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Kiosks, Keyless Entry, and Drive-By Room Service: What Can We Expect at Hotels in a Post-COVID-19 World?

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


Many businesses will soon automate some operations in an effort to curb and limit employee-to-customer contact.

The customers and employees will both be understandably concerned about their well-being.

Some companies may automate because of a genuine concern for people.

But I think many others will seize the “opportunity” and use it as a way to reduce staff.

Quick Caveat

Contrary to some readers’ opinions in the Comments sections and social media, I’m not trying to fear monger or advocate for when cities should open up. 

But let’s face it: some things won’t be the same, whether we like it or not. But other things won’t change, whether we like it not.

And no one will be completely happy about either.

That being said, let’s examine three trends we may see at hotels.

Keyless Room Entry

I think we’re going to see hotels encourage more guests to use keyless entry (i.e. check-in on your phone).

“Everybody Hates the Key Card,” crowed the New York Times, blasting their “environmentally unfriendly plastic.”

Sorry to break it to the Times, but I don’t hate key cards. Neither does my wife. Nor many of my friends and colleagues.

A collage of plastic hotel key cards.
Wow. There are a bunch of Vegas keycards in there!

Yes, it’s a pain in the neck when they don’t work.

But I’d rather have that handy instead of risk something wrong with my cell phone — and I can’t access the hotel’s app.

Some guests who aren’t very tech-savvy will also not be too excited by keyless entry.

And from a travel geek standpoint, I enjoy bringing home a keycard from every hotel stay. (We keep threatening to make a framable collage. May now during our COVID-19 downtime…)

According to the New York Times, “Digital keys are hugely popular with travelers in some areas, like Silicon Valley, but overall, only about 10 percent of all hotel guests use them,” said Nicolas Aznar, the Swedish-based lock maker Assa Abloy. 

Yeah. Everybody hates the key card, huh?

Self Check-in Kiosks

I’m not a huge fan of hotel self check-in kiosks.

Check-in kiosks at Park MGM Las Vegas
Check-in kiosks at Park MGM Las Vegas

First of all, people are going to get fingerprints all over the screens, counters, and wherever else they can put their hands. So unless hotels place employees around each cluster of kiosks and have them disinfect each machine after every use, the whole “kiosks are safer!” argument doesn’t hold much water with me.

Some people (like me, for example) occasionally prefer a certain view in a favorite city. Or higher up or lower down in the hotel tower. Maybe someplace close to the elevator or away from the soda machines.

A Park MGM check-in receipt with room number, stay dates, and confirmation number.

Or maybe you’re an elite status holder in the hotel’s loyalty program and you want to see if maybe there’s an upgrade available.

Most of those can’t be accomplished at a check-in kiosk. They need to be discussed with an actual person.

When I stayed at the Park MGM in Las Vegas, I was told by someone watching over the kiosks to visit the players club desk inside the casino and ask about an upgrade. They referred me back to the front desk. Except there wasn’t even a front desk where someone could assign rooms.

I also enjoy getting some advice from hotel employees as to where I should eat, drink, visit, etc. Check-in is a great opportunity to kill all those birds with one stone.

“Drive-By” Room Service

Anyone else curious how some aspects of room service will work — especially now that contactless delivery is such a hot option with companies like Grubhub, Seamless, Postmates, Uber Eats, etc?

Delano Las Vegas makes great omelets and pastries -- which were included in Amex FHR breakfast credit.

Hotel guests generally must sign for their orders when delivered — and have the option of adding a tip (well, in some countries…).

Will room service employees knock on doors and then leave? Or will they leave the bill there to be picked up later — still giving the guest a chance to tip him or her?

What Do You Think?

Do you like self check-in kiosks? Keyless entry? How do you think room service will change — if at all? Please share your thoughts in the below Comments section!

— Chris

Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


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5 Comments

  1. I also prefer a staffed front desk over a self-service kiosk to check in. Now, that more and more hotels in Las Vegas have those kiosks (Park MGM being one example) it happened several times to me that the kiosk said (even though it was already past official checkin time) my room wasn’t ready yet. Luckily, I was able to contact a real person behind some desk. And, oh wonder, after just a bit of typing I was assigned a room that was already ready. Of course, it was a room of the same category, the one I had booked. So why wasn’t the system able to give me one of those rooms?
    And checkin via phone to use keyless entry? Well, this makes it necessary to have internet connection (to receive the digital key). Quite problematic, when I am not in my home country (Germany), but in the US, where I usually go on vacation. I then travel with my phone in airplane mode and I use wifi where available. And this might be available in the 24 hour window to check in, but in that smaller timeframe between key being available and my arrival? Most often this is not the case. So I have to go to the front desk to get my physical key. Then I might be able to connect to the hotel’s wifi and receive a digital key … which I no longer need by then.

  2. I prefer the keyless option and checking in online, I never understood why Marriott gives me the option to ‘check in’ through my app the day before but then I have to go to the desk upon arrival to get a keycard?

  3. Have never used keyless entry & never will-after having had my phone stolen once, I refrain from putting anything of real value or importance on it & a key to my hotel room would certainly fit that bill.

    As far as the drive by room service, that’s in effect what Marriott has been doing since they merged w/Sheraton. They’ve got a cutsey name for it, ‘Fresh Bites’, but that’s what it is-it was ‘contactless’ before there was such a thing. They simply dump whatever you order into a bag & then charge a delivery fee; absolutely no problem for them to simply leave it outside the door now vs. handing it to the guest. And, when you have hotel staff telling you not to bother w/it, that says something. Heck, there’s even some Marriott properties that have had robots bringing the stuff up way before this. I had made it a practice that, if I was in a Marriott property, I would order from outside anyway.

  4. I like a keycard. I really like the one you do not have to slide into a slot.

  5. Kiosks in hotels…. Hate them!…. for all the reasons mentioned above and more. I like interacting with real people. Key cards, love them. I DO like doors locks where you don’t have to side into a slot. Using my phone to open a door, tried it…. not impressed. a card is faster, easier for me. I don’t want to have to take out my phone, open an app for everything in this world. One top of that, there have been times I have pushed the limits of my batteries charge. What do you do if it dead?!?! As far as room service goes, I rarely use room service so it would effect me much at all.

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