When it comes to technology, hotels certainly like to invest in tools that help their marketing strategies or operational efficiency. But some innovations do that with more flash than others.
Virtual-reality tours make it easier for planners to narrow down the list of potential cities or venues, helping sales. Attendees marvel at modern conveniences such as mobile hotel check-in, which in turn make front desks more efficient. But some of the coolest advances catching on at properties all over the world are robots.
Ring for Relay
California-based company Savioke created Relay, a robotic bellhop that can navigate hallways and elevators to make room deliveries of food and beverages, towels, bath amenities, and more. Relay is reliable, secure, and convenient for both guests and hotel employees — and doesn’t expect a tip. Hotel brands including Crowne Plaza, Aloft, Marriott’s Renaissance, and Embassy Suites by Hilton have introduced Relay at select properties.
At the Consumer Technology Association’s CES 2018, Savioke announced three new features that take Relay’s functionality beyond deliveries. The robot can now monitor for weak spots in Wi-Fi coverage, since poor connectivity is a common guest complaint. It can also scour the halls to detect and report food trays, trash, carts, and other items, eliminating the need for employees to walk around each floor. Perhaps less useful, but definitely social-media-worthy, is Relay’s new “mingle mode.” It interacts with guests in public spaces by displaying information, surveys, jokes, and other custom messages on its screen.
Taking it several steps further — several leaps, really — are the eco- and budget-friendly Henn na Hotels in Japan, which are staffed primarily by robots. (There are a handful of humans behind the scenes, though.) The first property, whose name plays on the Japanese word for “weird,” opened in 2015 at the Huis Ten Bosch theme park. Several others have already opened in Japan, and there are plans for 100 more locations. The front desk staff consists of several multilingual robots, including dinosaurs and humanoids, to help guests check in and out. Robots also handle tasks ranging from carrying luggage to vacuuming to mowing the lawn.
(Photos courtesy of Henn na Hotels and Savioke)