Chatting-up the concierge

Chatting-up the concierge

Word came down this week that Accor?s Sofitel brand is offering guests in Paris, London, Munich and Brussels access to AppleiPads that come preloaded with 36 news sources from six countries. This is offered in lieu of traditional daily newspaper delivery.

?The Kiosk? offers everything from The Wall Street Journal to The Financial Times and Vogue. Very cool for the growing number of gadget-inclined guests?and after all, how can you survive today without being gadget loaded. If I am without my Blackberry for even half a day, I now feel completely lost. Even worse, I get excessive grief from my colleagues for even carrying a Blackberry instead of an iPhone. To quote Steve Martin, ?Well, excuse me!? I happen to like my old school Blackberry, and I just got a glimpse of the new touch-screen Blackberry being introduced very soon. Someone, pinch me!

Today, Sheraton Hotels & Resorts unveiled a new online experience for guests designed by Microsoft search engine Bing, ?featuring tools designed to capture the ?pulse? of the local destination while helping guests navigate their stay.? In other words, they are providing a virtual concierge. Again, I love what hotels can do with technology and, no doubt, many guests will love this amenity. However, how many real, live concierges will look at this as a threat to their livelihoods?

What concerns me about this constant rush to adopt new technology is the continued depersonalization of the hotel experience. High-tech is great?don?t get me wrong; high-touch in a hotel setting is better. My question for you, gentle reader, is whether or not more guest-facing technology long-term is a good thing or a bad thing for hoteliers?

Call me old fashion, but I like walking down to the lobby to chat-up the concierge about local restaurants and clubs. Unfortunately, I am afraid that in the not too distant future, that concierge desk is going to be replaced by a kiosk?not at every hotel, but at more than I care to consider.

 What?s next?