There are plenty of movies out there warning us about the many (and apparently easy) ways that robots could take over the planet. But one hotel in South Africa recently became the first establishment on the continent to introduce the use of robot staff, showing how these mechanical friends can actually save the day without replacing their human counterparts. By Jessica Poitevien
Opened in November 2020, Hotel Sky in Sandton, Johannesburg, made its debut with three robots: Lexi, Micah, and Ariel. Lending a helping hand to the human staff at the property, these robots are the hotel’s answer to travellers’ increased desire for socially distant interactions. Lexi, Micah, and Ariel can deliver room service, provide travel information, and carry up to 165 pounds of luggage each from the marble-floored lobby to the rooms.
Guests have the option of interacting with staff members or using the self-service offerings, which are controlled through the Hotel Sky app. The hotel features a self-check-in facility, as well as an app to access the room, contact staff, and order food.
“It’s important to note that the robots in no way replace human beings or jobs. People are at the core of our business and the hospitality industry as a whole, so the robots supplement the guest experience,” says Herman Brits, Hotel Sky’s general manager.
And the response from guests has been positive.
“Our guests have had so much fun interacting with the robots, as it’s a very exciting and novel addition to a hotel stay,” Brits adds. “There is a balance between robot and human interaction. The robots will never replace the people at our properties, as our staff matter so much to us.”
With Lexi, Micah, and Ariel each donning their own individualised, colourful outfit, Brits describes them as “fashionistas at heart with a love for trends, hospitality, technology, and South Africa.”
Hotel Sky is set to open another property in Cape Town next month, with three new robots expected to join the staff there. For more information, visit Hotel Sky’s website.
Jessica Poitevien is a Travel+Leisure contributor currently based in South Florida, but she’s always on the lookout for her next adventure. Besides travelling, she loves baking, talking to strangers, and taking long walks on the beach. Follow her adventures on Instagram.