Recently I read an article from the CEO of a technology company asking the question: “Is it time to remove the front desk from hotels?”
The article cited a survey showing that 54% of respondents wanted to use their mobile device to check-in and 57% to check-out. One obvious question is what about the other 46% and 43%?
The writer says that “The big granite front desk is really just a refuge for hotel staff. Hotel guests have no love for the front desk, and it generally proves to be an annoyance more than anything else.”
I have been reading articles such as this for over three decades now. When I launched my first training company in 1989 I named it “Check-Inn Training Corporation,” as the focus was largely on front desk hospitality and sales.
I recall sharing my business plan with some of the top visionaries in the industry prior to my launch. Most predicted this was a bad name to pick, as very soon the front desk staff would be completely eliminated.
Around the same time articles began appearing like “Front Desk Staff To Be Replaced By Kiosk Check-In Machines.” Ironically, 27 Years later I write this while on the plane to California for two days of front desk staff training for a top tier hotel company.
True, the front desk itself should continue to evolve. Starting in the 1990’s many designers replaced the tall, long granite desk with individual podium-style check-in stations allowing the front desk colleague to walk around to greet you. Others have implemented seated check-in.
Yet consistently the vast majority of today’s travelers still reject fully automated check-in. Brand after brand has rolled-out automated check-in, most commonly via the ATM style machines. To name names would be to shame them as the investment ended up being a waste and most pulled the machines entirely.
I recall many times standing in long lines at the front desk of large convention hotels, yet virtually no one left to go to the machine unless they were escorted by a front office colleague.
While attending the HiTech conference a while back I was standing in an exceptionally long line with many other conference waiting to check-in. To the right I saw three check-in machines sitting idle; despite that we were all hoteliers involved with technology, none of us walked over to use them.