can robots help the hospitality industry? How can Artificial Intelligence (AI) be applied in the development of new tourism solutions at a time of profound disruption in the sector? Technology and innovation are two levers that, in a very short time, will revolutionize the field of tourism, a key activity in the Spanish economy.
The crisis caused by covid-19, in addition, is presented as an ideal opportunity to rethink the future of the sector and advance new solutions and ideas.
It is in this context that a pioneering project promoted by the Les Roches school specialized in hotel management and luxury tourism is framed , which has turned its campus in Marbella into a large laboratory where innovation, new technologies, entrepreneurship and future trends converge .
This is the philosophy of SPARK Innovation Sphere by Les Roches , an ecosystem in which some of the most relevant entities in the tourism sector participate together with experts in digital knowledge and entrepreneurs with the aim of improving the national tourism industry.
Conceived as a two-way platform and fueled by the talent of students, professionals and teachers from more than 90 countries, SPARK begins with 12 projects -11 still in the pre-incubation phase and one of them in full development- and the participation of eight related technology companies with hotels and avant-garde tourism.
These companies are linked to the fields of robotics, automation and control of spaces, materials, home automation and intelligent security, furniture, experience and gastronomy. All of them will launch different projects related to their business areas on the Les Roches campus in Marbella, with the aim of involving the community of the university center in its development and growth.
\In this way, the hotel school facilities become an open innovation environment, in which to co-create, test and evolve solutions that improve the future of hospitality in an experiential technology key (Inspire).
In addition, there will be a space for brands, companies, and suppliers to share market trends and evaluate the impact of technology and innovation on business development (Ignite); a business incubator, made up of teachers and experts from different areas, who help new entrepreneurs to turn their technological idea into a reality in the tourism sector (Incubate) and new teaching modules aimed at acquiring key knowledge to compete with guarantees of success ( Inspire and Ignite).
“The possibility of uniting the entire innovative ecosystem of the tourism industry (companies, entrepreneurs, students) in the same space for a joint technological advance is what makes this project unique and different”, explains the general director of Les Roches Marbella, Carlos Díez de la Lastra.
Thus, SPARK proposes a totally alternative learning process, capable of interacting and guaranteeing an education that not only forms for the reality of the tourism industry, but also enables students to be active innovators.
Because Les Roches participants and graduates are going to play a vital role in advancing this new digital ecosystem of tourism. In this way, when they finish their training, they will know how to see beyond and they will do it with the control of the technology in their hand to make a difference.
An example of the first realities carried out in SPARK is the inauguration of a new tech-room demo , in which the student interacts with the latest developments in security, home automation and AI, and their influence on new trends in space design .
A perfect setting to contextualize the advances in technology applied to hotels and the luxury sector where firms can also do their own demonstrations or tests before their final application.
Experts agree that technology plays a crucial role in the future of tourism. Hence, today more than ever, it should be bet on it as a way of growth. “The task is to mobilize all that talent and inject it into the leading companies in the tourism sector,” admits Díez de la Lastra.
In fact, the forced stoppage caused by the coronavirus pandemic has provided the opportunity to modify those aspects that must be perfected in tourism activity. “Not only to alleviate the consequences of the health crisis, but to improve the functioning of the tourism industry in a global and comprehensive way. For example, the digitization of the sector, which was a pending task, has accelerated exponentially ”, continues the head of Les Roches Marbella.
In a scenario in which it is necessary to reduce contact in customer-worker interactions, the implementation of advanced technological services is crucial. From data analysis to anticipate user needs, to the use of virtual assistants or chatbots , the digitization of the sector will be widespread, and those businesses that do not adopt a long-term digital vision run the risk of being left behind.
“That is why it is essential that we continue working and that, as companies manage to stabilize and recover from the crisis, they advance on the digital foundations that they have been implementing in recent months. Now more than ever we have in our hands, and in our classrooms, the future of the sector ”, concludes Díez de la Lastra.
One of the companies that has already trusted in the possibilities of SPARK is Astroland, which investigates different technologies to establish the first human colony on Mars.
As a first step, it has created the only underground station analogous to the red planet that exists on Earth (Ares Station, in Cantabria) and, as a result of the covid-19 crisis, it has begun to work on a project in reverse: housing CyberHut, in which these technological applications for the development of life on Mars can be used on our planet. At SPARK, Astroland will design together with Les Roches “the modular room of the future”, an intelligent module based on CyberHut that integrates all the functionalities that a client needs in a hotel room.
Also present at SPARK will be the automation and control of hotel spaces (Enkoa) and intelligent security (Assa Abloy), which will carry out a joint project based on the automation of sensors (presence, temperature, humidity, cleaning for the hotels that make life easier for the guest and provide more information to the establishment.
Like Macco Robotics, which will carry out a hospitality- oriented self-service robotics project and another for the automation of cooking processes, also through the use of robots. Three examples that demonstrate the weight that technology will have on tourism in the not-so-distant future.