The Sofitel Darling Harbour Sydney has introduced a new seamless and people free check-in experience with the help of a pair of robots and some clever tech.
While in recent years we’ve seen dinosaur robots running a hotel in Tokyo and robot bar staff making cocktails on cruise ships, the COVID-19 crisis has already created new needs when it comes to automated guest assistance in hotels.
Dr Jerry Schwartz – the owner of 15 hotels in NSW, ACT, Victoria and Queensland – has been a passionate advocate for online check-in and keyless access in his hotels and is now using his Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour property to test-drive the new concept.
To help bring it to life (or flick the power switch in this case), the hotel has re-assigned a pair of robots to interact with guests in public areas and offer services and information.
The pair of robot employees in question have actually been on the books at the Sofitel since it opened in 2017 but were previously holding more ‘ornamental’ roles in the bar area.
Aside from the robots serving up the sanitizer, the 5-star waterfront hotel is trialling a new seamless and secure check-in system that allows guests to bypass staff altogether by quickly entering their details and obtaining a digital keycard via their smartphone within a couple of minutes.
Schwartz says lengthy hotel check-in and check-out are one of the most frustrating aspects for travellers, especially if you are a regular guest.
“Airlines have been able to introduce seamless booking and check-in via smartphone, and I want to replicate that for hotel stays,”
“It has been something I’ve been pushing for quite a while, long before COVID-19, but the impact of the virus and the move towards social-distancing has made the transition even more imperative.”
Dr Jerry Schwartz
Schwartz goes on to say that: “Instant communications is one of the key outtakes of COVID-19. Rules and restrictions have changed so rapidly that a hotel that has access to this online system can then generate messages to assist with travel. It could be to notify a guest about a lockdown in a certain area, a bushfire, a power issue, or even a special offer for their stay.
“We’ve already introduced a mobile messaging service called Jeeves at the Sofitel and at Fairmont Resort, which allows the guest to electronically communicate with the hotel, without needing to use a phone, but there is so much more that can be done to introduce a more seamless guest experience.”
“The robots might not revolutionise service delivery, but at least they show we are thinking differently, and while in the past we may have used them to deliver a drink or a message, we will now program them to carry hand-sanitiser around the lobby reminding guests to practice the best hygiene habits.”
Dr Jerry Schwartz
Once the new technology is successfully implemented, Dr Schwartz believes the Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour will be the first major hotel in Australia to offer it.
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