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Innovative Hotel Check-Ins

the W Retreat & Spa, in the Maldives.

Photo: Courtesy of W Retreat & Spa—Maldives

It may not have a fleet of 14 bespoke Rolls-Royce Phantoms like its legendary 1928 namesake in Hong Kong, but the Peninsula Beverly Hills, designed by James Northcutt, prides itself on extraordinary service just the same. Like the monogrammed pillowcases, like the customized room scents, like most things at the luxe Los Angeles hotel, check-in is a flawless affair. From the moment you arrive you are in the hands of your own guest relations manager, who will know your name, have your registration materials and keys, and escort you to your room, suite, or private villa in the garden—bypassing the front desk along the way. These days, check-in can start at the airport. During the past 18 months, the hotel has expanded its reach to Los Angeles International Airport, permanently deploying five concierges to greet arriving guests. According to Gareth Roberts, a manager at the hotel, some 45 percent of guests arriving by air book a car and a driver through the hotel, which adds between $134 and $280 to their bills, depending on whether they specify a Lincoln Town Car, a BMW, Mercedes-Benz, or luxury SUV. Your Peninsula concierge will retrieve your luggage, lead you to your car idling at the curb, and present you with a menu so that you can order room service on your way to the hotel. “It is truly a stress-free and seamless process,” Roberts says. “We do not require guests to ‘line up and wait.’ Our front-door staff knows exactly who is arriving at what time.”

At the new Andaz hotel at 75 Wall Street, in lower Manhattan, check-in is also a breeze. There are no glacial queues to stand in, no tedious forms to fill out and sign, no scripted “How was your flight?” chitchat to endure. In lieu of a conventional check-in desk, a host greets you in the lobby, offers you a seat and a glass of wine, and enters your name into a handheld e-tablet that looks something like an iPad. After swiping your credit card and producing a key card, the host escorts you to your room—which, for around $275, features 345 square feet of crisply designed and furnished space, 10-foot ceilings, dark stained-oak floors, and a long, transparent window between the bedroom and the bathtub (see the It List).

Or you can skip the pleasantries, not break your time-is-money Wall Street stride, and check in with your peripatetic host in the elevator. The 253-room Hyatt-owned property, which opened in February and was designed by David Rockwell, will be followed this month by the 184-room Andaz 5th Avenue, designed by Tony Chi, on a high-profile site in midtown directly across from Carrère and Hastings’s 1911 New York Public Library. It, too, jettisons the conventional check-in desk in favor of an e-tablet-wielding host, as do the Andaz Hotels in London, San Diego, and West Hollywood, California. In terms of checking in, Hyatt is on to something with Andaz, which is Hindi for “personal style.” The experience is simultaneously high-tech and high-touch—efficient and personable. “To me, checking in feels a bit like going to the principal’s office,” says Rockwell, who was keen to “remove the formality from the experience.”

Rockwell has given check-in more thought than most. His current roster of projects includes the renovation of the restaurant and public spaces at the Hotel Bel-Air, in Los Angeles, and two new W Hotels: one adjacent to the Palais Garnier, in Paris, another in Vieques, Puerto Rico. He is also the architect responsible for Aloft, the fast-growing chain of hotels that parent company Starwood likes to bill as “style at a steal,” because the typical room rate is $125.

Check-in at Aloft is via a circular Aloha kiosk reminiscent of the e-ticket machines at airports—only staffed. You also have the option of using smaller, unstaffed kiosks, which will not only check you in to the hotel but also print out airline boarding passes. Upping the technological ante, the Aloft in Lexington, Massachusetts, 20 minutes outside of Boston, is now testing a third protocol. Called Smart Check-In and developed in collaboration with VingCard Elsafe, a security technology company for the hospitality industry, it allows Starwood Preferred Guest members to be issued SPG/Aloft-branded radio frequency identification (RFID) key cards. On the day of a planned stay, a text message with the guest’s room number is sent to his or her smart phone. Once at the hotel, the guest goes straight to the room, where the key card unlocks the door. If all goes according to Starwood’s plan, Smart Check-In could become an Aloft signature.


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