WTM 2016: Consumers sceptical about handing control to robots, finds Travelzoo

WTM 2016: Consumers sceptical about handing control to robots, finds Travelzoo

More than half (51%) of UK tourists predict customer-facing security checks at airports and hotels will soon be in the hands of technology such as robots, artificial intelligence and data-processing machines.

And 45% of Britons are expecting technology to replace humans in many security roles within a few years.

More than a third (35%) believe that doing so would dramatically improve safety and security in travel against 26% who think security would not be improved if technology fully replaces humans.

However, two thirds (67%) think the idea of technology replacing humans in roles that are related to safety and security as frightening, despite the majority (77%) believing machines learn processes faster, have better memories than humans (76%) and are less likely to make mistakes (73%).

For seven out of 12 key skillsets needed for roles in travel and tourism, technology scores higher than humans, according to the Travelzoo future of travel survey.

Where humans fare better is in the ‘softer skills’ such as higher emotional intelligence levels (92%), understanding facial expressions (84%) and expressing feelings (93%).

Respondents also feel that overall humans provide better security against terrorism than technology such as robots and artificial intelligence.

Travelzoo European president Richard Singer, who is delivering the results at World Travel Market today, said: “Although travellers accept robots and technology are going to play a big role in making travel safer and more secure over the next few years, the research confirms that consumers are sceptical about handing total control for their safety over to machines.”

When asked who performs better – robots or humans – in security-related roles at airports, around half believe humans perform better on security scanners at airports (46%), and when checking passports at border control (52%).

The only role where consumers feel technology could perform better, or as well as humans, is loading checked baggage onto aircraft (64%) – but only once that baggage has been through a ‘human’ security check.

Singer added: “We know robots and artificial intelligence are becoming common place in the travel industry, and with the advent of technology allowing us to do things we couldn’t have dreamed just a few years ago, our research shows there’s an expectation of automatons being used to keep us safe too.

“Travel providers though need to err on the side of caution when deploying robotics in the industry, particularly in customer-facing roles where robots need to work hand-in-hand with humans, if they are going to be accepted by travellers.”

Other key findings:

• 54% believe a combination of using a human pilot, and auto-pilot technology, is the safest option

• 60% of people say they would choose an aircraft flown by a human (with no auto-pilot assistance) over a plane flown by auto pilot (with no human assistance)

• 35% think drones should be used for aerial surveillance in busy resorts/popular tourist destinations, as they would make them feel safer

• 18% would consider riding in a driverless car, while 36% say they would never consider riding in a driverless car

• 94% believe UK airports are more secure or as secure as non-UK airports

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