The reason I ask if I really care about the progress of technology in our industry is because when considering this I really have to take in the perspectives of the four ‘stakeholders’ involved that it impacts.
If I am one of those countless hospitality employees who works so hard to deliver a seamless and gratifying experience to the guests, then yes, I am scared of what the future holds for many of us. Robots are already replacing room service associates. Some hotels in Japan already have automatic front desk ‘personnel’ in the form of reasonably lifelike robots. Chinese news is delivered by a really lifelike gentleman thereby saving substantial costs to the relevant network.
In many fast food restaurant kitchens there are already automatic hamburger flippers taking care of those greasy heart attacks in buns, though they look like machines, not humans.
So yes, if I am an employee I am worried. As surely as I sit here writing this piece there are a myriad of high tech programmers and engineers sitting in laboratories across the world in high density ‘silicone’ areas laboring over the latest inventions destined to steal human jobs. Anything new that can achieve robust HR savings and deliver shareholder value. That is after all what it is all about; never the human factor. It is all about the numbers.
And what if I am in corporate or hotel management? Well, I guess that I would be somewhat pleased if the technological updates saved me expenses. I would however be worried if they ate heavily into the staffing at my property. Staff, along with a great in-hotel culture are what makes a successful stay for our guests. I would be saddened by yet more loss of honest jobs to automation. That basically means more honest folk on unemployment, real people who really do need those disappearing jobs to support themselves, their families and pay their bills.
Owners and shareholders? Well, every time a cost saving technology appears they are delighted. More savings, more to the bottom line. Less employees equals less employer-employee relations and obligations. All they take notice of is the number at the bottom of the profit and loss statement monthly, and of course in the investments and expenses they might need to maintain their business. Human resources is a matter to be suffered as a necessity on the way to profits, and the less the better.
Now of course there are many employees that are also shareholders in businesses that could include the very enterprise they work for. I know a friend that actually advised her company many years ago on cost cutting in a report that she wrote that recommended doing away with her own position.
You can’t really argue with the owners and stakeholders, profitability is their core concern. So that leaves us with the guests. Ah yes, the guests. We perhaps should have started with the guests since they are the one and only thing that our hospitality industry depends on for our bread and butter. But I have left the most important ‘stakeholder’ for last, and that is because whether you are an owner, in management, a shareholder or an employee, you are all guests at some stage in your lives.
Now I consider myself a fairly normal guest in terms of my expectations when I stay in a hotel. I, like the next person, like to experience value for my hard earned money. I like luxury as much as anyone, and I love it when I have a great, seamless and thoroughly enjoyable stay.
So how do technological advances impact our enjoyment of a typical hotel stay? Well, the first thing that comes to mind is that people (most of us) like to interact with people. That means that it is nice to be welcomed by an actual human and not a monotone voiced robot. It is always nice to have a small talk at the front desk while being smoothly checked in. Of course smoothly is the important word here, but I am sure that a nice welcome for me is better than either a robot or a credit card auto entry to my room.
I know that I would prefer a nice room service attendant to bring my order. I also know that quick check outs are great and save time, and I will not miss the line up to pay when trying to get out.
But what I really care about is my level of comfort in my room. Whether I am on vacation and just want to watch TV, stay in contact with friends and the office easily, or set up a virtual office away from my office, my room needs to accommodate all that. For me technology helps when it makes my room a better, more practical and comfortable place to stay, and most hotels are really taking care to provide all that guests need within their rooms.
The one thing that I truly appreciate is an abundance of electrical outlets and usb charging hubs in the room, and especially by the beds. There is nothing worse than having to recharge your mobile phones so far from the bed, and being woken up and having to jump out of bed to shut the damn thing off. Technology that streamlines my stay is good, but forget about all the robotics if there are not enough outlets in my room.