Robert Rauch, CEO of RAR Hospitality explains in an article posted on ehotelier.com that artificial intelligence (AI) in the hospitality industry has arrived and is here to stay:
Artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics are real and here to stay. AI is a fast-moving technology that enables machines to perform tasks that could previously be done only by humans.
In 2017, robots have begun to have an impact on the guest or associate experience one way or another. One of the benefits of robots will be the data they provide us as guests utilize the services. Our Fairfield Inn & Suites in San Marcos, California opened in May of this year with a robot (developed by Savioke) as an employee. Hubert, as we fondly call him, is desired by guests and has boosted guest satisfaction, tripled sundry shop sales projections, reduced the need to call team members for deliveries and provides safety and security at night allowing our night auditor to stay at the desk. Hubert is programmed with our elevator, allowing him to accurately maneuver to the guest rooms.
Hotels will utilize robots just as much for customer service and excitement as it might be doing for ultimate savings on labor costs. Maidbot has developed a housekeeping robot, Rosie, and Hilton has Connie the Concierge. While there is a threat to workers whose jobs are “routine,” it will not cause mass unemployment. It may, however, have a positive impact on net income as a capital expense replaces a labor cost and at the same time may require many workers to learn new skills. The overall result of mechanization in the past has created new jobs. Only time will tell but let’s look back at where robotics has already been successful and realize that the future is now. Think about medical robots—I just had hernia surgery and my doctor used a robot to significantly reduce post operation recovery.
Take a look at other trends in the vicinity of technology trends and virtual reality (VR) pops up. The hotel industry is honing in on the opportunity and has been developing virtual reality to sell rooms, sell the experience and provide guests an opportunity to try something without doing it. It is now easy for an entire family to preview their trip—thinking about a mountain bike ride? Check it out and see what level of adrenaline rush the bike trip will provide. Is it too much for the kids? Try something more serene like snorkeling. VR can also provide sample views from balconies, allowing you to check out the destination before arriving and give you a real “feel” for the destination.
VR also allows hotels to provide a panoramic 360-degree view of available guest rooms. According to Intelligent Operations, “Digital and IoT user interfaces can prompt an individual to log requests including preferred TV programs, dinner reservations and in room amenities and controls. IoT enables a guest room to be connected and always “on”, minimizing room down time from equipment malfunctions and repairs such as lighting and heat.”
So where is the next robot or “cobot”, as a collaborative robot is sometimes called? I like the idea of hiring a robot to assist housekeepers by vacuuming the room. Housekeepers often complain of repetitive injury from vacuuming. This will reduce room cleaning time and save our housekeepers backs all in one fell swoop. So when you hear that robotics is not personalized service and that we are going in the wrong direction, explain to the naysayers that change is good. Leave the vacuuming to Rosie the Maidbot and have your housekeepers create the personal touches guests yearn for.
by Robert Rauch, CEO of RAR Hospitality