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February 5, 2019

Americas: The Robot Hotel: The Future or a Failure?

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Two news stories this week gave a conflicting vision of the use of AI robots as hotel staff. A Reuters’ story on Alibaba Future Hotel Management’s FlyZoo hotel in Hangzhou, China, describes sleek little robots delivering towels and cocktails, which, according to the story, Alibaba claims cuts labor costs and eliminates the need for guests to interact with people.

While robots may reduce labor costs, a hotel’s budget seems likely to take a hit from technology investment and maintenance costs seems likely to be replaced in another part with technology investment and maintenance costs. The other achievement, of eliminating guest interactions with people, seems a slightly strange goal for a hospitality company to work toward. In a survey by the Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration, none of the respondents mentioned isolation from other humans as a preferred feature.

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