Ugh: Awful New Marriott “Contactless” Features

Filed Under: Hotels, Marriott

Marriott has announced some “enhanced” contactless hotel features intended to respond to “consumer desires,” but I’m not sure this is actually what we want. Actually, I’m pretty positive this isn’t what most of us want.

Hotels will never be the same post-coronavirus

While we’ve seen hotels cut all kinds of services during the pandemic in the name of safety, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that hotels will never fully be the same.

Recently Hilton’s CEO bragged about how hotel service cuts are permanent, and that the focus is on making hotels higher-margin businesses by creating more “labor efficiencies,” particularly in the areas of housekeeping, food and beverage, and other areas. He stated that the hotel industry would be higher-margin and require less labor than it did pre-coronavirus.

Well, Marriott has just made an announcement that makes it clear that the hotel group has a similar plan, except Marriott is spinning this as being due to customer feedback. Natch.

Marriott’s “enhanced” contactless technology

You’ve gotta love the title of Marriott’s press release:

“Less Hassle, More to Explore: Marriott International Continues to Deliver on Consumer Desire for Enhanced Contactless Technology”

Marriott is promoting a new pilot program that’s being rolled out at select hotels, which is intended to create a “seamless guest experience.” This includes two things for now:

  • Contactless arrival kiosks at select-service hotels
  • The launch of a proof-of-concept for contactless grab-and-go marketplaces at two Fairfield by Marriott properties

Let’s look at the details of these changes.

Contactless arrival kiosks

Marriott is piloting contactless arrival kiosks at the Moxy NYC Times Square, Courtyard New York Manhattan/Midtown East, and TownePlace Suites Monroe.

Upon arrival, guests will have the option of skipping the traditional check-in line altogether and completing a three-step process at the kiosks to check in for a single reservation, with room keys created on the spot. Guests can also check-out using these kiosks.

Marriott claims that the kiosks employ antimicrobial technology baked into a touchscreen glass, powered by UV light, to kill bacteria and viruses.

I have a few thoughts on these kiosks:

  • Marriott is referring to these kiosks as “contactless,” but rather it seems that they’re just human contactless, rather than actually contactless; that’s an important distinction
  • Will the kiosk check your ID? I’m not saying it’s not possible, I’m just curious if the plan is for that to happen, though I suppose many people may prefer no ID check in terms of the mattress run opportunities
  • Even if this was a good idea in theory, the reality is that this doesn’t help if you’re checking in and want to ask about an upgrade or any of the hotel’s amenities, and doesn’t help at check-out if your charges aren’t correct (which I find to be the case more often than not as an elite member)
  • Why doesn’t Marriott simply make its app more usable for checking in and checking out, rather than installing these new kiosks? Because I’d totally use the app if it worked properly, but as an elite member the functionality sure is limited
  • As an introvert who avoids human interaction at virtually every opportunity possible, I still haven’t found a single hotel that has an app or kiosk that fully replaces a front desk in an efficient way; I don’t need to be thanked for my loyalty or need a 10 minute speech about the amenities, but even apps and kiosks often can’t get the basics right

New grab-and-go machines will serve you breakfast

Marriott claims that Fairfield by Marriott will be “an industry disruptor” with the testing of a new grab-and-go marketplace concept. This pilot is available at the Fairfield Inn & Suites Frederick and Fairfield Inn & Suites Arundel Mills BWI Airport.

These wall-to-wall kiosks offer a centralized marketplace where guests can select snacks, beverages, light bites, and sundries. Furthermore, the breakfast offering will be incorporated into the design during breakfast hours, with a selection of hot breakfast sandwiches, cereal, yogurt, fruit, and more. Specialty coffee and a-la-carte items will also be available for purchase at the kiosks with contact-free bluetooth payment.

My thoughts are similar to the kiosks:

  • While I get the ability to make contact-free bluetooth payment, these grab-and-go offerings don’t seem to be contactless at all?
  • While I would appreciate something like this as a complement to other food & beverage offerings, it sounds like this will replace whatever was previously on offer
  • Lovely, hotel breakfast will be replaced by something in a machine, just what customers have been asking for!
  • As someone who loves good coffee, the stuff coming from these machines will not be “specialty coffee”

This is about cutting staffing, not customer experience

In fairness to Marriott, this is probably the direction that the industry is headed, and it’ll be a race to the bottom. But I at least respect Hilton’s CEO for calling a spade a spade, and saying that the hotel industry is going to become higher-margin, and that includes “labor efficiencies.”

I mean, seriously, look at Marriott’s claims around these new features:

“Both new technologies will help streamline operations with increased efficiency, allowing hotel staff to engage with guests in more meaningful, personalized ways. Exemplifying the art of modern hospitality, they provide thoughtful conveniences to better serve guests throughout their stays.”

Right, I’m sure they’re eliminating interaction between employees and guests to allow “hotel staff to engage with guests in more meaningful, personalized ways,” rather than to reduce staffing and cut costs.

Then Marriott justifies these initiatives by claiming that they’re intended to “boost traveler confidence while reinforcing the company’s Commitment to Clean initiative.” Here are the statistics that Marriott uses to support this:

  • 65% of travelers say that accommodations will need to use the latest technologies to make them feel safe
  • 87% of US customers say they would like to see companies continue to offer options that limit in-person service
  • Social media posts including the phrase “self-service” increased by 170% year-over-year from 2019 to 2020

To be clear, I largely agree with the above statistics, with one very important distinction — that’s how I feel about hotel stays during the pandemic, and not how I feel about hotel stays post-pandemic. We’re potentially months from a return to normal in the US, so to use these statistics to justify long-term changes that will be implemented years down the road at many properties is disingenuous.

Lastly, I love how Marriott says that these new options create “less hassle.” What does that tell you about how Marriott views its customer service if the company considers interacting with Marriott employees to be a hassle?

Bottom line

Marriott is piloting new contactless features, including check-in kiosks and grab-and-go machines. Except best I can tell they’re not actually contactless (in the sense that you still have to touch stuff).

Marriott claims that this will allow guests to have more “meaningful, personalized” interaction with staff, and claims that this is all due to customer feedback. The memo that the company didn’t seem to get is that guests might be looking for this during the pandemic, but not long-term.

