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Future of Travel Survey: 67% of UK tourists fear ‘robot’ security checks

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WTM LONDON 2016 – LONDON – REPORT: – It’s one of the most important, albeit least enjoyable aspects of the holiday experience, but according to the Future of Travel survey commissioned by global travel deals publisher Travelzoo, 51% of UK tourists predict customer-facing security checks at airports and hotels will soon be in the hands of technology such as robots, artificial intelligence and data-processing machines. However, for two thirds (67%), the idea of technology replacing humans in roles that are related to safety and security is frightening. These are the most important findings of the second wave of the Travelzoo Future of Travel survey, which will be presented this morning by Travelzoo’s President of Europe, Richard Singer, at the World Travel Market (WTM) conference in London.

With recent global events making safety and security the top priority for travellers, 45% of Britons who participated in the survey say they are expecting technology to replace humans in many security roles within a few years, and 35% believe that doing so would dramatically improve safety and security in travel-versus 26% who think security would not be improved if technology fully replaces humans.

The majority of UK tourists (77%) who participated in the survey believe machines learn processes faster, have better memories than humans (76%) and are less likely to make mistakes (73%).

For seven out of 12 key skillsets needed for roles in travel and tourism, technology scores higher than humans.  Where humans fare better is in the ‘softer skills’ such as higher emotional intelligence levels (92%), understanding facial expressions (84%) and expressing feelings (93%). Respondents also feel that overall humans provide better security against terrorism than technology such as robots and artificial intelligence.

Richard Singer, Travelzoo’s President of Europe says: “Although travellers accept robots and technology are going to play a big role in making travel safer and more secure over the next few years, the research confirms that consumers are sceptical about handing total control for their safety over to machines.”

When asked who performs better-robots or humans-in security-related roles at airports, around half believe humans perform better on security scanners at airports (46%), and when checking passports at border control (52%). In fact, the only role where consumers feel technology could perform better, or as well as humans, is loading checked baggage onto a plane (64%)-but only once that baggage has been through a ‘human’ security check.

Singer concludes: “We know robots and artificial intelligence are becoming common place in the travel industry, and with the advent of technology allowing us to do things we couldn’t have dreamed just a few years ago, our research shows there’s an expectation of automatons being used to keep us safe too.  Travel providers though need to err on the side of caution when deploying robotics in the industry, particularly in customer-facing roles where robots need to work hand-in-hand with humans, if they are going to be accepted by travellers.”

Singer is on stage today at World Travel Market, one of the industry’s largest global travel events, together with Dr Yeganeh Morakabati, a professor of tourism at Bournemouth University.

Other key stats: 

  • Over half (54%) believe a combination of using a human pilot, and auto-pilot technology, is the safest option.
  • 60% of people say they would choose a plane flown by a human (with no auto-pilot assistance) over a plane flown by auto pilot (with no human assistance).
  • A third (35%) think drones should be used for aerial surveillance in busy resorts/popular tourist destinations, as they would make them feel safer.
  • 18% of people would consider riding in a driverless car, while 36% say they would never consider riding in a driverless car.
  • 94% believe UK airports are more secure or as secure as non-UK airports.

The survey was conducted between October 24 and 28, 2016, with an online questionnaire by third-party research agency Atomik. The questionnaire was completed by 1,008 consumers in the United Kingdom and 1,008 consumers in the United States.

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