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Are Robots Hospitable?

Over the last few months I’ve seen (online) a robot cut a green, pick up range balls and deliver food. These mechanical units are fun, novel and draw quite a bit of attention. When I first laid eyes on them, I was captivated. The future is upon us! They’re innovative, but perhaps the biggest reason why they may actually have staying power is their convenience, efficiency and ability to limit liability.

Employees are your heart and soul and your biggest frustration. They are what bonds the club but also what fractures it. We may have seen a little bit of a reprieve with staffing challenges (retention and recruitment) in hospitality this year but let’s be honest, those issues never really go away.

Your “team” can be endlessly difficult, consuming most of your energy, and the addition of a robot relieves some of this. They won’t talk back, call in sick and cause seemingly unnecessary drama. You know what you’re getting every single day with a bot; consistency and control.

This got me thinking, which positions in our industry can’t be replaced by a robot, or AI in general? The answer, ultimately, is none. You may think your position is so difficult and complex that it can’t be replaced by a machine but millions have thought this before.

I want to pause for a second and vehemently say I’m not against AI in particular, nor am I really an extreme traditionalist. I think new jobs will always be created when others are lost. There’s plenty of evidence of this throughout time. When the automobile was invented, I’m sure those in the horse trade were flabbergasted about jobs being eliminated.

I do want to take this time, however, to make a stand on one thing. Time-and-again, things are created without a grande vision. Without the end in mind. One thing leads to another and we end up in a place where we didn’t think we’d get to and don’t really want to be. The most glaring example lately is our devices and even within those there are tons of sub-examples.

Let’s look at email specifically. The ability to check it on your phone (I think it was with a Blackberry originally) was a novelty, providing convenience and efficiency. It was great! Is it still great? 99% of Club Managers admit to checking their email while on holiday or vacation (Club Study, 2023). 99%!!!

What would your workday, or life in general, be like if you could go back to only checking email while on the computer or in an office?

How about texting? It gave us the ability to spill thoughts quicker, communicate faster. Added convenience and efficiency (there are those two words again). This has virtually killed the phone call and hearing each others voice to help decipher tone and context. I can't be the only one to find the tone of text hard to gauge.

Furthermore, it’s diminished the ability to be present and pay 100% attention to the person that’s right in front of you! It seems innovation is accepted, first-and-foremost, when it’s convenient and efficient.

Here’s the thing, clubs, golf and hospitality in general, are about the people. This has been the case for hundreds of years. I don't think anyone wants this to change. When implementing new systems, conveniences and efficiencies, there’s one thing that should always be considered…

'Will this help bring people together?’

or at least...

'Does this have the potential to distance people?'

It’s hard to see beyond what’s in front of us. Especially when you are eye-ball deep in it every day. That cannot be overstated and forgotten. That’s just the nature of it (insert the old ‘forest for the trees’ analogy). As much as I want to be hopeful that ethics and our future are considered with AI (and robots), I remain skeptical.

I’ve only been part of the 59club team for 16 months but lately my passion has accelerated. I am proud to offer something that takes into account the people. Dialling this industry back to its roots. Fighting to maintain and even enhance connection between everyone that gets to experience hospitality, either working in or being serviced by it.

Let's be sure to stick together and use new innovations for the right reasons. Let's do it for the sake of hospitality, and the most meaningful thing - the connection of people.

Ryan Tracy

Managing Partner

59club Canada

59club Study

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1 Comment

Jim Hope
Jim Hope
Sep 04, 2023

Great article Ryan and wonderful insight in to the dangers of the future.

I remember getting my emails on my blackberry and thinking "this is cool" If we could only go back in time 😀

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