I can’t wait for 2023, when I can be denied a Bonvoy upgrade by a machine, and pick my breakfast out of a machine.

How do you feel about Marriott’s new “contactless” features?

Comments
  1. @ Jason — Well first of all, because it’s a policy of all major hotel groups. Second of all, because otherwise anyone could check into your room, and that presents a safety issue.

  2. Respectfully disagree with almost every point in your post. As someone who actually travels for work on a weekly basis, there’s nothing I want less after a long day of travel and work to have to interact with someone who has to give a 10 minute spiel on the hotels features and benefits. If I had these kiosks as an option I would use them 10 times out of 10.

    Humans are inefficient and often make mistakes. Love this step by all chains.

  3. I think they mean contactless, as in you don’t have to come into “contact” with other people.

    Still I’m not a fan. I don’t mind interacting with other people.

    The way out of covid isn’t more “contactless” anything. We don’t need “better” masks. The way out of covid is getting as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible.

  4. Sounds like the person selling service cuts at Lufthansa i.e. coming up with meaningless euphemisms that climax in something like “due to customer demand” is now working for Marriott.

  5. Remember when this blog use to talk about how much better Canada and Europe were handling covid compared to the US?…ya what happened to that? 🙂

  6. I remember when all Hyatts had self-service kiosks built-in to the front desks for self-service check-in and check-out–and I remember Hyatt ripping out those kiosks, presumably because they were not being used. At the time, I remember thinking that my own behavior was interesting: I often prefer self-service kiosk technology at the airport (e.g., easier to have a machine v. person check me in for my flight), but not at the hotel (e.g., prefer a person to check me in for a hotel). I also found that, as you state, the Hyatt kiosks had limited functionality: for example, if I tried to use one to check-out, I would find that the breakfast charges hadn’t been waived from the restaurant (as they are for Globalists), etc.; many of the elite services (upgrades, breakfast, etc.) required agent intervention anyway. Will be interesting to see how this goes.

  7. It might be a policy / something that the hotel groups do on their own accord, but their are no laws around it. It’s kind of like the ids on airplanes. through the mid ’90s there was no ID check for flying domestically in the US. The airlines lobbied for it, dressing it up in safety concerns, when at the end of the day it was really just a way to prevent people from giving their tickets to another person if they didnt want to fly/ making each person pay for their own ticket.. After 9/11 it kind of got wrapped up in real safety, but at the end of the day, it’s still mostly window dressing.

  8. AFTER PAYING $500.00 PER NIGHT PLUS TAX , PLUS RESORT FEE AND A PARKING FEE AND I TIP THE MAID –IS THIS IS WHAT I WANT!!! – I AM ONLY A ( PAYING) GUEST ,WHAT NERVE I HAVE TO BE UPSET

    PLEASE BRING BACK THE DAYS OF WHEN THE TRAVEL INDUSTRY TRIED TO ONE UP THE COMPETITION

  9. @ IntlBizTraveler — I totally agree about the 10 minute spiel, but let’s talk about the alternative. For example, Marriott currently offers mobile check-in, but do you actually use it? Because it doesn’t allow you to ask about upgrades (and Marriotts aren’t great about proactive upgrades), and it doesn’t give you a way to get a breakfast voucher if you’re entitled to that.

    If the functionality were actually decent that would be one thing, but if Marriott can’t pull that off through the app, why do we think kiosks are going to be different?

  10. A good thing with this is is that I can book Marriott stays on my account for my friends/family and they receive all my Platinum benefits, since no one will be checking who is checking in anyway 😀

    One Platinum account for the whole family works for me

  11. @ Jason — Sure, never claimed it was a law, just that it’s a policy that literally every hotel group has. Think about the potential safety implications here. If someone knows your last name and that you’ll stay at the hotel, they could get a key to your room. For example, would you also be in favor of the kiosk allowing key replacements if you lose your key during the stay? If so, anyone could break into your hotel room and steal your stuff.

    Maybe I’m just more conscious of this stuff because I’ve had issues along these lines.

  12. @ BRMM — That’s exactly how I feel. I’m all for this kind of technology if it works, but I’ve simply never seen a hotel kiosk actually work that well, especially taking into account the complexities of status. And at the hotels I’ve seen that do have the option, I’ve overwhelmingly seen people skip this in favor of an in-person check-in. That’s why I suspect that people will be “directed” to these rather than having a true option, since these don’t seem very popular with guests.

  13. You would think that the better approach would be that Marriott would actually fix and rollout a seamless app check in with mobile key. While I dislike Hilton even more than I do Marriott, at the very least their system works 90% of the time. With Marriott it works maybe 30% of the time.

    I do also confess to preferring the tablets in the rooms for ordering room service. I see no issue with less interaction. Quite frankly, I don’t want to deal with happy voices in the morning on the phone prior to coffee. And if staying at a limited property the last thing I want is their Sysco processed food for breakfast – so could care less what they offer. Just find me a Starbucks close by.

  14. I don’t like it, but I think they’ve missed the bigger opportunity of rethining check in altogether. It doesn’t strike me as an efficient use of time for most guests. I like it on leisure at a hotel where there is real hospitality. But on short business visits I would often rather just have the extra minutes getting to bed earlier rather than hearing extraneous, artificial greetings from staff.

  15. Surprised they didn’t think to add a convenience fee to the self-check-in system.

    Nothing here really seems very revolutionary… Have seen hotels with self-checkins. They usually are in-op or have trouble finding the reservation, or you have specific property questions, etc. is my experience.

    Grab and go isn’t a bad option — there are some way more innovative concepts at airports these days — it just comes down to usage. If you have enough traffic and can stock fresh items, awesome. If you are getting old parfaits and pastries I would rather go find a Starbucks.

  16. @Ben. I use the chat function on the app to inquire about upgrades a few minutes before I arrive. However, for as few upgrades given these days by Bonvoy does it really matter?

  17. @ Stuart — Impressive if you’re contacting them just a few minutes in advance. Often it takes me 30 minutes to even get a response in the app chat feature from a hotel. But again, if you select breakfast as your Platinum amenity, there’s still no way to skip the front desk.

  18. @ AdamH — Agree grab-and-go wouldn’t be a bad complement to whatever else is offered, but it sure sounds to me like it will replace the current offerings.

