Conference told tourism must rise to technology challenges

Robots delivering room service cited as one development that could put jobs at risk

While the impact of new technology could hit traditional jobs in tourism, the industry can continue to provide valuable employment if the sector and the Government respond to the challenge, a leading academic said at the weekend.

Speaking at the annual workshop organised by the National Centre for Tourism Studies at Dromoland Castle, Co Clare, Prof Jim Deegan, head of the department of economics at University of Limerick, said that the industry will continue to be hit by changes in technology.


Prof Deegan said that along with changes that allow travellers to book flights and accommodation, hire cars and purchase other services with no human interaction, robotics and self-service could play increasing roles. He noted that some

Starwood Hotels


already use robots for automated room service.

“There will be some job losses and jobs will be different in tourism in the future, but if the industry and Government respond to challenges and opportunities, the future tourism labour market can be very buoyant by offering a variety of well-paid jobs and careers.”

At the same time, the sharing economy, made up of businesses such as Airbnb, which allows people to rent rooms in their homes to travellers, is having a pronounced impact on the sector.

“Consumers will interact with businesses in new ways but with a particular focus on self-service,” he said. “In this new world, human labour will focus on those areas that AI and robotics are unlikely to conquer for some time.”

Chinese visitors


Wolfgang Georg Arlt

, director of the


Outbound Tourism Research Institute, said that now is the time for


to begin chasing the second wave of Chinese visitors.

Dr Arlt described the second wave as sophisticated, younger people living in first-tier cities who are looking for specific Chinese demand-adapted experiences in new destinations.

He said that to attract them, the industry needs to tell a clear story about the friendly, clean, green, English-speaking island “full of history, unspoilt food and nature”.

His organisation’s figures show that about 135 million Chinese will holiday abroad by 2025. Between 2011 and 2014, the number grew from 70 million to 116 million.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas