Danger Will Robinson: A Robot Army Is Coming To The Travel Biz

Open Jaw

A survey of more than 6,000 travellers in Asia, Europe, North America and South America has ‘revealed’ that nearly 80% of respondents expect robots to play a big part in their lives by 2020, with 75%  believing they will make their lives significantly better. Almost 2/3 of respondents would be comfortable with robots being used in the travel industry.


2020 is only 4 years away. Not much time to replace mediocre-paying travel jobs – front desk clerks, bartenders, who knows? – with expensive robots. Or maybe the humanoids will replace higher-paying jobs, like tour operator executive or airline pilot.


We’re not sure why, but the survey was conducted by Travelzoo, which is described in the press release as a ‘global media commerce company.’ This human doesn’t really know what that means, so perhaps it’s time I was replaced by a robot. I thought they sold cheap trips through annoying e-mails.


Travelzoo says it conducted the research as part of its Future of Travel project exploring consumer acceptance of robots in the travel and tourism industry. Richard Singer, Travelzoo’s European President, will make a keynote speech on the findings at this year’s ITB Berlin.


Singer (or a reasonable cyborg facsimile) will share the stage with Toshiba’s Chihira Kanae – described as one of the world’s most human-looking robots - who will make her European debut at the event.

 According to the survey, international travellers are largely comfortable with robots playing a role in their vacation, 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 vacation or travel in general – 92% of Chinese, 60% of Canadians and only 37% of Germans said they were comfortable with the idea.

The main advantages respondents see in robots are related to general efficiency, data retention and recall. More than 3/4 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.

Singer, who is clearly a convert, says robots have a bright future in travel. “Right now is a very exciting moment in the history of the travel industry – ground-breaking technology is revolutionizing what is possible from the perspective of customer service, entertainment and personalization. Robots and artificial intelligence are making their debut on the tourism stage, and our research into global acceptance of robots working in the travel industry is largely positive. Most nations are starting to open up to the idea of robots in travel and see the tangible benefits heading our way in the very near future.”

Singer says survey respondents aren’t quite ready to hand everything over to inhuman resources, however.

“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.”

Oh, for crying out loud.

100% of the people we have asked about this survey think it is stupid.

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