  19. The fewer features you offer me, the more likely I’ll just use other options vs hotels. I already save a bundle by doing it most of the time anyway.

  20. @Ben. I typically get a response within a few minutes. It’s normally “No” but it is a response, lol.

  21. It sounds like they hired some graduate from some business school to vomit meaningless corporate-speak into their press release. None of those words mean what you think they mean.

    Also, maybe I’m old-fashioned, but when I’m travelling, I like being welcomed to the hotel by a local. I like being able to ask about a place to eat, or practice my language skills if I’m staying in, say, France, not to mention all the hotels that used to give you a beverage at check-in to welcome you (I guess post-covid that won’t be a thing).

  22. @Jackson … Joe Biden happened, the US got automatically more efficient at providing basic public health needs. With good efficient and basic leadership the US is better at almost everything that can be accomplished (maybe with the exception of excellent business class soft products!), need I say anything more.

  23. A few things of note:
    1. When they said “contactless,” I think they meant “no *human* contact.”
    2. Why so much, umm, annoyance over the check-in machine? I mean, you can *call* ahead of time for upgrade (on day of). Many people (myself included when I travel by myself) don’t care about upgrade. If you have troubles with whatever, you can call. What’s so bad about it? Airlines handle upgrade *and* check-in kiosks just fine.
    3. Check-in kiosks do help with more personalized experience. “Personalization” in this services only matter when something (bad) happens. In the 90% of the cases where things go as expected, it doesn’t matter. By solving the 90% cases by machine, the staff (hopefully don’t get reduced accordingly) are freed up to solve the real headache. Thus, more personalized attention.
    4. Machine-served foods are not necessarily inferior. I remember when Amazon first beta their no-cashier store, one of the biggest hit *was* their food. This is especially interesting because the store was literally across the road from Whole Foods (who also had extensive ready-to-eat food section). But Amazon’s food was quite decent, albeit *not* cheaper. So, machine-to-consumer food doesn’t necessarily means “bad food.” Depends on the implementation.

    My personal opinion is this: the check-in kiosks are great idea. I love Hilton’s app exactly for this. If I need some help (e.g. early arrival), I would call up the hotel ahead of time, then just check-in on the app, unlock the door, then rest without ever needing to wait more than 2 minutes. Same thing for airlines: you arrive at airport, grab one of the many many kiosks, get your boarding pass (because you always want a hard copy), proceed to lounge, proceed to gate, no waiting. I am surprised Marriott took this long to come up with this.

    On the other hand, the food machine needs to be there for evaluation. If it’s the same old American machines that we know and, you know, tolerate, it’s a degradation. But if it’s one of those fancy pants stuff from Japan or Amazon stores, hey, it’s not bad.

  24. Ben, I love your blog. But as a fellow coffee aficionado who also prefers coffee made by a good barista, I’m disappointed that you copied ‘specialty coffee’ into your post from Marriott’s press release. Whatever comes out of the machine that’s pictured isn’t really serving specialty coffee…

    That minor point aside, I agree with your concerns here.

  25. The food sounds disgusting. I love contactless checkin. After a 20 hour flight just get me into my room. I have zero interest in being thanked for my loyalty. If it is a hotel I go to regularly (normal for work), I email them directly to confirm my preferred room. Even for holidays I email in advance re upgrades.
    I made a booking at 7am for same day checkin at ritz Carlton 2 days ago. I used the chat facility to confirm a couple of things along with merging new booking and old booking (long story). Was responded to within 20 mins.

  26. Regarding iD check—that can be done with far greater accuracy by a kiosk than via manual review by a person who just glances at it. Has there been an indication of whether the kiosks integrate facial recognition technology? If so, passports or drivers licenses can be scanned and checked against the person’s face. This would align with practice in the PRC (for PRC citizens). It would also create an interesting record for future tracking purposes. Already, outside the US, at least, I have seen Marriott using passport scanners that capture the full biometric information stored in a passport along with a scan of it. Where does that data go?

  27. For a large percentage of people checking into hotels, they don’t have elite status, don’t get upgrades, don’t have to worry about amenities, etc. For those situations, the kiosks would work just fine, and if it means skipping a line of 10 people who happen to show up at the same, the kiosks can be great.

    Will they meet all needs for all people, absolutely not, they’ll still have people there for that purpose, but they can be useful if they work properly (which of course remains to be seen).

    Also, they can check for the physical presence of an ID by scanning it, they just can’t easily verify the photo of the person presenting the ID. They can also use a credit card to verify the name on the reservation (and require that they match to use the machine).

    For the food, it’s not going to replace a restaurant (except for some really limited service situations), but for locations with really basic or limited hour operations, it could be significantly better.

    While these aren’t good for all people/situations (most unlikely to not be as useful for people with elite status who read/write this blog), for a large percentage of people, they can be useful if done well (which does remain to be seen).

  28. I actually like How Hilton’s APP of checkin and checkout where one can truly skip the front desk if they want to. I normally call or send hotel a message for any special request prior to arrival in terms of room upgrades or breakfast vouchers. In all aspects I find Hilton to care more about customers then Marriott. I just came back from an awful stay at the San Diego Marriott Del Mar. They nickel and dime you in every way and customer service is nonexistent.

  29. Pretty sure some hotels in Vegas have contactless check in that scans your id – Linq and Rio jump to mind.

    I had status at Caesars when using this machine in the Linq and I had to go to the human check in desk to get an upgrade as the machine had not given me one. Although I had booked only an hour or two before checking in so that may be why.

    I personally would prefer a human-less check in at every hotel as long as my upgrades based on status are honored.

  30. I’d be in favor of the new checkin process if it was, you know, ACTUALLY contactless.

    Given what has been found about how touchscreen airline checkin kiosks being the most germ-infested surface in airports, I’m not particularly convinced this change has anything to do with safety.

  31. @ Matthew — All fair points, but I’d argue that:
    — Those who don’t have elite status actually almost have more need to check-in with a human, as they ask questions like how to use the Wi-Fi, if there’s a gym, pool, etc., while those of us who are frequent guests easily know how to look this stuff up online
    — The press release clearly states that the complimentary breakfast offering is being incorporated into the machine at some properties, so this very much *does* replace what was otherwise being offered (though in fairness these are limited service properties)
    — And I agree with you that if these kiosks actually worked properly they wouldn’t be terrible, but given the limited functionality of even the new mobile app, I’m skeptical

  32. Lucky, I agree with you, this “innovation” is nothing but efforts by Marriott to cut costs while providing something no one asked for.

