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Innovative Hotel Check-Ins

the W Retreat & Spa, in the Maldives.

Photo: Courtesy of W Retreat & Spa—Maldives

Technological wizardry, of course, is not for everyone. For those who consider state-of-the-art check-in too impersonal, there are a number of hotels at the opposite end of the spectrum that cater to those who, say, eschew the ATM in favor of a teller—not because they have forgotten their PIN, but because they want the face-to-face, “Have a nice day” interaction. “We only do guest-to-staff check-in,” says Vivian Deuschl, corporate vice president of public relations for Ritz-Carlton. “Kiosks and other such impersonal ways of checking in are not really our style.”

There is something both leisurely and luxurious about checking in to the new Palazzina Grassi, in Venice, a 26-room hotel designed by Philippe Starck with a rich material palette of stone, old brick, mirror, mahogany, and Murano glass and tile (see the It List). Guests can check in “anytime, anyplace” they choose. If you happen to come by water, for example, you can check in aboard the vintage 1962 Celli boat that transports guests to the renovated 16th-century palace’s private dock on the Grand Canal, where a stylized bull’s head on a wooden door is the sole sign that you have arrived. Or if you arrive by land, you can check in “at your leisure” in the bar over a glass of Prosecco, or in your room. “There is no ‘reception.’ It’s more like a private club than a hotel,” says owner Emanuele Garosci, a former car and motorcycle rally driver who did a stint, years back, working for hotelier Ian Schrager at Morgans and Paramount, in New York.

Check-in at the W Retreat & Spa—Maldives begins when guests arrive at Male International Airport, on Hulhule Island. There are W Welcome Ambassadors to greet them and direct them to the W Van that takes them to the W Lounge, where they are offered food, drinks, and, if they choose, a shower. Meanwhile, W Welcome Agents complete the check-in process before guests board a seaplane for the 25-minute flight to the private Fesdu Island, where the 78-villa resort is situated. Once guests arrive on the island, they are brought directly to their villas.

At AnaYela, in Marrakesh, Morocco, you do not check in at all. At least not in North Africa. Instead, check-in is handled long-distance, before guests arrive in Marrakesh. They are transported by SUV from Menara International Airport to the ramparts of the medina, from which it is a five-minute walk to the five-room hotel. The owners, former Berliners Andrea and Bernd Kolb, designed the hotel in collaboration with Yannick Hervy, and it opened in 2008 after a yearlong renovation. Local artisans did all the work on the 200-year-old riad by hand—from the architecture and pool to the furniture and flatware.

The Kolbs greet their guests not with desks, forms, and credit-card swipes, but with milk and dates, a traditional Moroccan welcome. “It would disrupt the process of giving our guests the opportunity to dive in to Marrakesh,” says Andrea when asked about conventional check-in procedures. Which is not to say that the Kolbs don’t recognize the importance of the moment of arrival, whether understated or formal or efficiently technological, just that it’s evolving. In this case, at AnaYela, the idea is to offer the most authentic Moroccan experience possible, from the moment guests step out of the SUV into the throbbing medina and make their way to the front door.

Charles Gandee is a T+L contributing editor.

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