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Robot Butlers, Digital Menus Are Hotels’ Latest Weapon Against Covid-19

A few steps beyond masks and social distancing. 

A room at Dromoland Castle in County Clare, Ireland.

A room at Dromoland Castle in County Clare, Ireland.

Source: Dromoland Castle

Set in the kelly-green hills of Ireland’s County Clare, Dromoland Castle is the type of getaway that never sits empty. Why would it, with a pampering spa tucked behind 16th century walls, a par-72 championship golf course, and more stars on travel review sites than in all of Hollywood? And yet, in the wake of Covid-19, the fairytale 450-acre estate—like many hotels around the world—closed its doors for safety in March. “We’ve stayed at Dromoland Castle twice and have been dreaming about going back, but obviously, right now we’ve been hesitant to travel,” says Natalie Payne, a Mount Pleasant, S.C., travel adviser with two teenage sons.

According to the American Hotel & Lodging Association, “leisure and hospitality” was the hardest-hit industry in the Covid-19 era, far worse than retail and construction. In the U.S., hotels have lost more than $31 billion in room revenue since mid-February; as of June 3, 60% of open-for-business accommodations are sitting empty. Some 7.7 million hospitality and leisure jobs were lost in April alone.