Robot Room Service? Travel Tech Trends for 2016 and Beyond

A recent survey asked 1,000 travelers about what technology -- gear, gadget, service -- they long for in the future and what they use now.

In this season of wishes, Hipmunk, the travel booking site, asked 1,000 travelers about what technology—gear, gadget, service—they long for in the future and what they use now. Forget about whether the envisioned item seems possible. Think only if it would be helpful. I want a robot to pack for me, something to eliminate all the where-is-that-sweater and do-I-need-those-shoes moments.

I am not alone in craving the assistance of an efficient bundle of metals and circuits. Fourteen percent of Hipmunk’s respondents would like robot servants, even robotic bar tenders, to assist them. These helpers sans small talk are already doing the bidding of travelers.

Henn-na Hotel, Sasebo, Japan, opened in August as the world’s first robotic hotel with a staff of 10% humans and 90% robots. What do the robots do? One checks you in, another stores your luggage and in your room, another robotic creature turns on the lights, delivers weather forecasts as well as wake-up calls. Some Aloft Hotels feature “botlrs,” robots that serve guests. Order room service from Aloft in Cupertino, CA, and the botlr rolls up to your room to deliver it. The Aloft chain may soon place botlrs in other properties. On RCI’s new mega-ship Anthem of the Seas, robotic bartenders mix and serve your drinks.

Fifty-six percent of interviewees prefer to save time at the hotel’s front desk by using apps. Marriott, Hilton, Mandarin Oriental, and many other hotel chains have apps that let guests check-in and out via their smartphones. Some apps enable guests to select their rooms and to enter them without obtaining key cards.

Travelers’ wants frequently give rise to tech advances. Consider the wish list gathered by Hipmunk as possibly leading to the next travel gadgets, apps and services.

Hipmunk’s Travel Tech Trends for Tomorrow

• Local trap app. Tired of paying top dollar for a taxi ride, T-shirt, souvenir hammock, or handcrafted pottery? Fifty-seven percent of interviewees long for an app that can scan the QR code of an item and then use geo-location data to show you the average price of the item in your travel location. The only problem with that: much of the handcrafted items tourists buy and souvenirs tourists bargain for don’t come with QR codes. Maybe someday.

• Powdered water. Wouldn’t it be lovely not to have to pay $4 plus for a bottle of water purchased post-security? Twenty-four percent of respondents would like to carry powdered water through security. Afterwards, opening the container to expose the powder to air would create drinkable water. Interesting. In the meantime, can someone stop airport shops from selling bottled water at four times the normal rate?

• Condensable shoes. Shoes, especially for women who want to hike, work-out at the gym, and dine at a nice restaurant, take up too much luggage space. Twenty-three percent of hopefuls would like shoes that fold up to the size of a deck of cards.

Technology has made aspects of travel easier than ever before. What travel tech items are on your wish list? Comment below or connect with me on Twitter. And check out Hipmunk’s other findings in the infographic below.