Hotel Check-In Automation: Is It Time The Hotel Industry Abandons The Front Desk?

By March 30, 2021March 31st, 2022hotels
laptop on top of a hotel room table

Bad news, chandeliers: the days of the old-fashioned hotel reception front desk are over.

In today’s super-connected, always-online, on-demand, post-Covid world, modern hotels that survive and thrive will prioritize contactless check-in that can be done entirely through a smartphone or 24/7 kiosk. 

Old-fashioned, elaborate hotels may have once wowed with huge reception desks and glitzy interiors, but nowadays these are more likely to be seen as shiny distractions to stop guests from realizing how long it’s taking to get their keys.

With automated check-in, there’s no waiting around. No limited check-in times. No excess non-Covid-safe contact with receptionists. No staff being paid to hang around “just in case” there’s a problem.

Instead, everything is streamlined and easy to manage for you; and straightforward and seamless for guests. And the few staff you do have can focus on pleasing guests and offering exceptional service, rather than worrying about bottlenecks at check-in and handing over keys.

As Francis Davidson-Tanguay, the founder and CEO of super-modern hotel brand Sonder—which uses automated check-in at all of its properties—told Skift: “A huge part of us having a competitive edge over a typical hotel is that we rethink and automate many processes.”

“The fact that hotels still have a person typing in who knows what when you’re checking in at a hotel is a complete joke.”

Francis Davidson-Tanguay


Could it time for your hotel to abandon the front desk too? We say yes. Read on to see why, and how to get your hotel set up for success as soon as possible.

What is hotel check-in automation?

Put simply, hotel check-in automation involves the use of technology to circumvent the traditional check-in process, enabling guests to begin their stays and gain access to their rooms without interacting with a traditional check-in desk.

This could mean that the guest can check themselves in and pay using a self-service kiosk, or they can use another digital system to access their room—such as a code for a keypad sent to them via an app, email, or another online check-in browser-based platform.

Automated check-in doesn’t necessarily mean that there are no staff around at all, that the first space guests see is empty and cold, or that the check-in process is clinical—it just means that a guest’s access to a room is not dependent on there being a receptionist or staff member to help them, and check-in is done digitally.

The check-in process can still be warm, friendly, easy, and streamlined for everyone involved, and it means that the guest is much less likely to be waiting or lining up to check in and doesn’t need to arrive at a certain time.

A screenshot from showing a man managing his automated check-in system remotely on his laptop_

With Operto ConnectTM, you can manage the entire system digitally and remotely (Photo:

Automated check-in also means that there is no need for staff to be paid to hang around, “just in case” someone shows up.

With automated check-in, guests can book in and be sent their access codes or instructions in advance—and the entire process can be monitored via a connected, online platform such as Operto ConnectTM. 

This means you always know when guests will be arriving and can ensure their space is welcoming, clean, and ready for them, without requiring anyone to be on-site at the time, or waiting around in case of travel delays.

Automated check-in allows you to give guests access easily, without relying on a staff member. This means you can manage the entire process remotely.

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Ready to fully automate your hotel check-in process while increasing guest satisfaction?

Can automated check-in systems maintain a personal touch?

Some in the hotel industry today fear that getting rid of hotel reception desks will make the guest experience feel faceless and cold, and reduce the “hospitality” welcome that so many hotels pride themselves on delivering. 

Some also fear that if guests have less contact with staff, there will be fewer opportunities to offer upgrades or upsells or make a great first impression.

But we believe that automated check-in will actually create a much better first impression because nowadays guests expect super-easy, totally-online, automated check-in from the start.

Tired travelers have no desire to line up and wait to check-in, or talk with an unknown staff member after a long journey. They just want to arrive, check-in themselves at the touch of a button, and start feeling at home, no awkward interactions required.

Nowadays, customers that are used to watching Netflix and ordering groceries online expect everything to be streamlined, personalized, on-demand 24/7, and digital, either via their phone or another such platform. A hotel is no different.

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Automated hotel check-in is about more than just doors

With Operto Guest, you can send guests to their own digital, personalized portal when they book, so they have everything they need to check in well in advance. Far from making their experience impersonal, this means the opposite is true—the guest has their own log-in, and feels comfortable, in control, and at ease even before they arrive, and this continues during and after check-in.

A digital system that uses personalized codes and keypads for access means there is also far less room for error or miscommunication or annoying problems such as keycards demagnetizing. 

In our post-Covid world, a check-in system that allows automated access without excess human interaction is also likely to make guests feel extra safe and secure.

An automated system in your front office means your staff can care for your guests

Keeping the details of your guests digitally also means you can tailor their experience to them, including notes on possible allergies, preferences, or requests. Collecting their data centrally means you can contact them personally during or after their stay, improving customer relationships throughout too.

