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RoboJobs: Tech and Automation impacting tourism industry jobs


Experts say new technologies might kill some jobs, but would also create new ones.

Could your job, or next job, be taken by a robot?

Roughly half of the Coachella Valley's jobs are connected to tourism and hospitality in some way. In an I-Team report, we find that technology and automation are changing what these tourism jobs might look like in the near future.

Visitors take photos along Las Vegas Boulevard

So we went to the hospitality hub of Las Vegas to tour a new project that’s working to grow tourism job opportunities as new tech moves in. It could have a big impact back home in the Coachella Valley.

The future has arrived. Robots now serve drinks at the Las Vegas Renaissance Hotel. It's another example of technology changing just about everything.

A report by Oxford researchers suggests many tourism jobs, so important to our local economy, will become obsolete as technology and automation replaces human workers.

While some jobs could be lost to technology, other higher-paying jobs could be created by it.

Robotic bartenders serve up drinks at Planet Hollywood's Tipsy bar and are an example of jobs best-suited for automation. They're repetitive and with a need to be accurate all the time.

Experts say the jobs impacted by this new technology aren't likely to be the ones you'd see here out front but in the back of the house. They include housekeeping, security, maintenance, the kitchen and room service."

Away from the strip and the tourists-- we toured a brand new jobs-creating tech innovation center at the University of Las Vegas, along with reps from the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership.

"It's a fascinating world," said Robert Rippee, Director of UNLV Hospitality Innovation Lab adding, "technology has developed at an incredibly rapid pace."

It may not look like much now. But in January, Rippee says this joint project with Caeser's Entertainment will be giving resort workers of tomorrow a learning center where they can be trained.

John Celona of BlackFire Innovation said, "The intent is this will reinforce integrative technology throughout the whole industry. The whole integrated resort and hotel industry."

Once fully functional, the cooperative effort will also give tech entrepreneurs a place to test their new tourism tech innovations with simulated bars, hotel rooms, and an actual e-gaming arena. All of this, without having to take off-line valuable hotel rooms and resort facilities.

Coachella Valley Economic Partnership CEO Joe Wallace said, "We want to replicate a little bit of this in Palm Springs so we can be innovators too in this field."

Rippee agrees Palm Springs should also have this same type of innovation center. 

"I'm not just talking about the hotels," Rippee said. "You've got restaurants. You've got attractions. You've got transportation. You've got all those elements that are either directly or indirectly connected to hospitality."

We found The Coachella Valley is about to have something like this in its I-Hub Palm Desert facility, now under construction. It will offer a home with ultra-high-speed internet to hospitality and other tech innovators.

Wallace said, "We're going to give preference to those who are going to innovate in the hospitality space because we're a perfect laboratory for hospitality innovation."

Tourists try to figure out how to order coffee from an automated airport barista.

As for jobs facing extinction from automation, like this airport robotic coffee barista, Wallace says new technology should not be feared. "Historically, every time something becomes an automated industry, you get 1.1 jobs for every job that gets destroyed," Wallace said.

Experts say those new jobs tend to be higher skilled, creative, and higher-paying.

"So if a business does better it generates more revenues which generates more profits. It grows," said Rippee. "Growth applies more opportunities, right? Both vertically and horizontally. More employees, more opportunities to move yourself up," Rippee added.

Rippee says that should lead to more tourism jobs. He is the keynote speaker at the 2019 Greater Palm Springs Economic Summit on Tuesday, November 19th. He'll be talking about automation and tourism jobs, concerns, and opportunities. 

The 15th Annual Greater Palm Springs Economic Summit, November 19, 2019

The morning event is at the Palm Springs Convention Center and will reveal the annual economic report and forecast. Ticket information is online at

You can contact I-Team Investigator Jeff Stahl at

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Jeff Stahl

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