When Hotel Sky in Sandton ordered its virtual assistants in the form of humanoid robots as a way to bring some innovation into the service offering, it never could have imagined just how handy these would be in a time of pandemics, lockdowns and the need for social distancing.
According to AFP, the robots were developed back in 2019 as an integral part of the hotel’s design.
While most businesses in the hospitality sector found themselves shut at the height of the pandemic amid virus restrictions and curfews, the hotel opened last November.
Hotel Sky bills itself as Africa’s first hotel to employ robots and underscores the fact the pandemic will accelerate the drive towards automation in the continent.
The Citizen recently sat down with Hotel Sky general manager Herman Brits and co-founder of CTRL Robotics Nikhil Ranchod to find out all about robots Micah, Lexi and Ariel and how they are fitting into their new roles at Hotel Sky.
Among the many services the robots offer, they also carry luggage or assist with contactless delivery of room service orders – something that has become even more of a need during a pandemic.
Addressing concerns about job losses in a country that is already rife with unemployment, both Brits and Ranchod insist that the goal is not to replace staff but to complement them.
As such, Ranchod and his team often hold feedback sessions with the Hotel Sky staff in an effort to find out how well the robots are fitting into the hotel’s workflow and in what ways they can improve the ways the robots assist the staff in providing guests with the best service.
Is this what the future of travel will look like?
With no end in sight to the novel coronavirus and its impact on human interaction, this is more than likely what the future of travel will look like.
In addition to a never-before-seen focus on hygiene and distancing, the industry will have to find innovative ways of ensuring less contact between people and surfaces in every arena from travel to accommodation and everything in between.
According to the Tour Writer website, travelers will now look for less crowded areas to travel to and there will also be a desire to engage in tour activities that have smaller groups to allow for social distancing. This also means people are less likely to do group bookings going forward or travel in large groups.
This aversion to crowded areas and cities could possibly mean a change in which travel destinations are more popular.
Communication will become an even more integral part of travel as rapidly changing circumstances require everyone to know the latest developments at the drop of a hat.
At the centre of most of these changes would be technology, so it seems Hotel Sky made the right choice just in time.