In fact, the simple, streamlined system means guests are likely to be wowed by the check-in efficiency, rather than put off by the automation.

As Ryan Killeen, general manager of The Annex Hotel in Canada, and a user of Operto ConnectTM, says: “Operto has been fantastic for the hotel. It still wows people on their first experience.”

Connecting your automated entry system with a platform such as Operto ConnectTM also means that you can offer the guest even more tips and features to help them feel welcome and at home via the same page. 

This might include giving them the Wi-Fi password, offering them a local map and recommendations, and access to housekeeping or room service. You can also upsell them recommendations and added extras through their phone, making the experience feel less “salesy”, and more trusted and personal.

With Operto ConnectTM, you can also give guests control of their thermostat, so they can adjust the temperature to their perfect level when they arrive. A warm experience, literally!

02_A screenshot from showing a range of smart devices that integrate with Operto ConnectTM, including thermostats, smart locks and noise monitors

Operto ConnectTM integrates with a wide range of devices including thermostats, smart locks, and noise monitors (Photo:

Hotel check-in automation—and connecting it all via a central platform—actually improves the guest experience because of its easy, super-streamlined approach; lack of bottlenecks and lines at Reception; and simple ability to be customized to guests’ modern-day needs and expectations.

Overall, it also means that you will likely save money on excess staff and other overheads required for a traditional Reception area, and you can pass some of those savings on to the guest, making your hotel even better value for a better experience. Win, win.

Automation in the hospitality industry: How can you achieve a fully automated check-in process?

Depending on your hotel, guests, and needs, there is a range of options out there. The most popular solutions are to use an automated check-in kiosk or a keypad connected to a centralized digital portal such as Operto ConnectTM.

A screenshot from showing two smartphones with different options available to guests through Operto ConnectTM_

Operto ConnectTM offers a range of guest options all via a single, personalized smartphone portal (Photo:

Keypads use motorized smart locks to offer access to a room with a personalized code, while kiosks might take guests’ details and payment, and give them a keycard or set of keys.

By connecting your system to a smart platform such as Operto ConnectTM, you can also automate systems such as control of temperature via smart devices such as the Tado Smart Thermostat. As a hotel owner, you can also monitor and control both noise and occupancy via smart sensors.

And for hotel owners, the “check-in process” doesn’t necessarily stop after guests arrive. By automating the process, you can enable guests to contact housekeeping during their stay or communicate when they’re ready for their room to be cleaned.

Automated check-in usually also means automated check-out, meaning you know when a room is ready to be cleaned and turned around for the next guest. 

You can create separate access codes for housekeeping and maintenance staff too, so you can automate the entire process from check-in to check-out, and back again.

Operto automated check-in cycle

Setting up automated check-in is also less expensive or time-consuming than you think, with many smart locks able to be installed in minutes on your existing doors, and platforms such as Operto ConnectTM working on your existing devices, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth networks.

Apart from some minimal maintenance, and the checking and replacing of batteries now and again to keep the system working, there’s almost no input needed from you at all after installation, making a fully-automated check-in process easy to achieve for hotels of any size or style.

The 6 best contactless check-in and kiosk systems for 2021

Operto, a modern hotel self-checkin system and so much more

Two smartphones lying down showing different options within Operto’s platform

The Operto platform is accessed entirely via smartphone on a single, easy-to-use personalized screen (Photo:

Described as the “pioneers of guest automation”, Operto offers an all-in-one centralized hotel automation PMS system via a single, easy-to-use, smartphone portal. It enables guests to get their access codes in advance, a hotel self check-in system, and even control extra touches such as room temperature via integrated smart devices.

As with most online, smartphone-based solutions, this does require guests to have a smartphone, but as most people today—especially travelers—have one, this is unlikely to be a major issue. Plus, even if phones run out of battery or stop working on the day, the Operto portal can be accessed via any browser, and guests can also see their information before they arrive, which means they’re never left hanging on the day of check-in itself.


  • 90.6% customer satisfaction score: we don’t just give you the tools and let you figure it out. We partner with you and support you in your digital transformation.

  • Integrates with a range of devices including thermostats, smart locks, and noise monitors, so you can enable guests to perfect their environment and ensure everyone is happy.

  • Works for staff and guests, allowing you to keep everything within one, single, connected system. 

  • Completely contactless. 

  • Does not require a separate app or phone platform.


  • Letting go of staff that are no longer needed

Want to see how Operto can help automate your check-in process? Book a demo today.

