• Nederlands
  • English
  • Français


Speedy Check-In Lets Hotel Guests Bypass Front Desk
Published: March 18, 2013

Hotels are changing the way guests check in to their rooms, eliminating the traditional stop at the front desk to speed up, simplify and, in some cases, personalize the process.
Enlarge This Image

J. Emilio Flores for The New York Times
A concierge, standing, using an iPad to register a guest at the Andaz West Hollywood hotel in California.
When guests arrive at citizenM, a small, boutique hotel in Amsterdam, Glasgow and London, they check in at a kiosk and go straight up to their rooms, stopping only to speak to a roving hotel “ambassador” if they have a question. The kiosk was designed to be easy to use, said Kelly Blakey, a spokeswoman for the hotel, because most travelers are encountering it for the first time.

At the Inn at St. Botolph in Boston, travelers who make reservations and enter their credit card information online receive their room assignment and two key codes in a confirmation e-mail. When they arrive at the inn, guests tap one code into a keypad at the front door to enter the property and the other to enter their room. There is a front desk in the lobby if guests have questions, but there is no need to stop there as part of the check-in procedure.

The hospitality industry is moving toward more automated check-in systems, said Tyler Craig, vice president and general manager for the NCR Corporation’s travel business, which develops these systems for hotels. “Customers are used to A.T.M.’s at the bank instead of tellers, checking in for airplane flights online, and they are now looking for that same efficiency when they arrive at a hotel,” Mr. Craig said. “No one wants to wait in line for the front desk anymore.”

In the age of social networking, Mr. Craig added, “it’s more important than ever to get the guests’ experience right,” because an upset customer posting to Twitter, Facebook or TripAdvisor can easily share bad impressions with a wide group of people.

Glenn Haussman, editor of the online trade magazine Hotel Interactive, said automated check-in was also a plus for hoteliers who wanted to assign additional duties to the front desk staff. “When a guest checks in late at night and the same employee can make sure the check-in goes smoothly and also sell them something to eat,” he said, “the hotel has saved money on staffing, increased its revenue and increased customer satisfaction.”

Mr. Craig said he expected automated hotel check-in to expand rapidly. In a typical system, guests check in by computer or phone before they arrive and enter their expected arrival time, which helps the housekeeping staff with the room cleaning schedule. A bar code is sent to the traveler to print out or display on his or her phone. At the hotel, the guest scans the bar code at a kiosk and types in the number of keys needed. The machine assigns a room and spits out the plastic key cards, and the guest can head upstairs.

Additional kiosks can be placed at elevator banks so guests who have problems with a key card during their stay can get a replacement without walking back to the front desk.

Hyatt, which already offers both a kiosk option and a traditional front desk to check in at most of its Grand Hyatt, Hyatt Regency and Hyatt brand hotels in major cities, is testing a different method with some of its Hyatt Gold Passport loyalty program members. The guest receives a card with a chip in it and checks in online, and the staff is able to code that card to act as the guest’s room key.

The different check-in methods are meant to provide options for guests, not to supplant any, said David Nadelman, general manager of the Grand Hyatt San Francisco. “Leisure guests here for shopping, dining and culture may want the opportunity to talk with our front desk associates to get some quick recommendations, versus a person here on business who may prefer to check in though the Web or self-check-in kiosk,” he said.

High-end hotels are also using new technologies to eliminate the front desk check-in line — with personal greeters who shepherd guests through the check-in process in a more comfortable setting, using an iPad or laptop. 

Andaz West Hollywood has combined its front desk staff, bellmen and concierge functions into “hosts,” who greet guests as they enter the lobby and sit with them on comfortable couches to check in using an iPad with a credit card reader. Guests are offered coffee, soda or wine to sip.

“We wanted to make it feel more welcoming, like coming to a friend’s house, and remove the physical barriers between the guests and the staff,” said Jordan Kaye, the director of marketing and communications for the hotel. The hosts also help with guests’ luggage and offer the type of suggestions that a concierge normally gives, like the location of a new restaurant in town.

Travelers who are in too much of a hurry to stop for coffee and a chat on the couch can be checked in by a host in the elevator. A computer station in the lobby serves as a backup for more complex reservations.

Capella Hotels and Resorts, which has locations in Mexico, Asia and, soon, Washington, also gives iPads to mobile lobby staff to check in guests, and Pop Hotels in Indonesia uses iPads at its front desks and is hoping to install self-service kiosks this year.

Montage Deer Valley, a hotel in Park City, Utah, hides the technology but uses it to prepare for and personalize each check-in. When a car or taxi pulls up, a valet asks for the guests’ names and radios them to a host, who grabs a personalized leather check-in portfolio that contains the guests’ keys and preprinted information. The host can then greet the guests by name as they enter the lobby. The guests sign to confirm the length of their stay, and the host escorts them to their room.

“As we walk through the property, we point out the dining room, meeting rooms and other facilities, so orientation takes place at the same time as check-in,” said Dan Howard, director of public relations at Montage. “There’s a lot of preplanning, technology and communications going on behind the scenes, but humans are the most important part of hospitality, so we keep the technology parts hidden.”

Mr. Craig, who travels several times a month for NCR and is helping to create automated check-in systems for some of the world’s biggest hotel chains, said he would appreciate the kiosk service himself. “When I get to a property late and I’m on a shuttle bus full of flight attendants and pilots, I don’t look forward to that long line at the counter,” he said. “I’d rather scan a bar code at the lobby and be on my way.” 


Cherto | info [at] cherto [dot] be | T +32 (0)491 34 08 97