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ITB Berlin Convention: Robots as the new colleagues in the service sector

Hotelroboter Mario

Experts estimate that 50 per cent of all jobs could be automated, and this applies to the hotel industry too. According to a study conducted by DICON there is a 94 per cent probability of being replaced by a machine at the reception, and even in the kitchen. "Fast and convenience foods are taking over from the preparation of fresh food", explained Roland Schwecke, Managing Director, DICON Marketing and Consulting, speaking during the ITB Hospitality Day at the ITB Berlin Convention. "Apps which use an electronic key to allow access to rooms make it possible for a visit to a hotel, from booking to payment, to be made without any human contact." And for those who miss the human element, a hologram can be used to explain the most important details. An analysis reveals that the least replaceable jobs are those of sales and marketing managers (1.3 and 1.4 per cent probability of automation), hotel management (3.9 per cent) and even that of the hotel porter (22 per cent).

It would seem that service robots are more than just a gimmick in the hotel lobby. They can be used to carry suitcases, keep an eye on luggage, take orders and provide room service. Currently they are probably not cheaper but are nevertheless popular with travellers, 6,000 of whom were polled by Travelzoo in nine countries (Germany, France, United Kingdom, Spain, China, Japan, Canada, USA and Brazil). It revealed that two thirds of those questioned were more than happy to see a robot providing room service or at the reception. The nationality that shows the greatest degree of acceptance are the Chinese (97 per cent), while Germans welcome them least of all. Only 18 per cent of all those questioned would not like to be served "artificially". A large proportion would still be pleased to see a human being alongside the robot (53 per cent). "Currently the presence of a human being conveys a sense of security", is the interpretation by the Travelzoo President Richard Singer. And it seems that those who do not believe that a robot could do the job as well as a human (43 per cent) are concerned about the immediacy and speed with which the service is provided.

An artificial presence of quite a different kind is currently being provided by NH Hotel Group, whose managing director is Stephan Demmerle, which has recently started using hologram technology in the event and conference sector. Important people or products can be projected, life size and realistically, onto stages, far from their actual physical location. "This not only cuts travelling and transport costs as well as time", Demmerle explains, adding that "it also impresses and delights our guests, and helps to convey important subject matter, because people retain a memory associated with such a unique event much more effectively." 

Isabel Bommer

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