    Thank you for actually thinking critically and calling companies out for their bs, unlike ~certain other travel site~

  33. The kiosks at Hyatt centric Hong Kong actually work quite well – it’s a 500+ room hotel with mostly partial harbour view and harbour view rooms only. Upgrades for elites are usually processed before arrival. I do think these kiosks work better at hotels with limited room types / in non-luxury segment.

    The self-serve breakfast wall seems strikingly similar to Lufthansa’s new grab and go concept to me…

  34. A Few Things I See:

    1) Judging by the responses from stories posted on this website (admittedly a skewed and small sample and anecdotal but not entirely inaccurate) a large % of customers will roll with the changes and/or actually prefer them.
    2) Bad kiosks suck but good kiosks are useful. The airlines have been doing them for years, most of us utilize online check in and kiosks at the airport. Unless we need special services many proceed to the gate without actually talking to anyone (not including TSA). The hotels can and will figure this out either through in house IT or (most likely) contracting it out to third parties that specialize in that. App based check in with Near Field Technology to your phone to verify your presence. You wouldn’t even need to touch the machine.
    3) I don’t have a problem with desk agents turning into concierges rather than primarily doing administrative work check in/out. If hotels go to reduced housekeeping than staff will spend more of their time on individual services, from towel changes to special needs guests to dealing with actual problems.
    4) As for the breakfast thing, automats are okay for non perishables, quick grab beverages, and for people that might want to eat in the room or take-it-and-go. Especially if they were available 24-7 to guests as a convenience. With that being said, freshly prepared hot foods will still be desired by a large percentage of guests especially those that don’t want to take the time to go off site for breakfast and/or value that perk with the included price. Since most in hotel restaurants are overpriced (yes I realize business travelers are usually on expense accounts) its a valued amenity. Also for health reasons, I am a CrossFit guru I don’t eat crap even when traveling. I will pack or purchase protein shakes and other healthy foods for my trips.
    5) Given the expected lowering of breakeven point it seems that current hotel properties can make an effort to retain the executive lounges. Even post-Covid, I expect business travel will be reduced by some level simply due to the rationalization of activities that took place during Covid. That may affect hotel construction in the years to come but that is a long term issue we can’t estimate yet.
    6) I expect higher end inclusive resorts will largely retain most of these perks because their leisure-to-business percentage is higher and there is more elasticity to the demand. Business travelers may be somewhat picky between hotels within a geographic area (if their business is off site) but I have yet to see a trip cancelled strictly because of hotel preferences. The market will dictate the changes at the margins.

  35. this basically looks like the food/beverage system we had in our break room at our office. The food was disgusting.

  36. After a lifetime of staying at Marriotts, my wife looked forward to travelling and using all those points to stay at nice Marriotts. Now the kiosk will tell her to go pound sand when wanting an upgrade, and give her a certificate to stick in another machine to get her coffee and Jimmy Dean sausage biscuit.

    Yep, a race to the bottom. It seems IHG, Marriott, and Hilton are handing their business to Hyatt.

  37. Glad to see my clairvoyance a decade ago to not give two *&%$ about hotel status programs has been validated. I’ve always viewed hotels as nothing more than a place to sleep at night, who cares about upgrades and ‘amenities’ (that are increasingly NOT included in the rate)? Just get what you pay for, and that seems to be where the industry is headed. While it’s a downward trend and ultimately it’s the elites (especially lifetime ones) getting hosed, are you really surprised that Marriott would be the first to spark such a downward spiral…Bonvoyed much lately?

  38. Forgetting for a moment that this is just another way for Marriott to worsen the customer experience while fattening the bottom line, it’s not like they do well when it comes to technology.

  39. I personally have no problems with these specific changes. At a moxy, aloft, towneplace etc it actually makes sense. I’m sure at higher end brands they’ll keep actual concierge but for these lower or more “trendy” places its great.

    Anecdotal, sure, but so are most of these posts

  40. This is what happens when you increase the minimum wage to the point where employing a human is too expensive, especially with benefits and liability coverage.

    Several of Marriott’s new or newly renovated Marriott-branded hotels have M Club lounges (the new name for the old Marriott concierge lounge) with wine machine kiosks. You swipe you room key and get a perfectly poured glass of wine. No ID check, which is kind of interesting. All of these lounges are in cities with high labor costs. Delta Airlines has the same machines in some of their new or newly renovated Sky Club lounges, but the self-purchase isn’t activated despite the kiosks carrying only the premium, up-charge wine. There are also Moet & Chandon champagne vending machines at some Ritz-Carlton properties.

    What’s the point of a hotel if there is no personal service, even at a limited-service or, as Marriott corporate calls them now, select-service brand? At some point, eliminating the human factor means there is no reason to stay at a hotel over an Airbnb, especially if housekeeping is eliminated post-pandemic.

  41. If only fair if those machines have a sound effect of “B-o-n-v-o-y(-e-d)” for each interaction/transaction.

  42. Kiosks would be great in theory. If they work properly. I’d take a properly programmed kiosk check-in over a human check-in 99% of the time. I don’t use online check-in for hotels because – unlike with airlines – most of the time it’s pointless (little to no advantage in early check-in, still need to pick up a physical key often). It has nothing to do with functionality of the app. But a kiosk – it’s different, I’m at the hotel. It should be faster and more efficient than a person. Check-out though could be a different story depending on how the bill looks…and if human interaction is required.

    The ID thing is a red-herring – kiosks will validate ID the same way(s) airline kiosks do. Not an issue.

    On other hand: food and coffee from a vending machine in place of actual breakfast. NOPE. That’ll send me to book at a different hotel.

  43. Personally think you are super off here. There will be an option to talk to a human if you want. Giving consumers more choice seems like a big win. As for the breakfast options given the mediocre quality to begin with I’d rather have something quick. This post seems pretty ridiculous IMO.

  44. @ David — Did you read what the Hilton CEO said the other day? Sure, there will still be opportunities to go to a front desk, but the whole point is that staffing will be reduced significantly going forward. This isn’t about the customer experience, this is about reducing labor costs. So do you support the kiosks and the grab-and-go machines even if they lead to significant reductions in staffing?

