How One Hotel Company Is Wowing Planners With Robots

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by Lori Tenny  of MEETINGS TODAY

If you think robots take the personal touch out of an interaction, think again.

Hotel robots are popping up left and right, and Interstate Hotels and Resorts is eliciting quite the warm and fuzzy reactions when making special deliveries with this latest technology.

The company, which manages more than 480 properties and counting worldwide, is deploying robots in some unique ways to seal the deal on group business, make a memorable impression during events and provide the overall wow factor for guests, your attendees included.

“In the 35 years I have been working in the hotel industry, it’s probably one the biggest guest satisfiers and points of differentiation,” said Michael D’Amodio, regional general manager of four Interstate properties in the Los Angeles area that are using robots developed by Savioke, a startup in Silicon Valley.

Two versions of Hannah, the Relay Robot, operate at the H Hotel at LAX, part of Hilton’s Curio Collection, which opened in October 2017 as a dual-branded property, with a Hilton occupying the upper floors and a Homewood Suites occupying the lower floors. H Hotel features 168 guest rooms, meeting space and a roof deck that is also available for events.

Meanwhile, the Embassy Suites by Hilton LAX North, Residence Inn by Marriott LAX and Residence Inn by Marriott Beverly Hills feature three Relay Robots: Winne, Wally and Beverly, respectively.

The hotel robots have won over guests, including meeting attendees, with deliveries of everything from additional towels and toiletries to coffee, snacks and small meals, among other items.

“Guests are always taking selfies with the robots and posting on social media and review sites like TripAdvisor,” D’Amodio said. “To get people so passionate about something nowadays to actually go on a review site and talk about it is not easy.”

Hotel Robots Can Also Assist at Meetings and Events

Meanwhile, the robots have a starring role when it comes to site inspections. When meeting planners are touring the property, the robots are programmed to come to the guest room.

When the phone rings, the planner is told the call is for them. As the planner picks up the phone, the robot introduces itself and says it’s at the door with their items.

When the planner opens the door to see Wally or one of the other robots opening the glove box with items, it’s always a fun surprise for them, according to D’Amodio.

“We’ve had the robot deliver everything from cupcakes sprinkled with the company logo for Virgin America to the contract we’d like the planner to sign,” he said. “And we’ve won the group business because of the robots. At the end of the day, when a planner is looking for the differentiators after the basics are met, this has been a big one. At first, they are very inquisitive, then it’s just a big wow when they figure it out.”

The robots have also been used for events to deliver things such as champagne and flutes for a group toast in addition to other items, and the possibilities are endless, D’Amodio said. As an added perk, they can be programmed to deliver amenity gifts to attendees in their rooms depending on the group size.

Interstate will soon implement Savioke’s Relay Robots at other hotels, including a robot named Rose at the boutique Hotel Trio, opening spring 2018 in the Wine Country town of Healdsburg, California.