Robots, more supervisors could be part of the tourism industry's 'new normal,' says Temple professor

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Hotels could be the future for new technology and automation. 

"All the restrictions that have come out due to COVID have really made it hard for the tourism and hospitality industry," said Dr. Lindsey Lee, an assistant professor in the tourism and hospitality management department at Temple University. 

"Hospitality is a high-touch industry. There's only so much I can do to be hospitable to you from 6 feet away or without being able to see you." 

Nearly 1 in 4 hotels or 25% are facing foreclosure this year because they can't pay their mortgages, according to CNN Business. Marriott International, the world’s largest hotel chain, said in May that the pandemic has already caused a bigger financial strain than 9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis, combined. 

"I think there is going to be a new push for automatization," said Lee. "People are changing their mindset in terms of the safety and sanitation of things." 

She said a couple companies are trying to roll out UV robots that go into hotel rooms and "sort of Star Wars laser beam everything" to clean the room. Some Hilton and Marriott hotels have already started using robots to deliver towels, pillows, wine, and even dog treats. 

Other areas, like mobile check in, keys on cell phones, etc, could put a strain on the front line workers' side of the industry, but the robots...not so much. 

"(Automation) will create another sector of jobs as well," Lee explained. "These UV cleaning robots are also going to need maintenance. They're also going to technicians and things like that." 

On top of that, Lee said a lot of hotels are hiring right now. 

"There's new supervisor and management positions that are enforcing the safety and sanitation policies for COVID in order to comply with the CDC and World Health Organization." 

Overall, Lee thinks the workforce will still be hurting for some time, but she sees change and new positions for a lot of employees to "take over and take ownership of." 

As for employers looking to gain new employees or get their old employees back, Lee says it's time to look over their policies and their attitude. 

"Younger generations, college students are looking towards organizations that take care of the employees who are affected during a pandemic." 

Lee said the main questions many people will have now are about sick leave, paid time off and if the employer will support them for an extended time off if they or a family member fall ill.