When someone says hotel, the first thing that probably comes to almost anyone’s mind is Front Desk and its staff. It is so essential element to the hotel industry. Some people do not even realize it but they play a key role among hotel’s departments. Their knowledge about the hotel must also be perfect. Why so?
Every time guest arrives, they are there to give warm welcome and create a positive first impression on the guest, even prepared to address you by your name so you feel more welcomed. Also, the important role lies also within upselling techniques , which apparently boosts guest satisfaction and hotel’s reputation, and simply cannot be replaced by the machine.
In case of a request, the first person he or she is likely to direct it on is Front Desk staff. It does not matter if the request is for Food & Beverage, Event or Housekeeping department, it is always getting through Front Desk first, and then being handed over to the specific department.
And there is even more. Not only that guests rely on Front Office, but the same goes for the other departments of the hotel. The Front Office Manager (FOM) need to have a great overview of what is happening in the hotel, therefore there is a system called Property Management System (PMS), which helps both the Front Desk staff to be better prepared for the upcoming day by getting an overview of how many guests are expected to check-in/ – out that day, whether there are some groups, special needs of guests, etc.
As you may see, the list of responsibilities is very long, and it is a work which requires one’s full attention, at least in world class hotels. But how the Front Desk looks like in the future? With the advance of modern technologies like mobile check-in, mobile keys, hotel’s mobile applications, etc., the very existence of Front Desk may be endangered.
Nowadays, in most of the “smart” hotels, the employees feels that they are losing contact with the customers by simply greeting them , that they have no longer the opportunity to build a relationship with the guest. The more the technology advances, the more unnecessary it becomes to go the Front desk. So even though it makes it easier for Front Desk staff, for those who are sincerely enjoying their work, robs them of the experience of working with guests.
And there is nothing to be surprised about. We are within the business because we love to interact with people around us, we love being engaged, and that is why the relationship with our guest is so important for us.
On the other hand, if there were no Front Desk, the designers of the future hotels would have much more freedom in designing the area to their liking. That is, however, the only advantage I can see. And of course, from the business side, the costs would rapidly decrease, as salaries are mostly the biggest costs on hotel’s bill. It means that in the long run, it would for sure be advantageous. Talking about the short-term financing, the investments into technologies are high, and it would be close to impossible for small or middle hotels to implement modern technology to such an extent where it could completely replace the Front Desk staff.
In the end, I personally do not think it is possible, at least within years to come, for Front Desk to disappear. In most of the cases, small hotels will not be able to afford it, and the large chains will proceed this way, partly only, as leading brands like Marriot, Hilton, Scandic, Best Western, Radisson, etc., whose main focus is on the service quality, added value, and overall creating a memorable experience for the guest, which is part of their image / branding, and could not have been achieved without any of personal contact.
To sum it up, technologies makes it easy for both guests and staff, and it will continue to help the staff with more tasks in the future, with continuing development of PMS and other affiliated systems, and without disabling the function of Front Desk itself.
 https://skift.com/2015/03/12/what-5-hotel-front-desk-employees-would-change-about-check-in/  http://www.hospitalitynet.org/news/4068292.html
List of other sources:
http://www.economist.com/blogs/gulliver/2011/06/hotels-future http://www.hotelogix.com/blog/2015/03/25/technologies-to-simplify-the-hotels-front-office-tasks/ http://www.hmi-online.com/features/featurethe-future-of-the-front-desk-modern-hotel-concierges-4401506/ https://www.mewssystems.com/mewsfeed/futuremews http://www.mywestford.com/the-importance-of-front-office-in-tourism-and-hospitality-industry/ http://people.ischool.berkeley.edu/~glushko/glushko_files/FS+BS-2x.pdf