A survey of more than 6,000 travellers in Asia, Europe, North America and South America reveals nearly 80% of respondents expect robots to play a big part in their lives by 2020, with three quarters believing they will make their lives significantly better. Almost two thirds of respondents would be comfortable with robots being used in the travel industry.
Travelzoo conducted the research as part of its Future of Travel project exploring consumer acceptance of robots in the travel and tourism industry. According to the survey, international travellers are largely comfortable with robots playing a role in their holiday, though some nations appear more cautious than others.
German and French respondents were the most averse, while Chinese and Brazilians were the most positive about how robotics and artificial intelligence could enhance a holiday or travel in general – 92% of Chinese were comfortable with the idea.
The main advantages respondents see in robots are related to general efficiency, data retention and recall. More than three-quarters of respondents think that robots would be better than humans at handling data (81%) and dealing with different languages (79%), while 76% believe robots have better memories. 81% of respondents selected their untiring energy as an advantage.
Travelzoo’s European President, Richard Singer said: “While the advent of technology such as robot butlers and bartenders is hugely exciting, it’s also very clear from our research that consumers see the combination of robots and humans working in tandem in customer-facing roles as the ideal solution.
“Consumers still want humans in the picture, as otherwise there is a genuine fear that cultural nuances, humour and irony will be missed and the holiday experience could become too impersonal. If we don’t respect the desire for the human touch, we risk ‘robophobia’ setting in, when in fact technology can significantly improve the holiday experience when used appropriately.”
Professor Stephen Page of Bournemouth University, said: “Robots represent a major innovation in the tourism sector and their potential impact and use offers many new avenues to enhance and develop the visitor experience of travel and hospitality. Understanding how consumers will embrace and interact with this new technology will be critical to their adoption and dissemination in an industry that is one of the market leaders in the use of technology.”
Toshiba is pioneering ‘human-looking’ robot technology and has created three ‘communication androids,’ two of which are already being used in Tokyo in a hotel reception and a shopping mall.