Listen

News 88.9 KNPR
Classical 89.7 KCNV
NV89 Discover Music
'Jazz'

an member station

KNPR

Will Automation Replace Las Vegas' Service Industry Jobs?

pepper2.jpg

Casey Morell

The robot Pepper stands at the Mandarin Oriental ready to help guests.

Automation and computers have replaced people in many jobs over the last few decades. Cashiers. Factory workers and film projectionists, to name a few. 

Over the next 20 years, some 60 percent of Nevada’s service industry jobs are expected to be replaced. Casino servers, concierges, room-service attendants, drivers and more. 

But will those jobs really be replaced by automation—kiosks, say, or even robots? 

UNLV researcher Beth Wi says automation is already working well in some cities—but not all.

According to Wi, one of the biggest stumbling blocks is expectations. For instance, a hotel in Japan has more than hundred automation stations and robots for guests but one robot concierge in one Las Vegas hotel never worked out.

Support comes from

She said the Japanese hotel was less expensive and it is not unusual for people in Japan to interact with robots and automated stations; however, at a luxury hotel in Las Vegas, people expect more personal interaction and high-touch service.

Another example of expectations is a bartender. If a customer just wants to grab a quick beer before going to an event, an automated bar might work but if someone wants to order a drink and sit around talking to a bartender it won't work.

Wi said technology can be used to enhance a customer's experience if it used the right way and customers are given a choice. 

For instance, when she was working as a flight attendant the passenger manifest was hand delivered on paper and it had to be manually checked by the staff. 

When they were given tablets, they were able to see the passenger list and check for food allergies or preferences and see if a passenger had filed complaints or complements in the past.

The same could be true of automated stations and robots in hospitality roles.

“A lot of the robots is not replacing an employee it is enhancing the whole workload,” she said.

Guests

Beth Wi, graduate student, UNLV College of Hospitality

Our journalism speaks for itself, and we answer only to you. That’s thanks to the 11,000 members of Nevada Public Radio. Each of them made a small commitment and became members of Nevada Public Radio. They didn’t have to — but because they did, you are here now. So we extend a hand and say, “Come join us!”

More Stories