Julie Jimenez|Mar 17, 2016

Imagine walking into a hotel and being greeted by a humanoid, having your bags taken care of by a droid and your room service is brought up by a bot that reminds you of R2D2. This may be the future of the hotel industry, and it’s not as far off as you think.

Last year, the Henn’na Hotel near Nagasaki, Japan opened its doors, and it is almost fully staffed by robots. And just this month, our client Hilton Worldwide unveiled it is piloting its own concierge robot, Connie, in partnership with IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence program. Connie can provide restaurant recommendations, direct guests to nearby attractions and share information on the hotel.

Given the prevalence of automated technology today, where we already have cars that drive themselves and cruise ships with robotic bartenders, it’s no surprise that this trend is emerging in the hotel sector. For hotel owners and operators looking to maximize their bottom line by reducing their employee count, moving towards robots makes operational sense. But in an industry where personal connections and customer service are paramount to the hotel experience, bringing in robots forces us all to redefine our expectations.

rbb recently released the latest iteration of its Breakout Brands survey, focusing on what consumers really want from companies. The survey found that a majority of Americans are more likely to trust a company that offers excellent customer service, and 44 percent of consumers felt it was essential that a company offer a live customer service agent either in-person or over the phone. Live still beats tech, but for how long?

The introduction of robots changes how hotels are designed and run, and also challenges how marketers and public relations professionals promote them. For certain guests, the fact that a hotel doesn’t have robots may be a selling point, while for others it’s a deal-breaker.

Hotels in the luxury space will also face a difficult task if they decide to incorporate robotic staff, as providing personalized customer service is seen as vital in this segment. Being able to interact with a human employee may even be seen as a premium experience in the future, further differentiating the luxury sector and how brands in this space market themselves.

As society becomes more tech-forward, the hotel industry will follow suit. Brands will soon start deciding if their workforce is going to consist of humans or robots, and marketers will need to find new ways to appeal to guests navigating the new normal of the hotel experience. When you book your next trip, ask yourself: are you pro-human or pro-robot?


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