East Tech West

Goodbye, bellboy. Robots will check you in and carry your luggage at smart hotels of the future

Kavita Chandran
Key Points
  • Smart hotels in China will have facial recognition to check in, smart keys on phones to switch on appliances, and other robotic technology, predicts Jane Sun, CEO of online travel agency CTrip.
  • The Chinese are willing to try new things and young people will be excited to see a "Star Wars" kind of futuristic theme designed into hotels, Sun says.
  • High labor costs mean replacing humans with machinery in hotels in the future.
Jane Sun, CEO of CTrip, speaks during Fireside Chat on Day 3 of CNBC East Tech West at LN Garden Hotel Nansha Guangzhou.
Dave Zhong  | Getty Images

Smart hotels in China will use robots to carry luggage, install facial recognition for easier check-ins, and use smart keys on phones to turn on air conditioning, predicts Jane Sun, CEO of CTrip, one of China's largest online travel services company.

And you won't even have to leave a tip.

"I think this will happen because the labor cost available in the world will increase, and using machines to do something that is logical and programmable is a very feasible way to make sure a customer is satisfied and efficiency is improved," Sun told CNBC's Geoff Cutmore at the East Tech West conference held in the Nansha district of Guangzhou, China.

Sun said her company's focus is on new online visitors who are more interested in domestic travel than overseas because of the weak currency in China.

"Almost 75 percent of our customers are younger than 35," said Sun, whose company has 300 million registered users. "Chinese people like to try new things ... and the idea in our young people's minds will be like a Star Wars hotel where you have little futuristic themes designed in it."

Innovative tracks and expansion

The travel services provider, which operates trip.com, is known to constantly innovate and drive sales by providing new offers to travelers. International expansion is one of its key objectives for next year.

CTrip made two good investments in the U.K., said Sun, one of which was the Skyscanner booking platform which allows for travelers to do price comparisons on airlines and hotels during the booking process. Skyscanner saw revenue growth of about 250 percent in CTrip's last quarter. Its "low-star hotel" bookings surged to nearly 50 percent during the quarter.

Ctrip CEO on collaboration with UK's Skyscanner
Ctrip CEO on collaboration with UK's Skyscanner

The company also created an innovative package called the "High Speed Railway" recently, Sun said, to cash in on China's hi-speed railway network, which provides vacation packages where travel time is cut down to 1.5 hours from 4.5 hours.

Shanghai-based CTrip is listed on Nasdaq and reported a 15 percent increase in net revenue to $1.4 billion in its third quarter recently.