  45. Aren’t we talking about Courtyards and Fairfield Inns (and their ilk) here? “I’m really looking forward to the breakfast and conversation” at the Fairfield Inn said no one ever. Is breakfast out of a vending machine worse than 78% of limited service hotels’ breakfast anyway. They’re the same Sysco products, just laid out in person.

  46. @ Ben — Rest assured, someone will step in with real service hotels. If hotels can’t provide full service, people like me will just stay home or travel to somewhere where pride is still taken in providing actual service (like Asia). It will be interesting to watch these trends evolve.

  47. This is not a great trend. However, I think it’s generally going to stay confined to select service and down-market “full-service” hotels. Given that those hotels are generally commodity product anyway (and an upgrade at a Residence Inn/Garden Inn/Hyatt Place isn’t particularly exciting) and that it’s 50/50 whether the staff will be a help or hindrance, I think these types of cuts end up not being that big of a deal in practice.

    Meanwhile, one of the main points of a luxury hotel is to receive the high touch treatment, thus I think Hilton/Hyatt/Marriott are going to refrain from trying to roll this type of stuff out to the luxury brands.

  48. Must be wonderful working for the staff at Marriott properties, knowing senior management is trying to remove you from the equation. Puts Ryan Air to shame.
    One more reason to avoid Marriott.
    I’ve always had issues with kiosk chic in, (tried it in Caesar’s Palace Las Vegas).
    It really puts the whole hotel industry at risk, they’re closing the gap between them and AirBnb. What’s next?
    It’s ultimately a disgrace, speaks volumes about the working culture within Marriott.

  49. The Grab*n*Go is shameful! I can’t even begin to imagine how bad the offerings would be. What’s going next? A/C and heat? Lightbulbs?

    So glad I left Marriott after the merger a few years ago.

  50. I never understood the “grab and go” mini stores at hotels that either close early, or require you to go to the front desk to pay, where they might have a big line.

    I welcome the ability to scan and check myself out.

    That being said, claiming that minibars are not profitable while making a giant minibar doesn’t add up in my head.

    As for check in Kiosk, Ive used it once (either London or SF?) and it didnt work right so the person needed to find my reservation manually. Probably because I usually book with Priceline Express Deals

  51. Id is only to stop people from sharing rewards accounts.

    Lucky wants to talk to front desk.to.talk about his blog and demand upgrades. We all know this.

    For the average person kiosk are good. Kiosks should lead to automatic upgrades not begging upgrades. Fairness for all nit just bloggers and good looking extroverts.

  52. I actually do think this is different than what Hilton has indicated, which is actually cutting services. This seems more on par with substituting technology for labor, which has been going on for many decades now. I have heard some people say that they will not use the self checkout at grocery stores because essentially to do so would be you as the individual doing their (historic) job of scanning and bagging. When given a choice and all aspects are otherwise equal, which do you choose? I can see at convention hotels where you might not care too much about the room you crash in at midnight to just get up at 7am, an option that is faster might be convenient enough to not care. I also agree that there needs to be a person available for what the machines cannot handle. As for breakfast, I do not usually eat what is offered at limited service hotels unless it is on par with a Hyatt Place – could possibly be almost healthy, but do appreciate what full service hotels offer. Thus, for the former, no issue for me while for the latter, it would be a large decrease to the service and value. Anyway, my read is this is advancing technology to reduce labor and improve margins and arguably increase uniformity / consistency of experience. So, do you go to self check-out at the store or go the manned cashier? Do you bypass the large group that just got off the tour bus at the end of your workday or wait for them to process all their “special needs”?

  53. I wouldn’t mind the automated checkin at limited service properties, but the “food machines” would be a complete turnoff. Food would likely be more processed and require more packaging…counter to the current trends (at least pre-covid) of moving away from mass produced food to more whole food healthy options and less packaging waste.

  54. @AW: This is probably worse than Sysco, US Foods or Gordon Food Service.

    If Hilton’s CEO is indicative of Marriott, limited-service owners will eliminate the “hot” breakfast under the guise if covid. It’s too expensive to pay one or two people to “cook” whatever has to be warmed up/defrosted and then constantly serve it.

    After all, Marriott for almost a year now has actively allowed hotels, including full-service hotels under its flagship brands, to serve grab-and-go breakfast out of paper bags even in states with no covid restaurant closures or capacity restrictions.

    Limited-service hotels are in theory more profitable than full-service hotels. Many Marriott-managed hotels have eliminated room service in favor of Quick Bites, especially at properties in suburban office parks and by shopping malls. These were properties that never had good restaurants anyways. So, I can actually see this concept being employed at brands like Delta, probably some Marriotts, and limited-service brands like Fairfield that presently have no food except the aforementioned breakfast.

  55. Replace “contactless” with FRICTIONLESS (from Marriott’s perspective).

    Upgrade requests, specialty coffee, etc. all require more resources (human interaction) from Marriott. FRICTIONLESS is more efficient and economical (less human workers).

    Sad part is that many leisure travelers (once/twice year family travel) won’t mind since it might speed up the check-in process.

    Can’t fault Marriott here. They created their own solution to a perceived problem. Unfortunately, elites & travel hackers lose out >:o

    Sad if this trend continues cuz you know other chains will likely follow.

    Excellent counter-points made from a travel hacker perspective Ben.

  56. @ Eric — You mean “you won’t get your Marriott Platinum/Titaniun/whatever upgrade even though we explicitly promised it to you, and there is no one to take your complaint, so too bad”?

  57. @Ali: Let’s remember that the vast majority of Marriott properties across all brands and in all locations are managed either by the franchisee or a third-party management company hired by the franchisee. Marriott does not manage most of its properties. So the vast majority of all employees — the ones who work at hotels — are not actually working for Marriott. This seems like an attempt to:

    1) Cut costs
    2) Provide some F&B revenue at limited-service brands without requiring the addition of Courtyard-style bistros
    3) Normalize grab-and-go breakfast, allowing owners and management companies to permanently eliminate labor-intensive breakfast offerings

  58. If I’m staying at a full service Marriott which I do, I want full service. Dealing with a kiosk is not going to help me with questions, upgrades, etc… horrible idea.

