Every day as we go about our lives we are forced to use the digital world, from the self-serving tills in the supermarket or using your phone to do your daily banking, we are surrounded by technology wherever we go.

According to PwC analysis, AI, robotics and other forms of smart automation have the potential to bring great economic benefits, contributing up to $15 trillion to global GDP by 2030. This extra wealth will also generate the demand for many jobs, but there are also concerns that it could displace many existing roles.

It is also reported by PwC, that by the mid-2030s, up to 30% of jobs could be automatable, with slightly more men being affected in the long run as autonomous vehicles and other machines replace many manual tasks where their share of employment is higher.

During the first and second waves, however, women could be at greater risk of automation due to their higher representation in clerical and other administrative functions. These estimates are median values across 29 countries, with the UK being very close to the average.

This research has made me realise the impact of automation for the hospitality sector could potentially affect the entry level workers as it is possible these roles may be replaced with automation.

As a training provider we work closely with the government and other stakeholders and use a variety of technology within apprenticeships. The lifelong learning aspect and adaptability is becoming even more crucial to every day businesses especially those that are within the service sector. I am noticing in my own world that technology makes my role more productive and more streamlined, but the one attribute it doesn’t have is the personality that is needed in business relations. The old saying of “people buy from people” is a classic example of this and one I live by. This is known to me as “Emotional intelligence”.

Will hospitality be taken over by machines and should we be worried about the future work force being displaced by new technologies? I feel that human interaction can be so powerfulin the customer service and creating magical moments for our guests.  This in my opinion is a true hospitality skill and something a computer cannot achieve. 

When it comes to hospitality, time and again it’s customer service that enables certain businesses within the industry to stand out from the competition. Repeat business comes from the human interaction and not how efficient an automated service has been.

I recently experienced something in a hotel which really made me think. A couple arrived for a coffee in the lounge area. The waitress overheard the couple talking about their day and it was one of their birthdays. The waitress immediately came back with a cake and candle and turned that moment into a positive memory for the couple. They were blown away and so happy. Automation, no matter how you programme it, cannot have the same emotional impact as this.

Don’t get me wrong, automation has its purpose and by utilising dedicated online platforms, companies can gain access to insights of customer history, online bookings and support learning and development teams with integrated learning platforms.  All aimed at improving and maintain excellent customer service levels. They can also cut down the time and money spent on recruitment.

With chatbots, virtual assistants and personalised booking platforms becoming more mainstream, the opportunities and obstacles artificial intelligence can bring to hospitality needs to be embraced and talked about in the training of our future workforce.

It is apparent we must keep investing in our workforces withworld-class meaningful learning and development programmes, so we train and nurture that emotional intelligence. That way, we can keep on making wonderful memories for our guests so that they keep returning. 

Sam Coulstock FIH, business relations Director, Umbrella Training

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