Grand Hotel ROBOT

He knows the largest chains and smallest boutique hotels, and sleeps in a hotel almost more often than his own bed. Ivo Weyel has noticed that he has to do things online more and more often: making reservations, checking in, paying... Digitization within the hotel industry is becoming increasingly necessary. Do we want a hotel run by robots or do we swear by the old doorman and bellhop? “One day I will no longer be able to travel without my nephew who understands all the technical gadgets.”

Text: Ivo Weyel

The things you now simply find in hotels: the key card instead of a real key (which once hung behind the reception near your own mailbox - and yes, mail? How recently is it that there was paper mail in your mailbox ?), your own bathroom, the tablet with which you can control everything in the room, countless television channels on the TV that is also a computer (remember this one: hotels that pride themselves on having CNN, wow!), air conditioning, and countless facilities that are now commonplace, but previously unthinkable. We now laugh at the novelties of yesteryear, because developments move fast and the past is dead.


In the very beginning, hotels were nothing more than a collection of rooms above a diner. Only towards the end of the nineteenth century did industrialization gain momentum and did it start to resemble something with the arrival of all kinds of novelties: the first electric elevator (1859 in the Fifth Avenue hotel in New York?), the first with electric light in all rooms (1880, Sagamore Hotel in Lake George, NY?) followed by our own Hotel Krasnapolsky, which was the first to install its own power plant a year later, the only year that is really fixed, because all other 'first' years are transferred and again claimed by a multitude of international hotels.Was The Netherlands the first in New York to have telephones in all rooms or should it all be attributed to the Parisian Ritz (first elevator, telephones, private bathrooms, electricity)? Scholars do not agree, but there is no doubt that that time guaranteed incredible technological developments.


What will we laugh about in ten years? About the tablet? The key card? The TV? The knock on the door and the questioning “housekeeping”? Because yes, there are already hotels where the chambermaids can see on their tablet that there are people in the room, so they know that they cannot yet clean the room and therefore do not have to knock. They see this through heat censors, because humans generate body heat. Not that they can see what the guests are doing inside ('hihi, room 316 is copulating!'), but that they are there. Hotels are going crazy because developments are happening quickly and the competition is enormous, so constant keeping up and innovating is the motto. But how is that financially feasible? A complete renovation of a room in a five-star hotel costs an average of a few euros. Because this not only concerns new furniture and a smart (of course electric) curtain, but also new cabling behind the wallpaper, because faster internet, for example, requires completely new wiring that - the nightmare of every hotel owner - is already old-fashioned when installed. Developments are moving so quickly.Due to corona, certain developments have accelerated: everything must be as contactless as possible (at the Dutch hotel chain CitizenM it was already common practice to check in by computer before corona), staff is scarce so this must be solved electronically, room service becomes self-service. In Tokyo, the Henn Na Hotel is run completely by robots and machines. It is still a gadget and offers Disney-like entertainment, but you can already see how these types of machines are gradually creeping into hotel life. Take, for example, the facial recognition with which the guest controls everything: you check in with it, you open your hotel door with it, you order everything biometrically with one look and everything automatically goes to your hotel account which - just take a look and go! – is settled. So exit key cards, you can wait for them until they become commonplace. Just as children now ask “Dad, what is an LP/cassette/telephone?”, they will soon see the key card as a fossil from a bygone era.

Restless sleepers 

Behind the counter (at least, a glass wall that replaces the counter) of the New York Yotel, a gigantic robot arm stores your suitcases and the televisions in the room are empty shells that can be/do/display anything at will with your own computer. you want. Also exit light switches: the room knows via motion censors when you enter and leave and how dark it is outside, so the light regulates itself and when you stop moving (sleeping) it turns off. Restless sleepers are still a thing – on/off, on/off –, but hey, what new technology doesn't have teething problems? Virtual reality already looks around every corner: put the thing on your head and see what there is to do at the destination, which restaurant looks like what, etc. and so on. I indicated that I wanted to eat Japanese in New York and the device virtually not only guided me to the best or nearest restaurant (of my choice), but also allowed me to walk around inside and view the menu, after which I could make a reservation immediately.

Also on the rise: Amazon's Alexa (or equivalents) that lets you call out what you want for breakfast and what time it should be delivered, which allows you to voice controlled opens the curtains and turns on the shower at the desired temperature. The Virgin hotel chain does everything via app (called Lucy to keep it a bit more human): from check-in to choice of light in the room (bright, romantic, reading strength) and the Cityhub hotels swear by the electronic, do-it-all RFID (Radio Frequency Identification). wristband. You will receive most apps at home before your arrival so that you can set up and order everything in advance.

Poor key man

Poor concierge, poor key man with his two proud golden keys on his lapel, poor hotel butler, they will all lose their jobs along the way. Housekeeping probably too, because nano bedding and mirrors (treated with dirt-repellent and odor-killing micro particles) never need to be changed or cleaned again, and germ zapping robots in the room (as the Westin in Houston first deployed) automatically kill all SARS and corona-like bacilli. I now miss all those friendly welcome faces from the long-standing staff. Just when I miss my favorite paper newspaper that hangs on my door in the morning, the doorman who recognizes me, my shoes in front of my hotel door that miraculously are back in line with a mirror shine the next morning. One day I will no longer be able to travel without my nephew who understands all the technical gadgets. And so I whine on like a nostalgic old man in an ever-increasing robot world.


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