  59. What a crock of sh*t. Marriott has been using the pandemic excuse for over a year now to completely limit services. I am lifetime Platinum and probably stay 200 nights or so a year at their properties. If they don’t get back to normal soon, I’ll find another chain. Chains love to find ways to reduce benefits when they think we’re not watching. We are!

  60. I’m a life time Titanium member with Marriott.
    I believe Marriott is the best in the hotel business.
    However, who ever is making these poor choices, needs to STOP!
    Just checked out of the JW Marriott Grand Lakes. Orlando, FL.
    Hotel needs repair. And staff cuts are apparent in service standards.
    Marriott’s new room renovations (decor) is awful.
    Gray and dark.
    The Ritz Carlton was fabulous.
    They turned the beautiful vineyards restaurant into a “country western bar” atmosphere.
    AWFUL!
    MARRIOTT MAKE SOME MANAGEMENT CHANGES ASAP!
    THE VENDING MACHINES AND SELF CHECKIN IS TACKY!

  61. As a business traveler, these changes all make sense to me. And I’m barely a road warrior, I stay maybe 30 to 50 days a year tops before the pandemic.

    But if they’re going to implement this, they might want to be careful at leisure heavy properties, where I wouldn’t mind interacting with people because I’m on vacation and not working.

  62. I can see only one scenario that this would be a true enhancement, that of checking into a large hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. There’s usually a line to check in. That might also be true of some Orlando hotels but not in my limited experiences in Orlando.

    The advantage of not having an automated food dispenser is sometimes the rules can be bent. A little more than a year ago, I stayed mid priced (low priced business hotel) chain and was told that my status allows me a snack and a drink from the area next to the check in desk. Instead, I chose a microwave pasta dinner (99 cents at Walmart Supercenters) and a Klondike ice cream bar instead of a drink. That was enough for a small dinner at a late 11 pm arrival. A computer would have read “Error. Not allowed, scumbag”.

  63. derek, good point with Vegas. Hvent been in a decade, but I recall check in and out was a nightmare.

    Other example is when you are attending a multi-day convention. Everyone arrives around the same time so the line takes forever,

  64. Guessing that complimentary breakfast is a thing of the past. Just got back from a week with stays at 3 different Marriott properties (two Courtyards and one Fairfield). Overall they were dirty, and just downright cold. So disappointing!!

  65. Often we are told in travel websites that things surely will return to normal soon. Articles such as this and yesterday’s Hilton cost cutting tend to show a return to normal isn’t going to happen.

  66. Hilton’s Digital Keys were truly contactless, and we sought them out last August during our pandemic road trip. We skipped the front desk area entirely several days in a row. All done by smartphone, which opened the outside and inside doors.

  67. Who are they kidding. They do not have the technical expertise to pull this off. The ceo doesn’t realize the full extent of that because he doesn’t have a strong understanding of the tech and the use cases. This is actually a very typical problem with older ceos with a traditional company resume. Want proof. Just use their website and mobile app and you’ll soon realize they are not capturing enough usage combinations to deal with inconsistent information (mobile app not updating your points for weeks for example). They clearly rely on outsourcing and the number 1 problem is that outsourcing has no idea how customers actually use tech. And this is the common issues. Forget the more complicated and rare issues like overbooking or 3rd party reservations that didn’t communicate properly. And then how do you handle the human touch when the host wants to upgrade you but there are no obvious vacancies and it requires some creative room reservation rearranging. The software is just going to tell you there is nothing. The Mobile app never upgrades me. I would just ignore the app and go right to the front desk and they’ll make it work. Having a software background I can tell their IT is very mediocre. Not unusual for a hotel chain.

  68. Hotels have used kiosks for checking in for years without issue. Hyatt had them at their Hyatt Place hotels in 2008 for check-in and check-out that worked pretty well.

    I’m not sure the return of the “Automat” is going to stay long term. If I was staying at the hotel I’d bypass and go to the restaurant/diner/Starbucks down the block on my walk to work or at best they will not generate enough revenue to justify the costs incurred. I can’t wait for the executives to try it and find out how they are “good idea in theory…not so much in practice”.

  69. As far as I’m concerned, anything that reduced the need of me dealing with staff is an improvement. I can use the computer myself, thank you.

    I hate cost cutting that makes experience less pleasant (housekeeping, F&B, lounges, etc.) but this is actually pretty good.

  70. Premier Inns over in Great Britain and Europe have had kiosk check in for years. We never had a problem with it mainly because they were “day before, airport location departures,” the cost was cheaper per stay, but the room sizes and amenities were on par with some Sheratons we stayed at.

  71. Two thoughts: 1) HOPEFULLY this drives improvement to the mobile key app. It is desperately needed.

    2) I’m trying to picture what a kiosk setup in a busy hotel like the NYC Moxy is going to look like. They are going to need someone to man them anyways, as you can be certain there’s going to be lots of confusion and user issues.

  72. I agree with you 100%. I am Titanium Elite and I find the app to be inefficient if it even works at all. Kiosks even worse. Front desk staff is far more likely to be responsive when they have you face to face and I usually have requests such as no rooms with adjoining doors and these requests don’t exist on the app. While I fully support much better breakfast buffet hygiene measures in general (too many people behaving like sloppy pigs at buffets), food from a machine sounds limited and awful. If this is the direction hotels are going there will be little incentive for brand loyalty via rewards programs since much of the time it’s the high end service and staff that determine preferences to one property over another.

  73. Bad Idea Marriott and Hilton. What could go wrong? Why stay in a hotel then, if you are going to have zero service. You might as well stay in an Air B and B. Sounds like they are trying to get rid of employees- way to enhance your customer experience. I like being welcomed and interacting with people. Good luck with the vending machine experience. Nasty old breakfast sandwich made god knows when and crap coffee? Yay! 🙁 I got three words for this nonsense What The Hell.

  74. I disagree with one part, but agree with the other. I think you are way off base on the kiosks. Clearly there is a demand from customers, at least during high volume check in times, for a quick check in solution besides installing an app.

    I agree 100% about the atrocious food choices. I cannot believe anyone will think choosing food from a wall of vending machines is desirable, or contactless. I get it, look at what a Fairfield Inn buffet looks like on a Sunday morning, but this will be much worse, not better.

