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Robots Offer One Solution to the Hospitality Labor Shortage

Robotic assistants can take care of repetitive, labor-intensive tasks which helps prevent workplace injuries among an overloaded and aging workforce.
robot in hotel lobby
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Hoteliers are increasingly integrating automation and robotic technologies to help supplement and, in some cases, replace human labor. Often the drivers for implementing this technology are: enhancing the employee’s environment, preventing workplace injuries, improving safety, and easing physical requirements of an aging workforce. This makes sense when one realizes that the number of workplace injuries in the United States has seen a steady increase since 2020, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimating the hospitality industry produced upwards of 400,000 injuries in 2022. This high rate of injury can create severe repercussions for not only the individuals but the entire workplace. Cases that require long recoveries cause periods of absenteeism, higher premiums, and potential conflicts with OSHA regulations. These same cases add additional stress to an already overstretched workforce when colleagues experience heightened workloads, increasing the likelihood of burnout and that they will abandon their positions entirely. 

Additionally, it is well known that hospitality is an understaffed industry. With a high average turnover rate of 70-80% annually, there are clearly issues of retention in this sector. More than half of hotel respondents (53%) say that their properties have between 25–74 percent of the workforce they had in 2019. This statistic is especially concerning when considering the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reports a consistent quit rate above 4.5%, the highest of any industry. While technology may be able to replace some of these positions, hoteliers still need to figure out how they can retain talent and improve the overall work environment.

Assistive technology in a hotel setting is an effective solution for plugging the cracks in the system. Adding robot technology to provide a necessary extra hand will serve to alleviate the strain of staffing shortages. Robotic assistive devices reduce the chance of a workplace injury by functioning with maximum efficiency. What would normally take a human 4-5 trips by themselves can be accomplished in a single trip by a trained robot. Whether it is luggage transportation, transporting housekeeping carts or mobile bar replenishment, robot helpers could eliminate the need for a human to overexert and carry an excessive number of bags or other items. This capability reduces the repetitive and inefficient task requirements, instead allowing the staff a more engaging role to do things that are more accretive to the business. Smart mobility robots make this even easier by knowing how to maneuver in public spaces as a human would, requiring minimal guidance from its user.

Another concern facing hoteliers is that the average employee age within hospitality has risen in recent years. The average hospitality worker in the U.S., according to Zippia, is 47 years old. With no standard retirement age, assistive technology with an uncomplicated learning curve would go a long way in assisting the needs of this aging workforce. In a recent Deloitte report, retraining and reskilling employees for new technology was ranked as a top three concern for general managers implementing modern technology. Ease of use is essential for the population utilizing them.

In this tech-driven era, robotic platforms offer promise, innovation, and efficiency, fostering an exciting future in the hospitality sector that transcends any job loss concerns. The bottom-line benefits include reducing turnover, lightening workloads, and improving operational contributions. 

This approach differs from the wholesale replacement of human staff, acknowledging the roles of unions and resistance to job displacement.

Not only will smart robotic assistive devices serve as the perfect companion for hospitality workers, but they will also draw valuable attention, curiosity and interest from guests and potential customers alike.

There is a component of awe when it comes to robots and robot technology.  Hospitality is a people business that relies on engagement to ensure satisfied customers. Any novelty that is engaging to patrons will be better for business and have the potential to support or even change the perception of the brand by guests and staff alike.



Dominic Locascio is the Senior Director of Hospitality at Piaggio Fast Forward. He is an entrepreneurial business driver and hospitality guru with more than 20 years of experience leading multiple successful start-up companies and re-imagining existing businesses. He is a technology sales leader with extensive experience and knowledge in the fields of Software, Customer Experience, Access Control, and Data Communications with a strong focus on the Lodging industry. He is passionate about implementing new and exciting technology within hotels.  Dominic graduated from Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business with an MBA in Business Administration and Management. In his downtime, he enjoys travel, attempting to play golf, great food and wine.

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