What it’s like to stay and work in an automated hotel
Guests staying in a Sextant hotel in new orleans check in without any human interaction. They are greeted by a virtual concierge visible on a computer screen but based thousands of miles away. And if they want to relax after a stressful flight, a shot of Maker’s Mark bourbon from the lobby’s automated liquor dispenser will cost them $5 – but if someone isn’t there in person that day to check on their ID and present them with a special card for the machine, they are out of luck.
Welcome to the rapidly changing world of hotel automation, where wall monitors and chatbots have replaced in-person interactions with human staff, and third-party technology and service partnerships are at the heart of the business model.
For hospitality startups like Sextant Stays, which owns and operates apartment buildings and homes in Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and New Orleans that are available for short- and long-term stays, the desire for contactless interactions during the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated a mission to make larger spaces and premium amenities accessible to customers at lower prices by integrating automated technology and reducing labor costs. Yet, while automation adds novelty and convenience, it opens the door to new technical issues and introduces unique work dynamics that go beyond the usual tensions when robots replace humans.
“We don’t want to remove all human interaction. We are simply trying to rethink the traditional hotel cost structure,” said Sextant Stays CEO Andreas King-Geovanis.
Some large hotel chains have introduced contactless features during the pandemic, such as online payment and digital room keys, and many are using automated systems to enable personalized digital communications with guests. A minimum number of hotels today have experimented with real robots to activate check-in and concierge services or to deliver drinks or food to guests. However, hospitality startups like Sextant, Sonder, and others are paving the way for what the wider hospitality industry might one day look like.