    Here’s how Marriott expects hotels to reduce staffing. I am currently staying in a Staybridge. No buffet, but the grab and go breakfast includes a Jimmy Dean prewrapped egg McMuffin product. Hotel staff told me that before introducing the egg McMuffin clone, the manager had tried to hire back the laid off kitchen staff, but the staff was making more money from the covid unemployment benefits than from working, so the staff wouldn’t come back. Viola, the hotel has the front desk hand out Jimmy Dean sandwiches at much lower cost.

    Hyatt Places had both of these, self service kiosks and a touch pad for food orders, years ago. (Tidbit: I signed up for Hyatt Gold Passport at a kiosk in an HP.) Both got pulled out. I know the kiosks got pulled out because they turned out to be slower than the front desk.

  75. We just stayed at the Wailea Beach Club (which was delightful), and the Marriott Waikoloa (which didn’t have daily housekeeping, and it was a struggle to get towels).

    It’s amazing how polar opposite the resort experience was. I hope they don’t go down the road of bare ass bones.

  76. Why y’all worried about checking ID? Here in the USA we say ID no longer matters. The Dems want you to do anything with our ID except maybe buy a gun.

  77. @Fred

    You mean the administration of a vaccine Trump said would be available before the end of 2020 and that his opponents said was irresponsible, wishful thinking? What does Biden have to do with administering vaccines at the state level anyway? I think you misunderstand how federalism works in the US. CNN, of course, repeatedly lied about there being no vaccination plan under Trump. Even Fauci had to refute that statement. Let’s see how you like the Harris-Biden administration with Joe Biden as President once your taxes go up to fund “anti-racism.”

    @Ben

    Are you familiar with the Henn na hotels in Japan? They are the ones of dinosaur robot check-in fame. I stayed at the one in Osaka and found it quite good. The rooms are small, but the hotel has an onsen with an open-air area that faces the bay. The breakfast is also quite good for a limited-service hotel (better than what you would find at most “luxury” hotels in the US; this was Japan, after all) and the room has a nice view of the bay as well.

  78. Will these kiosks automatically upgrade eligible Bonvoy members to the best available room? If so this is a concept I can get behind. Too many hotels in North America skip out on our promised benefits.

  79. I’ve had 12 hotel stays in the last 60 days including two Fairfield Inns. Sandwiches out of a machine for breakfast reminds me of visiting Folsom Prison and the vending machines there. I don’t need the prison approach to food in the morning and contact-less check-in when I have questions to ask. I will look elsewhere.

  80. Yes, some European cheap and cheerful brands have used kiosk check in for a while. Same with Japanese business hotels.

    I don’t usually need a human at check-in or check out for that type of short stay. If they just add a messenger function so I can text a human if I need something or additional info, that takes care of a good deal if the room itself is up to par.

  81. The Fives in Puerto Morelos uses Whats App to address customer requests, comments or concerns . I was initialy weirded by it, but it performed quite well . I highly recommend the hotel, but the Marley music ran 24/7 in the restos.

  82. Club Quarters had lovely check in machines that took a CC and spat out a key card….checked in as a 17 year old many times without an issue….I wonder what they would do if a 17 year old checked in with the kiosk and a prepaid debit card and had a wild party.

  83. Lot of BS going on at the name of efficiency, saving earth, no touch policy, hygiene, covid and so on . I don’t know when will authorities start taking notice of this bs And start punishing the abusers.

  84. Of course the biggest concern is how I can get my upgrade. Seriously. I’m pretty sure that option will be available in the kiosks as it would be at a regular Front Desk, and based on the same requirements as usual.
    And it’s not like there will be no person to talk too. In case of room change because of in-room problems etc.

  85. I am currently in a Fairfield Inn this seems on par with current standards at this level:

    1) 9 PM check in (I arrived at 7:45 pm and was told they had no clean rooms so waited in the lobby with the other guests awaiting rooms)
    2) No breakfast and/or whatever is put out is completely gone by 7 am
    3) No daily house keeping so guests go to the front counter for towels

    Staff noted due to enhanced unemployment benefits they can’t successfully call back staff. The housekeeping quality itself is not bad but it appears they have to double shift their housekeeping staff (I saw them working until at l least 10 pm).
    Status: Titanium

  86. @Lucky completely agree with your callout re: underlying functionality.

    In order to make self service work the chains must unlock a way to self service elite benefits, including upgrades.

    To me though, if Marriott is serious about the cost cutting aspects of this effort, they will quickly have data points that say “elite customers aren’t using because X, Y, Z”. As I’m sure you know from running this site, the analytics you can get on your “customer” are incredible and should draw you to these conclusions….if they want the program to be successful they’ll have to design to some of the friction points.

  87. @Bishie: I mean, the hotel franchisee or management company (99.9% certain not Marriott) could just raise the pay for housekeepers to $14 or $15. Even McDonald’s pays $13-$15 in most markets these days. I was surprised to learn the Edition (an expensive 5-star hotel!) in Miami Beach only pays housekeepers $12 an hour. Housekeeping is arguably the most important guest-facing department of a hotel’s operations. Pay the housekeepers $15 and raise room rates by $2 or $5 per night. Shame on that Fairfield Inn.

  88. I’m not butthurt by this but they really need to fix the app. I check in via the app all the time and I’ve always had to check in via the front desk. THAT is annoying. Never really like the breakfast options in the hotels without a breakfast anyways. I will grab a USA Today though.

  89. As an older person based in Europe, I hate machine check ins at hotels and airports and avoid them if I can . I have never even seen a breakfast grab and go machine in Europe and would not use it.
    Thank God we have traditional old style hotels in Europe at sensible prices with real human services

  90. I’m sure app usage is still fairly low overall. A lot of people book third party and aren’t Bonvoy members. So this solves labor reductions Marriott wants for all customers.

    I find the elite recognition is ridiculous. It’s like well thank you, can you tell me what your hotel actually provides since elite benefits change so often? It was bad before covid, and now it’s even worse. One hotel I’ve stayed at changed their breakfast offering after 1/1 permanently. They didn’t tell me about no breakfast anymore and didn’t give me the option for the $10 credit instead of points. Whatever. Complaining to Marriott goes nowhere besides excuses.

