It's not surprising to see robots in Japan - the country is known for its advancements in technology. Mechanical creations here assist in manufacturing, provide entertainment, and even run hotels. You read that right: robot hotels are on the rise in Japan. Maybe they'll start popping up in other nations as well.
Robot hotels are hardly the first weird destination in Japan. After all, this is the country that gave the world cat cafes. But robot hotels are unique. They aren't just robot-themed, but they are actually run by machines. All the jobs are done by robots, with very little human interaction or help. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing rests in the eye of the beholder - or guest, in this case.
What are robot hotels? They're part tourist trap, part hospitality innovation. Whatever your opinions on androids, it's hard to deny that Japanese robot hotels are absolutely fascinating.
Automation has been involved in the Japanese hospitality industry for years. For instance, restaurants called shokkenki implement machines, through which patrons place their orders and pay for their meals.
However, the first robot hotel didn't open its automated doors until 2015. It's called Henn-na Hotel, which literally translates to "strange hotel." But the tongue-in-cheek name has a clever double-meaning: it's also close to the term for "evolve."
Huis Ten Bosch, in Nagasaki Prefecture, isn't your average theme park. It recreates the Netherlands with full-sized Dutch buildings, and even a harbor with ships. Since the park first opened in 1992, visitors have come for the unique shopping, the boat tours of the canals, and to learn more about Dutch culture. Today, they also come to stay at Henn-na Hotel.
But why put a robot-run hotel in a Netherlands-themed amusement park? The hotel was built here initially because the park's head and the hotel's CEO were working side-by-side on the project. The theme park was struggling financially, and had begun adopting higher-tech attractions to bring in new guests. Henn-na Hotel seemed like a natural extension of those changes.
When Henn-na Hotel was first completed in 2015, the robots were there for novelty rather than true efficiency. But over the next year, things really began to change. More robots were added, existing robots were improved, and the number of on-site human employees was greatly reduced. Soon, more than half the hotel was staffed solely by robots, with humans taking on a more maintenance and support role.
Hideo Sawada, the president of Huis Ten Bosch, wants robots to run 90% of the property in the future.
Running a hotel is no easy feat. You have to clean, deliver room service, answer guests' questions, and process a ton of paperwork. You might think that a handful of tireless, endlessly patient robots could manage a single hotel. Unfortunately, that's not the case.
In the original Henn-na Hotel, tasks are completed by 182 robots. However, a second location of the hotel is set to open near Tokyo Disney Resort, and will start out with 140 robots, two of which are concierges.