The entire staff is comprised of robots.

While most travelers expect to see robots playing a greater role in their experiences by 2020, it doesn’t look like the Henn-na will become the norm quite yet. “Consumers still want humans in the picture, as otherwise there is a genuine fear that cultural nuances, humor and irony will be missed, and the holiday experience could become too impersonal,” Singer said. “If we don’t respect the desire for the human touch, we risk ‘robophobia’ setting in.”

If robots will be used more widely in hotels and airports and at car rental counters, it seems like they’ll soon be in convention center spaces, too. How do you feel about robots working in conference venues? Will this kind of AI create a positive impact on your organization’s budget and your attendees’ experiences? Go to Catalyst to share your thoughts on what robots will mean for meetings.

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