QTRAVEL via CNN – In a science fiction future, we’ll arrive at the hotel in our driverless taxi, check in at the reception desk staffed by androids then follow the robot porter as it carries our bags to our room.
Except, of course, this is already science fact.
Robots are already working in some hotels — the Henn-na Hotel in Sasebo, Japan is staffed entirely by machines including one, bizarrely, resembling a dinosaur.
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But that’s just how things roll in high-tech Japan, right?
Nope, robots are now making an appearance in hotels around the planet — and more are on their way.
In a Marriott hotel in Ghent, Belgium, a diminutive humanoid robot named Mario has been working since June 2015.
He welcomes guests in 19 languages and guards the buffet.
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A similar device, this one powered by IBM’s human-mimicking Watson computer, has just taken up a concierge position at a Hilton McLean hotel in Virginia.
Last year, Royal Caribbean installed cocktail-mixing robot bartenders on several of its cruise ships.
Gimmicks, yes, but their developers promise they’re getting more sophisticated by the month. Mario will soon learn how to order taxis.
So the rise of the hotel machines seems unstoppable, but will it come at the cost of human interaction and human jobs?
And will guests really want to stay in robot-run hotels?
These questions are clearly taxing travel and tourism experts, who spent much of a recent major industry trade event, ITB Berlin, discussing their implications.
“A lot of jobs considered non-automatable in the past are now considered to be automatable,” Oxford University’s Carl Benedikt Frey, an expert on technology and employment, told delegates.
Frey and fellow academics have ranked jobs in terms of how likely they are to be computerized in a study that shows some travel and tourism jobs more at risk than others.
Recreational therapists, such as those who work in wellness resorts, are at the safe end of the scale.
Tour guides face much gloomier prospects — although Frey said that depends heavily on circumstance.
“Someone standing on a bus with a microphone and someone riding on a horse with you across the Alps are very different,” he said. “The first is quite automatable, the second is not.”