    I find I need to remember to ask for upgrades in the app as I’m never offered and asking at check in late never works out in my favor. Well, actually once the front desk called me right after I got to my room to say they had a person with a suite called to cancel. That was above and beyond for sure. Still I don’t think she would have called if I didn’t ask and as a fellow introvert I’m not good about asking.

    Oh well, Marriott is only good about low expectations. And that’s why I will likely be using Airbnb quite a lot more in the future.

  91. Come on this is all bologna it’s all about the bottom line they trying to make money. By the way with all this automation if somebody trips or Falls or chokes who’s going to help them? . Bravo cheapo’s!

  92. CitizenM hotels have used self check-in desks as far back as I can remember, and they always have staff standing nearby to assist with any queries or issues you may have. Check out is also done in the same, ultra-fast way, especially if you’ve used the Smart TV interface in your room to finalise and prepare your bill. I do think, however, that while this concept works for some brands and types of hotel, I wouldn’t expect it in a more upscale property. Having said that, the properties listed in the article are not in that category, so I don’t see the issue.

  93. I remember many times that a hotel guest service agent went above and beyond my expectations to make me feel at home and welcomed. That is what it is all about…the people,. when you take that away, the hotel is just a building with a bed. Some may like that because they view humans as

  94. We talk about diversity in the work force, creating new jobs, yet focus on autonomous solutions. All the while, taking guest interaction out of the equation. Does this mean lower nightly stay fees, or just increased bottom lines?
    Does anyone else see a surplus of labor and not enough jobs in the near future? History repeats itself… will the great depression return to haunt us?

  95. @Ben I have to agree with you on this. It seems that they are taking travelers’ desires DURING the pandemic and using it to justify long-term cuts to the customer experience. Given that the US will probably be back to normal this year, it definitely sounds less to do with making customers happy and more to do with exploiting the current situation to cut their overhead. It reminds me of post-9/11 airline changes. Before 9/11 you never paid bag fees, a free meal even in economy was commonplace, etc. All of those things mostly disappeared when the airlines were getting crushed financially and had to create new ways to make money but even when the airlines were booming in recent years, those fees and paid food still stuck around. I don’t hate the kiosk idea from the perspective of a road-warrior type person. The idea of just being able to walk up to a kiosk and have it spit out your room key is great but then that brings us to your suggestion about the app. Why not just make the app more robust and create similar functionality within the app? You could do the same thing in the app as you would at the kiosk but you could do it while you’re in your Uber from the airport. Then you get to the hotel and go straight to your room. Hopefully Marriott gets a lot of pushback from travelers during these trial periods.

  96. @adrian c
    CitizenM at Charles de Gaulle had in person check in last time we were there.

  97. it’s been so long since pre-covid that I can’t really remember what a normal brekkie at a Fairfield Inn was comprised of.

    Grab-n-Go already feels not very Elite. like I’m being thrown a sack of food and ushered out of the lobby as quickly as possible. Getting it out of a vending machine would be yet another lowering of the bar. and from the looks of it, these aren’t normal vending machines but massive contraptions that will likely cost tens of thousands of dollars to install and maintain. and Someone at the hotel Is still going to have to stock them. how many people have you ever seen actually running/ servicing a buffet at a Fairfield? I feel like it’s usually 1. How is this going to actually reduce that overhead? I do feel for these smaller properties that are managed by a third party. every grocery store, Dunkin, Wendy’s in America right now has a sign that says “now hiring” and nobody can get applicants because the unemployment benefits are better than actually working a job. sad.

  98. Every other industry has transitioned to kiosks and other forms of what is now being called “contactless.” Everyone has been trained by their banks (who btw, impound your hard earned money) to use a kiosk to get money out when the bank is closed….and that has been true for decades!! The only surprise in all of this is that the hotel industry needed to go to this model many, many years ago and is very late in the game. The likes of Hilton and Marriott didn’t care to make this transition because they were skimming off the top of its franchisees whereas airlines are responsible for their entire operation and couldn’t skirt the labor cost. Sure, this is a cost cutting measure, but quite frankly, you aren’t paying enough for your room to have the hotel justify keeping more and more employees. I’m glad the Hilton CEO pretty much is telling everyone that when cuts are being made permanent. This industry will not survive without these cuts…if you aren’t willing to pay more even at the Fairfield Inn or Hampton, then you will definitely see these cuts. When the electorate and consequently, politicians are pushing for higher minimum wages combined with unemployment handouts until the end of time, you can be sure that services and labor will be cut if the customer isn’t willing to pay. Lesson of the day…contrary to what you may have heard, progressive policies aren’t free.

  99. @cargocult – your taxes (along with ~98% of Americans) won’t be going up…nice try though! Keep defending the digital white supremacists like you enjoy doing, chump.

  100. I agree with your points. I want to know how the system will decide the room and deal with the room upgrades. There is often a lot of areas that require the human intervention as part of the process.

  101. Reporting live from the Moxy NYC Times Sq: The kiosks didn’t work for me and pretty much everyone that arrived around the same time, giving an error message… there’s 2 check in windows on opposite sides of the lobby so you can imagine the confusion and the line cutting that happened. It’s been a few days and I rarely see people using them – or when they do, there’s a hotel staff member hovering and assisting. I used to travel for work weekly and I don’t mind the concept, if it was executed and worked well. How about the app – as you suggested Ben? Speaking of the app – 3 days in and it’s still “preparing your mobile key”.

    Oh, and btw, EP here and no upgrade, no acknowledgement and stuck on a low-floor where I can smell smoke and restaurant exhaust in my room. Avoid this one folks!

  102. What many frequent travelers realize is just how many people frequently travel. Every single person cannot receive an upgrade.

    The upgraded rooms are also for sale, and many people with no status choose to purchase them.

    Using these machines to check people in will give the one person overseeing the front desk operation more ability to make your mobile check-in enjoyable. You still have the opportunity to receive an upgrade because someone is still going through and physically blocking the rooms, however, it’s usually a random picking based on status.

    The front desk currently tries to manage the mobile check-in process while being asked “where is the nearest restaurant?” And “why didn’t I get an upgrade?” by every Silver Elite member who arrives.

    I disagree that Marriott does a poor job upgrading elite members, they do a great job selling premium rooms.

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