Working in hospitality is tough. It involves long hours, menial labour and low pay, all while keeping a smile on your face no matter how crazy the customer request.
Hospitality employers, too, are seeking error-free service solutions that don’t get tired or frustrated; become forgetful; mix up orders; or argue with rude customers. Enter artificial intelligence and robots, which are the ideal staff – on paper, at least.
In fact, some companies have already begun testing mechanical employees. The Millennium Hotels and Resorts Group has recently rolled out robot “bellboys” who deliver water and linen to guestrooms in five of its Singapore hotels. Each bot is said to handle the work of three people.
These are just early-stage models of what is set to be the high-tech evolution of the hospitality industry – think mechanical staff cooking the perfect steak or robotic housekeeping cleaning your room. These “friendly” machines are set to be at the frontline of normalising robotics in everyday life, with robo-chefs, robo-masseuses and more already being prototyped in Singapore.
While it’s exciting news, this isn’t going to happen overnight. Cost will be an issue, and it’ll take awhile for all the kinks – such as faulty motion sensors and buggy programming – to be ironed out. But change is inevitable. Robots as a fixture in travel now seems a case of when, not if.
But at its heart, hospitality is ultimately a field where human interaction, professionalism and rapport matter. To be hospitable means to be empathic, polite and warm – and at the end of the day, this comes down to more than the mechanical efficiency of indifferent automatons.
Illustration by Gordon Studer
This article was originally published in the January 2018 issue of Silkwinds magazine.