A story by Eric Jan van Haastrecht
Having been “locked up” long enough, we feel the urge to go outside again and enjoy the beauty of life. However, we still want to ensure that we are safe while we’re on the road and try to avoid as many physical contact with others as possible. This is no different in China, although they are more vigilant in following the rules and are all wearing masks.
Therefore, wouldn’t it be great if there would be a hotel that can promise you that during your stay, there would not be any interaction with other human beings at all? And to make it even better; the only items you need are your ID, telephone and toothbrush.
So how will this look like? Let’s start from the time that you arrive at the hotel after you have already booked a room online. You get off the self-driving Didi taxi (Didi is the equivalent of Uber in China) and when entering the lobby you will be greeted by a robot that requests you to look at its face in order to be able to measure your temperature, all in a friendly tone of voice.
After having received the green light, you will proceed to one of the automatic check-in machines where you will be asked to key in your reservation number and scan your ID card. After confirmation, you will receive your room card or an automatic message on your telephone with a unique QR code. This is similar to the automatic check-in machines at airports where you receive your boarding pass.
Since your luggage is quite heavy, you will require assistance from the luggage robot; a machine that can carry your luggage and guide you to your room. The only thing you need is to swipe your room card or scan your QR code. After that it will lead you to the elevator. Here, with a built-in chip in the elevator control panel, it can call for the elevator and automatically select the floor that you are staying at. It will guide you to your room and once you have opened the door with your key card or QR code, it will open its protected compartment to take your luggage out. Do you think it will hold its hand up for a tip? NO, it will wish you a fantastic stay with a smile and reminds you that it can offer you its services 24/7.
While in your room you can control the television, lighting, curtains, air conditioning, music and wakeup call through the mini program or your app. Off course, travelling makes you hungry. So why not order something through the system? It is as easy as 1,2,3 … you only have to select “Anna” on your telephone. Anna is the name of your AI personal assistant. She will be the modern in-room directory whom can share the facilities of the hotel with you and show you the in-room dining menu. Just select what you like from the projected pictures, confirm your room number, pay your order and that is that!
After 20–30 minutes the telephone in your room would ring. A friendly voice will tell you that the service robot is at the front of your door for you to pick up your ordered food items. Once you open the door, you will see a cute little machine, asking you to press open on the screen in order for its compartment to open and for you to take out your ordered food. Bon Appetit! By the way, do you know that your burger has been made by Flippy the robot?
There is a chance that you do not like the food available from the hotel. No worries, there are plenty of delivery services available around to bring you your favorite meals. As requested, you do not want to interact with anybody during this period. Therefore, the food will be placed in a delivery cabinet. Once arrived, your item will be place in a protected cabinet and you will receive a message with a unique code. The only thing that you will have to do is to go to the delivery cabinet, key in your unique code and the door to your ordered items will open. Bon Appetit, once again!
After you have finished your lunch, you still feel that there is room for dessert. Luckily, you saw an ice-bot in the lobby. The robot, after having paid through your telephone, will present you with a perfect soft ice cream cone. Any coffee with that? It will be a pleasure for the machine to help you with that as well. If you are too tired to leave your room, you can also select something from the service robot’s online shop and it will be brought to your room with pleasure.
Unfortunately, you don’t have time to visit any sightseeing spots and it would be too crowded anyway. Therefore, it is a nice touch that the hotel has Nreal glasses provided in the room. They are the first ready-to-wear mixed reality glasses that are both lightweight and comfortable. Being only 88 grams light and with a 52-degree field of view, you can now explore the city without even having to leave your room.
Your day has been long and satisfying. But before going to sleep it may be worthwhile to do some exercise. The mini program on your telephone will help you to select your preferred work out that counts the amount of calories burnt. After that you are ready for bed and your alarm has been set; not an annoying sound, but the service of the curtains automatically opening up for you to have a natural awakening. In order to have better quality sleep, the sleep assistant will help you with a suitable “lullaby”.
Breakfast delivered by the robot was great and it is always nice to hear that someone is wishing you a pleasant day. Time to check out. Since you have already paid for your trip online and received your official bill with VAT invoice through e-mail, the only thing to do is check out. No need to worry that you will be meeting any real person on your last part of this seamless journey; just confirm your check-out through the app or drop your key in the express check-out box. And as cherry on the cake, there is Anna again, asking you to feedback her services and to see if you need any help with transportation. If you think this is a dream world, think again! Yes, this world does exist, just pay a visit in China once the boarders reopen again…
What is in it for the hotel?
One large advantage will be the saving of labor expenses. Looking at how much a hotel needs to pay for social insurance, meals, uniforms besides the labor cost, it may be more beneficial to having some “iron soldiers”. Besides that, they will not get sick, have a bad mood or go on a strike. And you are sure that you will be having a very consistent service.
Besides that, the behavior of guests can be traced far better. This can help in improving services quickly and influence their spending or decision making.
This is a story of the Futurists Club
Written by: Eric Jan van Haastrecht
Originally from The Netherlands, Eric Jan has been working and living in China since 2004. He first graduated from Breda University of Applied Sciences, Institute for Tourism and Trade ( formerly known as NHTV), and continued studying at Hotel School The Hague where he obtained his Bachelor degree in 2003.
After having worked in The Netherlands for one year, he felt the work was not “challenging” enough and decided to take the leap to China; a place where he had experienced life as a management trainee before. He started as a Brazilian restaurant manager in Beijing and within 9 years he obtained his first General Manager position of a 5-star international hotel in Lanzhou.
His journey has brought him to Beijing, Chengdu, Lanzhou, Tianjin and since 2017 he has been working in Shanghai. If not on duty, he likes doing sports, playing with his children or trying new gins and wines. He does not like to be predictable, except for his double espresso in the morning, and therefore treats every day as a new opportunity to make a difference.