Robot takes reception desk at Ghent Marriott.
Saturday, 12th March 2016
Source : Angela Waters - Exclusive & Live from ITB 2016

The Marriott hotel in Ghent has moved from training staff to building its own, the Belgian hotel has become the first in Europe to employ a humanoid robot, although he had taken the day off from his duties to make an appearance at the ITB Convention in Berlin.

“Mario is the first of his kind in Europe,” Maria Puetz-Willems, editor-in-chief of Hospitality Inside, told the audience . “But we are at an age where robots will play a significant roll in the hospitality industry.

Mario, named after his hotel, is 56 cm tall, weighs 6kg, speaks 19 different languages, and works everywhere from the front desk, handing out key cards, to the breakfast buffet, telling guests about the different dishes. He also plays music and dances, which has quickly made him an attraction at the Marriott.

According to his handler at the Ghent Marriott, Roger Langhout, guests light up when they see him.

“The reactions are phenomenal,” he said. “Mario brings a smile to everyone’s face; people love interacting with him.”

But even though he is a high-tech piece of equipment, according his creators at Zora Robotics, the hospitality robot is designed so that anyone can use him.

“If you can work with Facebook, you can work with this robot,” said Fabrice Goffin, CEO at Zora Robotics. “It has to be easy to use and to make if you want people to use it.

The hospitality bot also will not break the bank " his current price tag is EUR 15,000 but he can be rented monthly for a fraction of that. And although he currently only comes in red and blue, Goffin said that he can be customized to match any hotel color scheme.

While robots like Mario can perform small functions like calling cabs, they are not designed to completely replace humans.

“If anything we needed to hire more people because of Mario,” Langhout said. “We need more staff to cater to the guests that come in because of him. It is an assistant but it cannot replace a human interaction.”

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