Consumer Sentiments about Robot Servers in Tourism and Hospitality Industry

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Consumer Sentiments about Robot Servers in Tourism and Hospitality Industry

Ady Milman , University of Central Florida, USA Tingting Zhang, University of Central Florida, USA Asli D.A. Tasci , University of Central Florida, USA Fulya Acikgoz , Bahcesehir University, Turkey

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Background of the Study

Service robots are deployed to improve guests’ experience in hotels, counter service restaurants, airports, theme parks and attractions, and other applications ( Revfine , 2020). For example, the Henn- na Hotel in Japan (which translates to "weird hotel") that became the first hotel in the world to be entirely staffed by robots. Throughout the hotel, robots are positioned to provide information, check-in services, and other front desk services, or storage services, by using voice and facial recognition technology. Several years ago, Hilton Hotels also introduced Connie, a robot concierge named after the hotel chain’s founder, Conrad Hilton. The robot makes use of an artificial intelligence platform developed by IBM and can interact with guests and respond to their questions, by using recognition capabilities. The system also learns and adapts with each interaction and improves the answers it provides ( Revfine , 2020).

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Background of the Study

Several airports have recently deployed robots to improve passengers’ experience. At Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, a robot called Spencer was developed by KLM airlines in collaboration with the University of Twente . The artificially intelligent robot guides passengers through the terminal to their boarding gate ( Ikusi , 2018). In 2018, Munich Airport added Josie Pepper, its first robot equipped with artificial intelligence to assist passengers in the airport shuttle services and answer their questions about shops, restaurants, and flight operations ( Ikusi , 2018; Munich Airport, 2020). Other robots have been deployed at global airports for safety in security.

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Background of the Study

In the theme park and amusement industry, several manufacturers have developed robot-based amusement rides, offering patrons highly dynamic robot motions, while meeting the most stringent safety requirements ( Kuka , 2020). To reduce labor and operational costs, many amusement parks have already introduced robots to interact with consumers, inform them, and entertain customers. For example, Huis Ten Bosch amusement park in Japan plans to introduce customer service robots as well as electronic payment systems using smartphones, to reduce the number of cashiers and guests’ wait times. The park plans to reduce its labor by a third by 2021, drawing on its experience of operating the Henn- na Hotel (Nikkei Asian Review, 2018).

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Purpose of the Study

Robots are adopted to reduce costs and increase productivity and improve guests’ experience in hotels, counter service restaurants, airports, theme parks and attractions, and other applications. However, the research on the consumer perception and attitude towards service robots is in its infancy. The current study explored consumers’ opinions about appropriateness robotic servers.

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Methods

A cross-sectional survey design was used to collect data from American consumers. Amazon’s MechanicalTurk ( Mturk ) was used to collect data. Respondents were asked to state the most appropriate sectors within the industry for the use of robots to enhance consumer experience. (Question: When you think about the following sectors, which one do you think is the most appropriate for the use of robots to enhance consumer experience?) 542 surveys were collected.

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Results

Accommodation Sector Valid Percent Full-service hotels 48.8 Limited service hotels (with limited front desk hours) 43.2 Other accommodation facilities like Airbnb, campgrounds 8.0

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Results

Foodservice Sector Valid Percent   Quick-service (fast food) restaurants 45.4 Full-service restaurants 32.4 Self-service restaurants 22.2

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Results

Transportation Sector Valid Percent   Airports 26.7 Urban public transportation (buses, light rail, subway) 25.7 Highway rest areas information centers 17.2 Airlines 12.0 Independent transportation services like bicycle rentals, taxis, Lyft, and Uber 10.8 Cruise lines 7.6

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Results

Attractions Sector Valid Percent   Museums and art galleries 20.8 Large theme parks 18.9 Entertainment and sporting events (concerts, shows, games) 9.3 Zoos and aquariums 9.1 Public art (sculptures, statues, murals) 8.1 Historical and heritage sites 6.4 Buildings and structures (such as forts, castles, libraries, bridges) 5.4 Family Entertainment Centers (FECs) (e.g. mini-golf, petting zoos) 5.4 Viewpoints (tall buildings, nature vistas) 5.1 Small amusement parks 3.9 Ethnic enclave communities (like Chinatown, little Italy) 3.4 Water/aquatic parks 2.7 Forests, national parks and reserves of animals and plants 1.5

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Implications

For the accommodation sector, consumers consider robots to be more appropriate for the full service hotels than limited service hotels or other types of shared accommodations. This may be because of the perceived cost aspect of having robots in service delivery. They may think that a hotel with robots will likely be of higher rank and with higher cost. Conversely, for the foodservice sector, they consider quick service restaurants to be more appropriate than full service restaurants. This may be because of the time saving aspect of quick service restaurants where speedy product and service delivery is the norm and expectation, for which robots may prove functional.

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Implications

As for the transportation sector, they consider airports to be more appropriate than any other subsector. This may also be because of the critical time aspect of the service delivery where robots may serve important functions. For the attractions sector, museums and art galleries and large theme parks are considered the most appropriate. Museums and art galleries maybe more appropriate because consumers think there should be less human contact for preserving valuable art and artifacts. Large theme parks may be more appropriate because consumers think of time saving functionality of robots for finding and accessing attractions in large theme parks. These findings imply that robots are pertinent and functional when they can save time and eliminate human touch in tourism and hospitality but additional costs are also expected.

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Future Research

The specific functions of robots that consumers expect for different sectors need to be identified. Different types of robots with human, animal, anime, and cartoon characteristics need to be compared for consumer acceptance and liking in different industries. Robots’ involvement and their influence on consumer satisfaction, willingness to pay, recommend and use need to be identified through modeling studies.

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Thank you!

Questions or Comments? Ady.Milman@ucf.edu Tingting.Zhang@ucf.edu Asli.Tasci@ucf.edu Fulya.Acikgoz@eas.bau.edu.tr

Questions or Comments? Ady.Milman@ucf.edu Tingting.Zhang@ucf.edu Asli.Tasci@ucf.edu Fulya.Acikgoz@eas.bau.edu.tr