By Marti Mayne
Recently, while visiting Manhattan I stayed at the Yotel, on the city’s west side. Chosen for its access to the Javitz Convention Center, I was taken aback by the low touch, low welcome approach here. The experience starts with a number of kiosks in the lobby with glowing pink and purple lights. Guests are supposed to know how to check themselves in at these kiosks. For millenials and younger, this may have seemed hip. To me – accustomed to a friendly, hands-on and helpful approach to the Inns Along the Coast check-in, I found it cold and impersonal. What’s more, half the lobby here was taken up by a huge locker room of sorts with an enormous robot. Given the small rooms here, guests are “invited” (for a fee) to store their luggage in the lockers attended by a huge robot, named “Yobot”. Once again, guests are left to figure out how to get the robot to open the door, take the luggage and store it. Fast forward to the Inns Along the Coast – a group of nine coastal inns – and the welcome is completely different. Guests are greeted by name, offered a tour of the property and luggage is carried by a person – not a robot – to the room. It’s the personal approach that these nine Maine inns offer that brings guests coming back.
Head over to Japan and you’ll find even more of this robot technology. At the Henn na Hotel, in the town of Sasebo, near Nagasaki, robot technology is well on the way of replacing humans. Enter and go to the front desk and a velociraptor greets you then asks you to check-in using the provided touchscreen, while a female Android flaps its eyelashes at you. On entering your room, via face recognition, there’s another robot that can control the heating, lighting, provide a weather forecast, and sing all at your request. Quirky yes. Personalized, no way.
Marriott and Hilton hotels have begun moving to robot concierge. According to an article about robot technology at hotels on Socialtables, “Back in March last year it was widely reported that Hilton, together with IBM had announced a partnership. The purpose of this was to bring a robot called Connie to the hotel brands McLean, Virginia branch. Connie named after Hilton’s founder, Conrad, is a concierge, able to inform guests about nearby places of interest. Plus, give dining recommendations and information about the hotel. Powered by IBM’s Watson super-computer AI, Connie is about as personable as a robot can get.” And that’s the point – how personable and hospitable can a robot be?
Enter the lobby of any of the Inns Along the Coast and immediately that sense of “ahhhhhh” takes over. Inns Along the Coast innkeepers talk about how they can see the stress visually fade from their guests’ face the minute they step in the door. Add the signature hug, hearty handshake and the big smiles both innkeepers and returning guests have when they come back, and that’s simply something that a hard plastic robot can’t offer. And these innkeepers remember too. They know the preferences of their returning guests and will create an experience that focuses on individualized hospitality that no robot could ever provide.
But let’s get to the next level. We know that a robot could never provide the listening ear and consolation for a mourning widow or pick up a guest by the scene of an accident on the way to their vacation and bring them to the inn. These and many more acts of kindness are daily occurrences with the innkeepers at Inns Along the Coast.
We at Inns Along the Coast are confident in our ability to offer supreme service, unparalleled by any hotel chain and certainly never to be eclipsed by a robot. While we’ll concede that some hotels offer fine accommodations, we know that they will never be able to compete on the same level as inns and B&Bs for service. There’s a saying that we hear often at inns and B&Bs: “Arrive as Strangers, Leave as Friends”. Sorry, but your robot butler will never become your friend.
Looking for friends and management that truly cares? Consider one of the Inns Along the Coast for your next New England getaway, holiday or vacation.
Granite Inn: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, website: www.OldGraniteInn.com, reservations: 207-594-9036, 800-386-9036. Innkeepers: Ed & Joan Hantz
LimeRock Inn: Email: info@LimeRockinn.com, website: www.LimeRockinn.com, reservations: 800-546-3762, 207-594-2257. Innkeepers: Daniel and Ashley Bonneau and their daughter, Vieve.
Aysgarth Station B&B: Email: email@example.com, website: www.aysgarthstation.com, 207-288-9655, Innkeeper: Melody Kronenberg.