Robots, mergers and adult theme parks: the biggest stories in hotels from 2015
Japan has opened the doors to the world’s first automated, robot-staffed hotel, replacing people with pretty, lifelike lady humanoid receptionists and a bow tie-wearing, dinosaur concierge.
At the Henn-na Hotel, or ‘Strange Hotel,’ guests check in, check out, get their rooms cleaned and their luggage conveyed by a fleet of blinking, beeping and rolling robots that the hotel describes as “warm and friendly.”
Likewise, as part of their aim to feature cutting-edge technology, stays are keyless. Instead, guests enter their rooms via facial recognition technology.
Aside from its novelty factor, the use of robots and the emphasis on automated services is part of a bigger concept: To reduce labor costs, save energy, reduce waste, and develop a self-sufficient hotel powered by solar energy and machines.
For example, rooms are conspicuously absent of refrigerators, lights are motion-sensored, and rooms are cooled using an energy-efficient radiant panel air conditioning system.
The hotel is part of the Dutch theme park Huis Ten Bosch in Sasebo, Nagasaki, and may be expanded across Japan and abroad, said company president Hideo Sawada.
Future plans also include the addition of Chinese and Korean languages to the robots’ repertoire.
Other features include a porter robot, that will transport luggage to guest rooms, and a self-serve cafe which serves snacks and drinks from, what else, a vending machine.
It’s not just Japan that’s replaced humans with robots in hotels. Over in California, not far from Apple’s corporate campus, Aloft Hotels put what they called the world's first robotic butler at the front desk last year. Botlr is used to shuttle amenities to guest rooms and acknowledges requests with peppy beeps and flashing lights.
Meanwhile, though the industry may be moving increasingly towards automated hotel services, the results of a recent JD Power survey that polled 62,000 guests in the US and Canada suggest that there’s still value in old-fashioned human contact: When staff greeted guests with a simple smile “all the time,” the average number of problems reported fell by 50 percent.
Room rates at the Strange Hotel, which features 144 rooms, start at 9,000 JPY ($73 USD) for a single room.