Study: Robots Are Taking Over Hospitality Industry

MUNCIE, Indiana – International vacationers and travelers believe that robots are best used for unpleasant and strenuous tasks such as disposing of garbage, cleaning, and carrying and storing heavy items, says a new study from Ball State University.

But, most respondents don’t want robots in authority positions when it comes to emergency situations, according to “Robots in Travel, Tourism and Hospitality: Key Findings from a Global Study.”

The study examined how 1,676 respondents from 103 countries and territories feel about the use of automated machines in these sectors.

“There seems to be a good deal of data that reinforces the notion that robots should do the dangerous, dull, and dirty work that humans presently do,” said Craig Webster, an associate professor of hospital and food management in the Miller College of Business at Ball State. “There is also significant support for the use of robots in providing information to tourists and travelers.”

Webster coauthored the study with Stanislav Ivanov, a professor at Varna University of Management in Bulgaria.

“The future is more robotic than the present, but humans will not go the way of the horse,” he said. “This research should assist in showing industry the best path towards further robotization, while keeping the human in charge.”

The study found:

  • People perceive that robots should not be used in position that require sophisticated judgment calls.
  • The public seems to be generally accepting of using robots to deliver services at receptions in hotels and other facilities.
  • In general, respondents consider robots as suitable for housekeeping tasks, and show support for robot use for laundry.
  • The respondents show a willingness to have robots do many tasks in the food service industry, apart from preparing food.
  • The data from the survey show a great deal of skepticism in terms of accepting the use of self-driving vehicles, whether a car, train, bus, ship, or airplane. Self-driving airplanes are the technology that respondents seem to be most against.
  • The data suggest that customers expect that the use of robots will cause a reduction in costs to them as end consumers of services.

Implementing robots in these industries should be done in a cautious way that enables customers to see the benefits, keeping service levels high and cutting the cost of services to the end-user, Webster said.

The future is more automated and travel, tourism, and hospitality industries have to realize the transformation is already here, he said.

“The technologies that allow for automation improve in quality by the day and the demographics in developed countries illustrate a long-term labor shortage in service industries,” Webster said.


About Ball State

Founded in 1918 and located in Muncie, Ball State University is one of Indiana’s premier universities and an economic driver for the state. Ball State’s 22,500 students come from all over Indiana, the nation, and the world. The 790-acre campus is large enough to accommodate first-rate facilities and 19 NCAA Division I sports, but our welcoming and inclusive campus is small enough to ensure the friendliness, personal attention, and access that are the hallmarks of the University. Destination 2040: Our Flight Path establishes Ball State’s ambitious goals for our second century. We Fly!

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