Vending Machines

Automation: Coming To A Hotel Near You?

Consumers want convenience and instant gratification, but friction in user experiences stand as an ongoing barrier. But self-service providers are looking to advancing technologies to revamp processes and cut out friction – leaving point of purchase innovation to go to places not yet imaginable.

YOTEL

Can hotels with unattended lobbies and dining areas be, well, welcoming?

If you ask YOTEL, a hospitality concept that achieves a 220 percent occupancy rate across each of its properties and has investors lining up to bring them to major metropolitan cities, the answer is yes.

This “new breed of hotel” location that’s popping up around the globe uses self-service kiosks to do everything from helping guests check in within minutes using just a QR Code to storing their bag using their cute and cuddly Yobot to, soon, getting comfort food from an automat inside of the hotel. That use of technology allows YOTEL to invest in the human talent to help guests with the things that are not so easily automated.

A NEW TAKE ON HOTEL STAYS  

Jo Berrington, Vice President of Brand at YOTEL, describes the company as one that began with the idea to combine a self-service airline style check in with an efficient hotel room model that provided hotel guests what they needed – a comfortable bed, a great shower, powerful and free Wi-Fi, and a convenient location (which at first meant locations in Europe’s major airports).

YOTEL’s airport hotel locations enable travelers to book a cabin for any specific number of hours needed, which they can arrange based on when their flight is arriving and departing.

But that automated self-service kiosk for check in concept gave way to new way of thinking for the company – a true focus on providing the seamless and intuitive services hotel guests are looking for.

She explained that YOTEL has always strived to “make our technology experience pretty lightweight, so that we can change it according to what we need to do for the next generation check in and next generation cabins.”

This means giving guests the technologies and tools they need to make their stay anything they want it to be, such as powerful Wi-Fi to support their online needs or even Bluetooth capabilities throughout the cabin so guests can stream any content on their phone onto the screen.

However, Berrington made it clear that the company’s technology is not meant to take away from or replace actual employees. Rather, the goal is to focus the strength of technology on the type of services that lend themselves to automation so that human resources can be applied to the types of offerings that will continue to enhance the overall guest experience.

“The point is that it frees up the crew to be able to help guests with other more important issues and things they want to solve,” Berrington explained, adding that YOTEL does not implement technology just for the sake of doing it — it’s about making things simple.

STRENGTH IN NUMBERS

The focus on simplicity is also reflected in the minimalistic but functional aspects of the YOTEL cabins themselves – the “smart spaces” typically contain just the necessities such as a convertible bed, adaptable workspace, a shower and a flat screen television.

“What people tell us is that they don’t really need the space, they need an amazing bed, they need the technology, they need the Wi-Fi, they need a great shower – but apart from that they don’t really need space to run around in,” she said.

As Berrington pointed out, this same principle, which applies to YOTEL’s airport and city hotel locations, also enables it to offer a pretty compelling business model and value to the developer or investor where its rooms are located because it can typically provide 50 percent more rooms than a traditional hotel would in any given location – a big draw for places where space is at a premium.

It’s a great concept for the locations YOTEL focuses on most — airports and urban city centers, where land is both expensive and difficult to get a hold of.

But the advantage of being able to find success where traditional hoteliers just can’t has worked in YOTEL’s favor. Berrington confirmed the company has eight new location openings in the pipeline, including Miami, San Francisco, Brooklyn, Boston and Singapore. It will also soon be announcing plans to open an additional four locations in Europe.

THE AUTOMATION FORMATION

The expansion isn’t just coming to its global reach. YOTEL also has some additional services and offerings up its sleeve that underpin its commitment to using technology to enhance the guest experience.

Berrington noted the importance of working with partners who are already excelling at app-based services, such as food delivery or restaurant reservations, and bringing those offerings to its own guests as well. While YOTEL is well-known for the uniqueness of its hourly based booking system for its airport locations, it may also look into the ability for guests to book their reservations down to the minute – enabling travelers to synchronize their stay with the exact landing and departure of their flights, even when delays or early arrivals are thrown into the mix.

For its city center experiences, like its current hotel in New York City, Berrington said the use of iBeacons to notify guests when they check in of ticket availabilities for hotel offerings as well as interactive chat facilities for guests are also in the works. YOTEL has also seen a great response from its social media sharing incentives, which reward guests for sharing about their stay across their social channels and provides discounts to the people they share with for their next stay, essentially developing a “mini loyalty club,” Berrington noted.

She confirmed that YOTEL is but months away from taking unattended retail to a whole new level by bringing back a retro unattended retail offering that will be tested at its Paris airport location. The vending service, which is modeled after the old-fashioned automats, will provide guests with quick, satisfying and healthy food options.

Berrington described the upcoming feature as a “smaller version of how it will be trialed for city centers going forward, because it’s an instant buy and an instant satisfaction.”

Proving that technology is not only redefining what it means to deliver “unattended” services but reinventing entire industry segments along the way.

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