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Is technology killing the receptionist?

From a new Stockholm hotel where your phone unlocks the door to a New York hotel staffed by robots, we ask how technology is changing the way we check in

  • Is technology killing the receptionist?
  • Is technology killing the receptionist?
  • Is technology killing the receptionist?
  • Is technology killing the receptionist?

Text by Toby Skinner

At Stockholm’s new HTL Hotel on Kungsgatan, you can unlock your hotel door using just your smartphone. You simply download an app, check in on the way to the hotel, then hover your phone over the door. If that’s too fancy, there’s a check-in station with an inbuilt iPad dock, which allows you to check in in less than 20 seconds. There’s no reception, only “hosts” who will give you hidden-gem tips about Stockholm.
“It’s not a gimmick,” says the hotel’s commercial manager Gül Heper. “It’s about removing barriers so there’s a flow. People are getting used to doing things digitally – Norwegian’s check-in is a good example – and it makes sense.”

The tech continues after check-in, too. All the room information is on your TV screen when you enter, meaning no paper; the hotel’s website uses the very trendy scroll-down interface used by the likes of e-commerce site Tictail; and the site has its own mini-guides by trendy local experts (including Tictail’s Carl Waldekranz).

HTL Hotels, funded by the EQT private equity group, plan to open a second hotel in Stockholm next year, and eventually to have 20 around the Nordics. As well as a cunning use of technology, the premise, says Heper, is “great locations, great quality and great prices, because you’re only paying for what you really use.” There are no meeting rooms, no gyms, and small but ultra-functional rooms, with prices starting at SEK699 (NOK632).

HTL is merely one example of what’s happening in hotels across the world – and not just at the new breed of hipster-friendly city boutiques. Starwood’s Aloft hotels in Manhattan and Silicon Valley have released apps that allow you to open your door with your phone, and the plan is for all Aloft and W Hotels to use the system by the end of the year. Even more classic chains have been changing the way guests check in – Crowne Plaza has piloted check-in kiosks at hotels in America, while Accor plans to have a new digital check-in at all of its 3,500 hotels, where you swap a text message for a key.

Few have taken technology as far as Manhattan’s Yotel, close to Times Square. Better known for its capsule hotels, Yotel New York opened in 2011 and pioneered a new kind of high-tech hotel. There are digital check-in kiosks and “cabins” designed by aircraft designers, with motorised beds that are stored upright. But probably the most striking replacement for human beings is the Yobot, a giant hydraulic arm that will sort out your left-luggage needs. It may be a bit gimmicky, but it is a sign of the way many hotels are going.

“We wanted to create a new kind of guest experience,” says Yotel New York’s Swedish general manager Claes Landberg. “And it’s working – hospitality is being transformed by technology all the time, and it’s taking away the stress of travelling.” It may be time to say farewell to your friendly concierge.
Norwegian flies to Stockholm and New York. Book flights, a hotel and a rental car at norwegian.com


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