The utilisation of robotics will continue to grow in importance for the travel and tourism industry. However, companies need to be sensitive in how they deploy this form of smart technology.
According to a recent GlobalData poll, 31% of respondents stated that their company will invest in robotics in the next 12 months, with robotics being the third most popular answer for this question, above the likes of IoT and cloud. A significant contributing reason as to why business executives and employees think that investment in robotics will increase is due to the long-term cost savings this technology can provide, as well as its ability to meet sudden changes in consumer demands.
From gimmick to necessity
Prior to the pandemic, the utilisation of robotics in tourism was mainly seen as a gimmick. Robot butlers in hotels would provide good Instagram opportunities for guests, creating exposure for the accommodation provider, and customer service robots at airports would entertain guests to reduce feelings of boredom.
These same robots are now a necessity for the likes of hotels and airports due to the need for Covid-19-safe experiences. According to GlobalData, 74% of global consumers are is still either ‘quite’ or ‘extremely’ concerned regarding the impact of Covid-19. These robots reduce the need for human contact, which increases safety for travelers across multiple stages during their trip.
It is also no secret that Covid-19 has battered the finances of many companies involved in travel and tourism. Although the initial cost of investing in robotics to replace human jobs will be high, many companies will make back what they have invested in just a short number of years. Subsequently, companies will then continue to shrink fixed costs and increase profit margins.
Companies need to invest with caution
Investing too heavily in robotics to replace human jobs could tarnish brand image. Travel and tourism employment has fallen substantially across the globe due to the pandemic, and many consumers will feel that it is a company’s social responsibility to employ people in need of work as travel recovers, especially if they have appropriate skill sets. Filling vacancies with robots could be deemed as insensitive in the current climate, especially in destinations that heavily rely on tourism as a key contributor to the local economy.
Through increasing operational efficiency and improving traveller confidence, robotics in tourism will continue to grow. However, companies need to ensure that they are not seen to be shunning their social commitments. It must be emphasised that the robots are deployed to work alongside humans, not instead of them.