Attending the National Retail Federation's Big Show this week brought me to New York City, where I stayed in the ultimate hotel designed for self-service. Yotel, a hotel chain based in the United Kingdom, opened the New York location two blocks west of Times Square this summer, and after learning about its focus on kiosks, I wanted to experience it. (Click here to see a slideshow of photos.)
Checking in with no front desk
Although it may seem like having no official front desk is a little cold, I found the opposite to be true. Two staff members greeted me as soon as I hit the front door, and one promptly escorted me to a kiosk. Instead of simply letting me use the kiosk alone, he quickly walked me through the process. I literally had my key card in five seconds. It was the fastest check-in I've ever experienced.
The employee told me where my "cabin" was and how I could visit "mission control" on the fourth floor if I had forgotten anything like toothpaste. He also directed my attention to my RFID-enabled key card that allowed me to use the elevator and unlock my room with a swift wave.
Yotel is a trendy contrast between stark white walls and fluorescent purple lighting. The whole experience makes you feel like you are on the set of Battle Star Gallatica, which is just fine with me because I happen to dig those types of shows. Even the staff wears high-collared T-shirts, making them look like they belong on a space ship.
The rooms are tiny; mine was 167 square feet with a moving queen-sized bed taking up most of the room. To save space, the beds are in an upright position upon entering, but you can press a button to flatten them. Each room has what the hotel calls a "technowall," which is a giant flatscreen TV affixed to the wall. It has iPod/MP3 connectivity and power services.
There is no closet, just one rack, where you can hang a few things, and a few drawers and cubby holes placed around the room for storage. There's a small work desk next to the bed and a tiny bathroom. Everything is white with the exception of the purple lighting that can be used to dimly light the room.
One of the coolest things about the hotel was its luggage-storing robot called YOBOT.
The T-Tech by Tumi luggage Lounge lets guests store bags before check in or after check out. Guests place a bag on the robot, enter a PIN number and a last name to watch YOBOT store it in a bin. It will then print the guest a receipt. To retrieve bags, guests allow YOBOT to scan the bar code on the receipt or use the PIN and last name.
Would I stay there again?
Sure, as long as I don't get stuck with a roommate. Yotel was fine for how I used it this week, a place to sleep and to store my stuff while I worked and explored the city. It's also a lot cheaper than most "nice" hotels in NYC, so not having room service options and a lot of space was fine with me. It is New York, after all; no one has any space.
Overall, it was a fun experience and just another way self-service is invading another industry.
Do you think that more hotels will opt for more self-service options? Leave your comments below.
Some photos provided by Joseph Grove; some were from yotel.com
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