Research conducted by global media commerce company Travelzoo has found that three quarters of travellers think that the use of robots in the travel industry would significantly improve their lives.

The research which was conducted globally with over 6,000 respondents was intended to find out how travellers feel about robots being used within the travel industry.

The research showed that while Chinese and Brazilian consumers are the most optimistic about the benefits of robots featuring as part of their travel experience, British respondents were less convinced.

Exactly 50 per cent said they found robots frightening, and almost two thirds expressed concern about handing over day-to-day travel responsibilities to machines. Nevertheless although almost 90 per cent of UK travellers would prefer to be greeted by a human at hotel reception rather than by a robot, if the choice was between a robot receptionist who could answer all of the guests questions and a human receptionist who could only answer some of them, British travellers would opt for the robot (52 per cent).

Nearly three quarters of UK respondents also believe robots have better memories than humans, can process data faster and are better at learning multiple languages. British respondents were the most concerned about robots and the subtle understanding of language – 78 per cent of respondents doubted a robot’s ability to understand informal language such as slang, idiomatic phrases, irony and humour.

The independent survey of more than 6,000 people in Asia, Europe, North America and South America also reveals nearly 80 per cent of respondents globally expect robots to play a big part in their lives before 2020, with three quarters believing they will make their lives significantly better.

Early adopters of robots include large hotel chains such as Marriot International, who have a robot called Mario in a customer-facing role at the Marriot in Ghent, Belgium and Starwood hotels which also has a butler robot. Cruise companies and airports are also starting to use robots.

Commenting on the survey findings, Mr. Singer said, “Right now is a very exciting moment in the history of the travel industry – ground breaking technology is revolutionising what is possible from the perspective of customer service, entertainment and personalisation. 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 shows that consumer acceptance is generally high for this form of technology.

“It was fascinating to see some cultural stereotypes emerge from the research into global acceptance of robots. The UK participants feared the famous British sense of humour would be lost on robots and the French were the least willing to replace their waiters with robots – even if a human waiter was much less efficient than a robot!

“While the advent of technology such as robot butlers and bartenders is hugely exciting, it’s also very clear from our research that consumers from all markets surveyed believe the ideal solution for the travel industry would be robots and humans working in tandem in customer-facing roles.”

Professor Stephen Page of Bournemouth University (one of the leading global authorities on travel and tourism) said, “Robots represent a major innovation to the tourism sector, and their potential impact and use offers many new avenues to enhance and develop the visitor experience of travel and hospitality. Understanding how consumers will embrace and interact with this new technology will be critical to their adoption and dissemination in an industry that is one of the market leaders in the use of technology.”

Other key findings from the research:

  • UK respondents clearly want a robot to look like a robot, and not too lifelike. This ensures clear separation between robots and real people:
  • Nearly 6 out of 10 UK respondents (59%) would prefer a robot to look like a machine, and not have human qualities
  • In contrast, over three quarters (76%) of Chinese respondents would rather the robot look like a human. Spanish respondents were split 50/50
  • UK travellers seem fairly happy with robots being used within the travel industry, as long as a human is accompanying them.
  • 61% of UK travellers would be comfortable with robots being used in the travel industry.
  • Travellers from Germany (63%) and France (53%) are the least comfortable with robots
  • Travellers from China (92%) came out as the most comfortable with robots being used in travel, followed by Brazil (73%) and the US (71%)
  • 50% of UK respondents would accept the use of a robot as a hotel receptionist if it was accompanied by a human, and almost one third (31%) would accept the robot even if it was unaccompanied
  • One third of UK respondents wouldn’t accept the use of a robot as a waiter under any circumstance (33%)
  • British respondents were the most averse to robots being used in nurseries or kids’ clubs in resorts, with 55% saying they wouldn’t accept this.