HAS THE FRONT DESK BEEN REPLACED?

Self service check-in kiosks.

Not every guest likes talking to people and waiting in lines to check-in. A lot of travellers want to be in and out of check-in as quickly as possible.

Self-check-in kiosks are advantageous as the machines cut down on waiting times. The technology isn’t widely adopted in New Zealand hotels yet, however, some destinations like the Christchurch Jucy Snooze hotel operate the service. The Jucy hotels use Liverton’s SmartCheck kiosks which fully automate the check-in process. There is no front desk, and guests check in at kiosks at a time of their choosing without human interaction. The room keys are dispensed from the kiosk.

OpenKey is a provider of mobile check-in technology that gives guests the ability to check-in through the internet. It also gives hotels the choice of checking in guests automatically and issuing them a secure mobile key or the guests can still check-in where a mobile key is then sent to the guest.

“Hotels best suited for this type of mobile keyless entry are those with repeat business-related guests that don’t want to have to stand in the check-in line,” said Brian Shedd, VP of sales and marketing, OpenKey.

Shedd sees front desks evolving in the near future, changing from a place to check-in, to a place where guests can get personalised added value.

“I think what we’ll see in the next five to ten years is a shift from the hotel front desk as a tollgate for wayward travellers trying to get to their room, into a value-added customer service location that looks much more like a concierge desk than the front desk we recognise today. With the security and convenience of mobile keyless entry from OpenKey and other solutions like hotel reception kiosks, the need to have people who verify ID, take credit cards, and select room types for guests is already becoming passé.”

Businessman waiting at front desk in hotel, elevated view.

The concierge, especially at higher-end properties, brings unparalleled first-hand knowledge of the city and works to share their expertise and recommendations, curating guests’ experiences, something that a kiosk or even Amazon Alexa will have a hard time matching.

“It’s true that in this digital age when the world is at your fingertips it is easier for visitors to explore and pre-book tours or restaurants, but we have our network of contacts where we are able to give insider knowledge. I often find that the smallest of gestures makes the biggest impact, and leads to memorable stays,” said Tim O’Hara, head concierge at QT Museum Wellington and member of Les Clefs d’Or New Zealand.

Shedd agreed that personal service is irreplaceable.

“I think there will always be a place in the hotel industry for a reception area staffed by people who are there to welcome you to the hotel and help you make the most of your visit to any location around the world.”

Despite the added convenience of self-check-in technology, high-end hotels and lodges value the service and personality. At Cordis Auckland, for instance, the individual experience is a vital part of any stay.

“While the role of the front desk staff could change with technological advances, personal touches, heartfelt service and engaging experiences with our guests will always be an integral part of our hospitality philosophy. We believe that the person-to-person connection, looking someone in the eye, smiling and connecting with them through a conversation, asking a question, or making a recommendation is an essential part of what we do,” said Alex Blanco, director of marketing services at Cordis, Auckland.

“There is no better time than when a guest first arrives at the hotel to check-in. That moment can set the tone for their whole stay. As a company, we will, of course, look at technology to enhance the check-in process, or increase the efficiency of our colleagues, but it can never replace that human touch.”

Luxury Taupo getaway, Huka Lodge, also values that personal connection and has taken out check-in formalities completely.

“In an increasingly impersonal world, where technology is used to make us all operate at high levels of self-service, at Huka Lodge we like to offer the complete opposite. We want our guests to relax from the moment they arrive, so there are no check-in formalities required,” said Kerry Molloy, general manager, Huka Lodge.

“We connect with our guests and engage in a very high level of attentive and personal service, and this is certainly appreciated and seen as a valued part of our bespoke style of hospitality experience.”

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