Nicholas Hall's Photo
Nicholas Hall


Travel Tech

The concept of booking into a hotel and being confronted with nothing but robots may be a surreal and slightly unpleasant one. But a Japanese hotel is already offering this particular experience, ensuring that guests have a particularly memorable experience.

Robotic Hotel Staff

Nagasaki’s Henn-na Hotel will feature ten robotic members of staff, which are said to be staggeringly lifelike. And if this is not surreal enough in itself, scientists are already working on providing the ability for the robots to sweat and experience goosebumps.

This particularly high-technology Japanese hotel will enable you to be literally checked in by robots. Each of the 10 virtual members of staff will check in guests, take their bags from them, and escort them to their room. Although human employees are still present in the Henn-na Hotel, the establishment intends to genuinely eliminate them eventually.

Perhaps this is a little too much for the European mindset, and one is reminded of the Terminator franchise in which intelligent robots eventually view humanity as a threat to their existence! But although the Henn-na Hotel, which is actually set in the middle of a theme park in Nagasaki, is an extreme example, the concept of robotics providing enhanced customer service is a valid concept that will become increasingly realised in the coming years.

Japan has often been at the forefront of technology, and is particularly associated with consumer electronics. But the country is also making massive leaps in robot development. A particular focus of Japanese robotics has been on human-robot interaction, with the eventual intention of producing robots that can work in locations such as the Nagasaki hotel.

And as mentioned previously, researchers are attempting to build human-like functions into the robots, presumably with the intention of making them more accountable to the general public. Scientists at Kansai University are working on building in a whole range of human functions and involuntary reactions into the robots to make them appear much more like their human counterparts.

Western resistance

This might not be a concept that plays particularly well in Western marketplaces at present. But in Japan, the public has long since been attracted to humanoid-type companion and service robots, so being served by a raft of them in a hotel is not such a foreign concept. Japan has been at the forefront of implementing robotics in factories, most notably in the auto industry, and it is considered natural by technology experts and researchers in the nation for the country and its scientists to take the next logical step.

It is not only in the hotel industry where hospitality robots can make a serious impression. Many museums, such as the National Museum of Australia in Canberra, the de Youg Museum of San Francisco and the Computer History Museum in California, are already making use of robotic tour guides. These museums used sophisticated robots provide a virtual guided tour of museums to guests from all over the world.

Advantages of robots in these situations include the fact that they can deliver a tour in multiple languages. This can be extremely logistically difficult to achieve with human-beings, as there are obvious limits to multi-lingual abilities. Theoretically, robots can be taught very easily to deliver a particular tour guide in as many languages as are conceivable.

Robots can also reach places that are inaccessible by other human-beings, offering a superior accessibility picture to travellers. This can be particularly valuable in the adventure niche, in which travellers always have the desire to explore new and remote places. Robots can play a very valid role in this process, and ensure that the adventurers have a heightened and improved experience.

Concerns about Robot Revolution

Naturally there are concerns that robots could replace human-beings to some extent. But as the affordability of robots falls sharply, they can more accurately be viewed as a supplement to human roles. Companies are constantly innovating and attempting to produce next generation robots that further streamline and customise travel experience for users. And the ability of humans to interact with robots both as customers and as part of travel-related companies can help deliver an extremely nuanced and exciting customer experience.

The fact that robots are already produced on a fairly large scale to work in other environments means that a lot of the technology associated with service sector robots is already available. Manufacturers have been working for some time on producing more sophisticated versions of existing robotics, and the fact that this is not brand new technology also means that its price is not as heavy as one might imagine.

There are all manner of travel-related companies and destinations that can benefit from the robotics revolution. As the technology develops in the coming years, and people become more accustomed to be dealt with by robots, so we will see the concept being utilised on a more widespread basis in the travel industry.


comments powered by Disqus

More from #DTTT

  • sustainable tourism - people sitting on a bench looking out over water
    In December we present:
    #DTTTGlobal Takeaways: Does being a Smart Destination go Beyond Technology?

    Does being a smart destination go beyond technology? What does it mean to be a smart destination? We were joined by the ‘European Capital of Smart Tourism 2019’ winners, Helsinki Marketing and OnlyLyon to share what it means to them to be a smart destination, striving for sustainable growth for the future, and the initiatives […]

  • In December we present:
    #DTTTGlobal: Key Takeaways

    As always, we have a host of stellar speakers from around the world joining us at #DTTTGlobal, and year after year we are so impressed with the valuable insights and knowledge shared on the most pressing topics in tourism today.

  • In December we present:
    #DTTTGlobal Takeaways: DMOs Applying Innovation

    What role does innovation play for today’s destinations and what does it mean to be truly innovative? Is it still possible in such a busy world and a world where consumers are becoming more and more demanding?

  • In December we present:
    #DTTTGlobal Takeaways: Technology and Data Trends

    Today, we dedicated a whole morning to technology and how it’s an important player in the tourism space.

  • In December we present:
    #DTTTGlobal Takeaways: Designing a Sustainable Future

    How can we design a sustainable future for tourism? It’s a significant question which may not have a straightforward answer or solution, however, we know its importance continues to rise and actions need to be taken.

  • In December we present:
    #DTTTGlobal Takeaways: DMO Digitalisation & Collaboration

    Throughout the year, across the many DMOs we have worked with and fantastic projects we have highlighted, it’s clear that digitalisation and collaboration are key drivers for future growth and ensuring the sustainability of a destination.

Show more
© 2017 Digital Tourism Think Tank

Digital Tourism Think Tank logo imge