Robotics and AI can ease staffing crisis in Scotland's tourism industry, without replacing workers - new research

Robotics and artificial intelligence can play a key role in easing the staffing crisis in the tourism industry without replacing existing workers, new research has claimed.

The study by Traveltech for Scotland, an organisation that brings together more than 130 tech organisations within the tourism and hospitality sectors, also found that working conditions and pay could be improved by adopting software such as employee well-being platforms.

Tech solutions that assist in scheduling, training and management are identified as vital to the sector’s future. The research suggests that staff retention rates could be improved as a result.

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There is, the report argues, a particular need to help small businesses, which often lack the financial resources, implementation support or training time to roll out new technology.

Scotland’s tourism and hospitality sector contributes around £6 billion to the Scottish economy every year and tourism businesses represent 8 per cent of all registered businesses north of the Border. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA
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Scotland’s tourism and hospitality sector contributes around £6 billion to the Scottish economy every year and tourism businesses represent 8 per cent of all registered businesses north of the Border.

The research was funded through the Scottish Government’s Tourism Recovery Fund and commissioned by Skills Development Scotland.

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Joshua Ryan-Saha, director of Traveltech for Scotland and the report’s author, said: “Staff shortages in the hospitality industry are a problem that will stay with us for a long-time. There is just a smaller pool of people who can and want to work in hospitality now than before.

“To secure the future of this critical industry, we need to better use the technology we have now, and we need to build the hospitality technology of the future.

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“The potential of robotics and artificial intelligence is enormous, but we can’t replace people with robots. It wouldn’t be right, and it wouldn’t work.

Hospitality is, at its heart, a ‘people industry’. Using technology to augment staff as they undertake their tasks and find ways to automate the less desirable parts of the job, we can create a fairer, more desirable working environment for staff.”

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Angela Vickers, chief executive of Edinburgh-headquartered Apex Hotels, said: “This report comes at an opportune time when the industry is struggling with labour shortages and rising costs. Exploring the ‘art of the possible’ with new technology is the ray of hope that we need to keep going and find solutions to overcome current challenges.”

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