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Tue 9 Apr 2019 11:29 AM

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'I will never let robots serve customers at restaurants', says Accor CEO

The 'human touch' in hospitality is what differentiates hotel groups from online travel agencies such as Booking.com and Expedia, according to Sebastien Bazin

'I will never let robots serve customers at restaurants', says Accor CEO
Bazin said artificial intelligence will “profoundly modify” the hospitality industry, with technology possibly operating 80% of customer service.

Robots will never serve customers at restaurants in hotels belonging to the Accor hospitality group, according to CEO Sébastien Bazin.

Speaking to Arabian Business, the chief executive said robots could be equipped to serve customers at restaurants, but that he would refrain from allowing them to do so.

“In many different directions, robots could actually do the work, even though I don’t like it that much… You will see more and more of that. It depends on what you want. But going to the [restaurant] and being served by a robot… that I will never do,” he said.

Bazin said he wants to retain the ‘human touch’ in hospitality, as it is what differentiates hotel groups from online travel agencies such as Booking.com and Expedia.

“I don’t like it because I really believe the human touch makes the difference in the hotel space, which is why we’re so different from Booking and Expedia, who will never see you or meet with you,” he said.

However, the CEO said younger clients may prefer faster service by robots than slower service by human servers.

“Unfortunately for me, half of what I should be doing is not what I think personally. If I want to be client minded, it’s about what you [the client] want. So maybe I want to impose on you that human touch, but maybe millennials and others don’t care about the human touch and want their toothpaste [delivered to their room] within 5 minutes,”

Bazin said artificial intelligence will “profoundly modify” the hospitality industry, with technology possibly operating 80% of customer service.

“You call your loyalty program, your booking engine… 80% of this can be done through robots because you have a common basket of people asking for the same thing. [But] if you want to be more specific and have an elephant in your garden for your daughter’s birthday, then a robot won’t make it happen,” he said.

“But AI is already there, with assistant robots already within hotel premises. So far, it’s gimmicky. I think it will be installed. There are a lot of tests happening in Japan on having breakfast or toothpaste coming to your room with a robot,” he added.

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