Visitors and Hotel Guests Attitude towards Robotic Staff: An Observation at Henn-na Hotel Tokyo Hamamatsucho

Rosanna Leung, I-Shou University

Isabell Handler, Doshisha University

Social and service robots become prevalent in our society and can benefit people by providing companionship, increasing communication, and reducing costs, especially in a labour-shortage industry like hospitality. Robots are perceived as the new labour force in the hospitality industry that provides round the clock service to customers without a break, but the implementation of service robot also affect the customer service experience (Pinillos et al., 2016). The first robot-staff hotel was launched in Japan in 2015 and raised the awareness of human-less hotel service. Prior studies on robots have been investigating on their usability, the productivity improvement, employee and overall perceptions towards them (de Graaf & Ben Allouch, 2013). However, the customer attitude towards robot appearance and their interaction on service robot were overlooked, and their attitude towards robotic staff might influence the further robot adoption in the hospitality industry. This study attempts to fill this research gap by conducting observations on visitors and hotel guests’ attitude and behaviour on robot staff at Henn-na Hotel Tokyo Hamamatsucho.

The behavioural observation was conducted to investigate the action and reaction of customers toward the hotel’s robotic staff. Except for those hotel guests who conducted the check-in process at the reception counter, most visitors stayed at least one meter away from the reception counter. Many of them would stop at the entrance and look around before they move towards the reception counter. They then either remain standing at the entrance or move to the stanchion to observe the robots. This observation result indicated that visitors had shown hesitation when they first saw the robot staff. According to Duronto, Nishida, & Nakayama (2005), Asian people generate anxiety and avoidance when they meet strangers, therefore, while people first meet an android, they feel like interacting with human strangers and shown hesitation at first sight. Younger generations were more adept in interacting with robots; therefore, they tried to interact with robot verbally or by body movement. Most observees gave verbal compliments to robots when they entered the hotel. Some of them attempted to interact with the robot via voice, but these humanoid robots did not have voice recognition system. Therefore, when the robot did not react to their greetings, the customer showed a disappointed face. The role of the robot in the hotel is still at presentation level without comprehensive interactive ability; their appearances are still not perfect so uncanny valley effect might appear (Seyama & Nagayama, 2007).

The sample size of this study is relatively small, and only 24 observees in 14 groups were observed. However, this is the first observation study conducted in the real hotel environment; therefore, the results could reflect the first-hand customer behaviour and attitude towards robot service staff. The findings shed light on actual behaviour and attitudes towards robots in the hospitality industry; however, the results cannot generalise the behaviour of customers toward robots.


de Graaf, M. M. A., & Ben Allouch, S. (2013). Exploring influencing variables for the acceptance of social robots. Robotics and Autonomous Systems, 61(12), 1476–1486.

Duronto, P. M., Nishida, T., & Nakayama, S. (2005). Uncertainty, anxiety, and avoidance in communication with strangers. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 29(5), 549–560.

Pinillos, R. et al. (2016) ‘Long-term assessment of a service robot in a hotel environment’, Robotics and Autonomous Systems, 79, 40–57. doi: 10.1016/j.robot.2016.01.014

Seyama, J., & Nagayama, R. S. (2007). The Uncanny Valley: Effect of Realism on the Impression of Artificial Human Faces. Presence: Teleoperators & Virtual Environments, 16(4), 337–351.