Covid-19: Johannesburg hotel deploys robots to limit visitors contacting staff

Will Covid-19 speed up the use of robots to replace concierges or bellhops in hotels ?

At this front desk of this upmarket hotel in Johannesburg, this lady comes face-to-interface with a multi-coloured humanoid robot — a rarity in any hotel.

Three robots navigate the corridors of the 453-room upmarket Hotel Sky, answering guests’ queries and delivering room service orders. Put in place before the pandemic, the hotel has embraced the new technology even more than it had originally inteded, as a way to help reduce the risk of infection by Covid-19 in a country that has recorded nearly 45,000 deaths.

Putting on a brave face in the thick of the pandemic, the hotel opened last November even as the hospitality industry was buckling under virus restrictions and curfews.

Robots are finding their way into new roles in rich countries, but they are rare in developing countries, where labour is cheaper.