How would you feel if you walked into a hotel lobby and there wasn’t a traditional check-in desk in sight? And rather than have to wait in line to get your keys, one of the hotel staff approached you with them instead.

That’s how it now works at ibis, the economy brand of AccorHotels, since the chain rolled out its innovative guest welcome programme across all ibis, ibis styles and ibis budget hotels in the UK.

The initiative sees traditional check-in desks done away with and hotel employees using mobile devices to access the information they need – everything from check-in to housekeeping and breakfast, all in the palm of their hand.

But before you dismiss it as an attempt by ibis to reduce headcount and automate guest interactions, it’s actually designed to do the opposite. With check-ins now handled online and the traditional front lobby desk removed, hotel staff now have more freedom to approach guests and add real value during their stay.

In addition to providing a greater customer experience, ibis says the new concept also allows its lobbies to become vibrant profit-making centres, with food and beverage offerings that appeal to not only guests, but people passing by too.

So rather than the hotel lobby being simply a thoroughfare or just the place you go when you want to check-in/out, it could become a buzzing hive of activity and opportunity.

The customer experience is crucial in today’s Trip Advisor age

Personally, I love the idea of doing away with the traditional check-in desk. Waiting in line to be given my keys (or a keycard) isn’t exactly my idea of fun. And what a wonderfully welcoming experience it would be to be greeted by a member of staff who knew your name and had your keys ready.

Let’s not forget that hotels rely hugely on returning customers and word-of-mouth referrals. In the Trip Advisor age we’re living in today, hotel guests are more empowered than ever when it comes to voicing their experiences. Just one bad online review can be extremely damaging to a brand’s reputation – particularly if it’s not handled in the right way.

The other point to consider about Ibis’ initiative is how it opens the door to even more personalised customer experiences going forward. For a start, the hotel will have instant access to the guests’ preferences. They can use this to ensure everything is perfect right off the bat next time.

It might be something as simple as providing that extra towel automatically or making sure the room is stocked with a certain type of tea. It’s these small touches that take the customer experience to the next level and boost the hotel’s value proposition exponentially.

What do you think? Could check-in desks become a thing of the past? Or will the traditional approach to guest arrivals remain a valid concept well into the future? I’d love to hear your thoughts…