Future is now with new hotel tech

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At the Aria, every room includes at least one tablet, enabling guests to order room service, make a dinner reservation or set a wake-up call.
At the Aria, every room includes at least one tablet, enabling guests to order room service, make a dinner reservation or set a wake-up call.

In Las Vegas, a city that proclaims itself to be a buffet of minor sins there for the taking, no one particularly wants to stand in line to join the action or to simply go and unwind. But that was the problem that Caesars Entertainment was having.

"Vegas is a tough place, because you've got these massive resorts and you have to deal with large groups arriving on airplanes at very specific times," said Tariq Shaukat, the executive vice president and chief commercial officer for Caesars. "You end up with lines that nobody wants to have."

To solve that problem and offer guests more self-service options, the company has recently deployed new check-in kiosks at a notorious choke point: the hotel lobby.

Shaukat said the kiosks function similarly to the familiar terminals in airports. When guests arrive, they scan their ID to verify their reservation, swipe payment information to have on file and receive a key directly from the machine. They can also browse room upgrade options on the screen and choose to change rooms or proceed with the reservation as booked.

"It's very similar to how the check-in experience would be at the front desk, but through the technology instead," Shaukat said.

Caesars has rolled out check-in kiosks at three resorts so far and plans to deploy them at all of its Vegas properties this year.
Caesars has rolled out check-in kiosks at three resorts so far and plans to deploy them at all of its Vegas properties this year.

So far, Caesars has installed 17 kiosks in a phased rollout that started at the Linq Hotel before debuting at the Flamingo and Caesars Palace. The option is noted in virtually every pre-arrival touch point, and lobby ambassadors point out the kiosks to arriving guests.

While not all customers can check in using the terminals — cash payers, those with reservations in someone else's name and visitors under 21 years old still need to visit the front desk — Shaukat said that roughly 90% of the people who initiate check-in at the kiosks complete the process successfully. On some of the properties, roughly a third of the guests are using the terminals.

Shaukat said the plan is to deploy the machines across all of the company's Vegas properties and potentially some outside the Las Vegas market. In the future, the kiosks could also offer restaurant reservations or ticket sales, though they won't replace a smiling face at the front desk.

"To us, it's really all about choice," Shaukat said. "There are absolutely some customers who want to talk to a person and get a little help. We don't envision a world where that option goes away."

A resort at your fingertips

The Aria also tapped into technology to give its guests an expedited experience, but rather than installing devices in public spaces, the property is emphasizing in-room tech. Just in time for January's Consumer Electronics Show, the resort introduced tablets in every room, putting room and hotel amenities at guests' fingertips.

Created in collaboration with Crave Interactive over nine months, the new, proprietary tablets replaced older touch screens that controlled the features of each room: opening the blinds, turning on the lights or changing TV channels.

The new devices drastically expanded those capabilities and offered additional ones. Now, guests can browse the spa menu and put in an appointment request. They can reserve a table at a restaurant or book an in-room package such as a birthday celebration or Champagne and strawberries. Room service is available and fully customizable, so a guest can get a burger with no cheese and extra avocado or order a takeout pizza from Five50 downstairs. When an in-room dining order is placed, the guest will receive a live feed tracking the time until the food arrives.

"On the convention side of it, we're talking to our partners to be able to sell different packages," said Derek Schoen, director of marketing. The Aria can build a custom interface for groups or enable messaging or video capabilities to keep organizers in touch with their attendees.

To serve the resort's international clientele, every piece of content on the tablets is translated into six languages, and a news tab offers access to 1,500 daily newspapers and magazines from around the globe.

Schoen said the current lineup of services is just a hint at the device's potential.

In April, the Aria plans to add housekeeping services, so guests can request extra towels without getting on the phone. In the future, the tablets might enable bookings beyond the Aria's walls, so visitors can make a dinner reservation at the MGM Grand or purchase show tickets at other MGM Resorts properties.

The tablets also enable the Aria to learn about its guests and what their interests are around the resort.

"We know every click that a guest performs on here," Schoen said. "One in 10 are using the alarm clock. The most purchased in-room dining item is coffee."

The goal, he said, is to change and optimize the content to better serve guests' needs and preferences. That means the more people use these in-room toys, the more useful they'll get.

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