“I’ll be back!”or so Arnold Schwarzenegger warned once upon a time and it seems he kept his promise. If reports are to be believed, you could soon see robots creeping in to the travel industry.
At the recent ITB Berlin, Toshiba unveiled Chihira Kanae, a human-looking robot who flawlessly responds to verbal questions. Chihira is expected to be rolled out at the front desk of hotels around the world soon to assist travellers.
And it seems travellers are quite keen to be assisted by cyborgs while on holiday. According to a global survey by Travelzoo, 80% of travellers expect robots on their vacations by 2020 and almost two-thirds said they are comfortable being served by robots in some capacity.
Travellers say robots would probably be better than humans at handling data and dealing with different languages. They also believe robots have better memory overall, so would be better placed to remember clients’ needs. Finally – and we can’t argue with this logic – travellers say robots don’t need any sleep and have ‘untiring’ energy. Who needs sleep when you’re a travel agent, right?
But before you pack your bags, draw up your resignation letter and admit defeat, you should know that although travellers are keen to see robots do certain things, they still want the human touch to make sure their holiday doesn’t become too ‘impersonal’. They want to be able to have a laugh with the hotel receptionist in their local dialect or make an ironic remark. And that’s something Robocop will simply never understand.
The answer for the travel industry is to find the right balance between technology and the human touch. While clients enjoy recent innovations, such as in-store virtual reality, digital brochures and indeed robots, they want far more than just a virtual experience.