ImageHolders Kiosk

A white computer screen on a table-top kiosk by ImageHolders, displaying a hotel welcome screen and a contactless card payment system

ImageHolders provides a range of kiosks that can offer check-in and payment automatically (Photo:

Automated, 24/7 kiosks that enable guests to check in and out efficiently, and also plan ahead by viewing hotel menus, and order their breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

They can also book a taxi, or see what else is available in the hotel itself. The kiosks can take payment, deliver keys, and allow guests to drop keys off when they leave, too. Great for guests who prefer a physical “check-in desk” process.


  • Obvious upon arrival.

  • More of a physical “reception” feel.

  • Great for walk-ins.


  • Still requires the guest to stop and check-in “manually”.

  • May feel more “robot-like”, and less personalized.

  • No connection to in-room smart devices.

  • The guest does not hold the information on their own device once they leave the kiosk.

  • Expensive to install and run. 

  • Not contactless.

NexGen Concierge

A computer monitor, tablet and smartphone displaying a range of functions inside NexGen Concierge

NexGen Concierge offers guests its own “mobile console” with all its features on one page (Photo:

A virtual check-in system that allows guests to check in, pay, communicate, and check out through one central online webpage. Can also offer other services and amenities before guests arrive, such as massages or special food requests.


  • No app to download, all within a browser.

  • Sends an SMS to guests straight after booking to invite them to log in. 

  • Contactless.


  • No integration with smart devices.

  • Does not offer a keyless option alone—requires extra apps or platforms for that.

  • Initially uses SMS messaging, taking guests away from the main browser (unlike Operto ConnectTM).

  • Subscription-based and relatively expensive for smaller hotels.


Two tablets and a smartphone displaying a range of functions inside GuestJoy

GuestJoy offers digital check-in and services, and feedback surveys too (Photo:

An online, super-modern contactless solution that enables online check-in, upsells, and feedback all in one hotel self check-in app. Designed to work for hotels of all sizes, from boutique guest houses to large-scale operations.


  • Offers online check-in and distributes key codes.

  • Easy to use, and keeps guests up to date on their stay via email. 

  • Offers private surveys and opportunities for guests to give feedback. 

  • Contactless.


  • Integrates with relatively few booking and PMS platforms.

  • Doesn’t offer integration with smart devices in-room.

Mews Navigator

A trio of smartphones displaying the Google map and recommendations function inside Mews Navigator

Mews offers a range of services including local recommendations (Photo: Mews Navigator / OpenSmjle)

Mews Navigator goes further than many of the other options on this list, in that it’s an “all-in-one” concierge app. It allows guests to check in, and access in-room services. Guests receive an email ahead of check out so they can leave when they need to, and drop keys at reception.


  • Integrates with Apple Wallet so guests can pay easily and quickly. 

  • Allows guests to access a considerable number of services and options. 

  • A wide range of integrations.


  • Guests still need to drop keys off at reception when they check out, requiring you to maintain a front desk and staff (unless integrated with an additional, separate online system). 

  • Mews recommends connecting its platform to the Mews Operator self-service kiosk, which is a little cold and requires additional installation and time spent for guests at check-in. 

  • Mainly suitable for hotels with 20+ units.

Ivy by GoMoment

A tablet and smartphone displaying the WhatsApp chat function inside Ivy by Go Moment

Ivy by GoMoment uses text messaging and AI to help guests (Image: / Ivy by Go Moment)

Backed by Google and IBM Watson, this “smart concierge” promises to use AI technology to personalize guests’ experience. Guests can ask questions via text or smart assistant and book extra services such as spa appointments or restaurant reservations.


  • Integrates with familiar user platforms such as WhatsApp, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant, allowing guests to communicate easily. 

  • The AI element provides personalized service and answers, which it claims improve with each new guest. 

  • No extra app needed.


  • AI can be great but can come off a little cold and impersonal if it doesn’t work as expected.

  • Doesn’t integrate with other smart devices in-room, such as thermostats. 

  • Has a minimum spend per month, and costs increase significantly for 100+ room hotels.

Hotel check-in automation: RIP front desks!

It’s clear that with such innovative and wide-ranging technology solutions available for hotels today, there’s no need to have staff hanging around at reception desks anymore. Hotel check-in automation is the way forward.

Modern guests expect check-in to be automated, digital, seamless, and personalized—and want everything accessible via their smartphone at their fingertips, just like they do at home. 

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With solutions such as Operto ConnectTM, your customers can skip the awkwardness and wait for a traditional front desk, and inside walk straight into their room, checking-in seamlessly and on-demand; and you can save money and time by managing the entire thing remotely, without the need for extra staff. 

Cost-effective, contactless, and safe post-Covid, and exceptionally pleasing for demanding, modern guests, automated check-in is the clear solution for hotels that will thrive and survive in today’s world.

RIP, front desk.

Connect your operations

Ready to fully automate your hotel check-in process while increasing guest satisfaction?