Hire the hotel and be served by bots

Last updated: November 4, 2020

Changing rooms into office spaces, housing the homeless and cooking school dinners… Hotels are responding to the Covid crisis in many innovative and helpful ways

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The hotel buffet is officially out this summer. Replaced by in-room recipe kits ordered on an app and delivered, contact-free directly to your door, but only after temperature checks at check-in. Soon, hotels will re-open across the world, but what will they look like after the coronavirus?

New Era of Luxury And Safety

Privacy, whether locked away behind the iron gates of a vast Mediterranean estate or aboard a fully-staffed yacht perched off the French Riviera, has been a growing concern in travel for some time now. But in 2020, with Covid-19 bringing a growing need for increased health and safety, which to some will be as simple as staying away from others, privacy is becoming a necessity.

Cue Hotel buyouts, or “private hotel experiences”. Generally, the domain of the super-rich and famous, or the occasional corporate retreat. Buyouts are set to become the grandest and surest way to stay corona-free while on holiday. And the concept is simple enough: book the entire hotel, or a 20-roomed villa for the entire family, or an island far away from the virus hotspots, and luxuriate in the finest COVID-safe experiences that money can buy.

These experiences come in all shapes and sizes and can include a full regiment of staff in your villa, as well as a private jet as with The Greek Villas, a significant chunk of an island as with Nihi in Indonesia, a fully private 10-day self-service experience in the languid Irish countryside at Loungueville House, or perhaps a stunning, out-of-the-way retreat in the Scottish Highlands at swoon-worthy Links House.

Of course, this isn’t within everyone’s budget, but something else to look for with a Covid compliant holiday is guest capacity. Which, for many hotels promises to be 50% less than usual, resulting in altogether more personal and private experiences, whether you have the place to yourself or not.

Beverage in Bed?

Anyone paying attention to their local restaurants of late will have noticed a seismic shift towards self-service. Michelin-starred chefs are available for delivery and take out in London and the world and Restaurant Kits by Scottish favourite Mac & Wild are now going national with the promise of the UK’s favourite restaurants signing up to send their recipes directly to your door. And this trend looks set to continue into hotels.

But as restaurants assign chief hygiene officers to keep things Covid-secure, hotels perform temperature checks on entry, and hospitality businesses in the UK seek to earn the certification for AA’s COVID Confident Accreditation Scheme (as well as similar schemes internationally), some are taking things just a little bit further.

Of particular note is Auberge Resorts who have devised a Happy Hour kit with ingredients, glassware, and a playlist to set the mood for guests’ very own in-room bars, as well as barbecue kits and picnic baskets (with sanitised blankets, of course) for al fresco dining. Four Seasons have digitised many of its processes, and in New York the only meal options come pre-boxed in refrigerators in the lobby (though this looks set to expand as the hotel learns and adapts.

Novel Seclusion in Japan

Japan’s seemingly endless supply of whimsy and inventiveness has had a chance to shine during the pandemic. First, as with other countries, Japan turned to its hotels to house Covid-19 patients with lighter symptoms, but in two of those hotels, guests were greeted by a cute, anthropomorphized helper robot with big round eyes and a mask slipping from its face, welcoming visitors with a chirpy reminder to “wear a mask inside”.

As we look to a future of drastically minimised contact is a sign of things to come? Will robots like Pepper (above), Ugo — who can sterilise door handles with onboard UV light, and Patoro — the ‘autonomous security bot’, recently re-marketed as a patrol and disinfection robot, be the front of house staff we need in a safer world of social distancing?

Recently, to woo customers back, some hotels have begun offering incentives to weary travellers. One such offering is by Homeikan, an operator of traditional Japanese-style inns in Tokyo, which managed to book out every one of its rooms for March 2020 by offering a novel, almost role-play-like experience that promised to make guests feel like some of Japan’s most revered writers.

The concept is simple — these Ryokan Inns were once known as a refuge for writers trying to keep up with tight deadlines and are famous for the authors who visited them, many locking themselves away until their work was complete. Homeikan promises to recreate this, making visitors feel just like one of those authors by locking them away in those very same rooms.

Guests check-in (but must stay in their room for the duration of their stay) and do their work, or simply sit in seclusion, and hotel staff occasionally check in on them, roleplaying the part of a concerned publishing house editor. But of course, the point is to practice social distancing… but make it fun, thematic, an escape.

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RightRooms believes all information to be correct at time of going to press. As guidance, research and facts around Covid-19 are changing constantly, the information provided here is for general information only and does not constitute professional advice. Please check with venues, locations and attractions before travelling.

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