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Hotels without a reception desk

Di Antonio Caneva, 5 maggio 2016

As I walked into an important hotel in Milan, I was baffled to see that its large reception desk had been replaced by an elegant wainscoting bookshelf containing precious vases and art books.
The area facing it was now hosting some stylish armchairs (which I then discovered also to be comfortable) which, together with quality lamps and chandeliers, created an elegant and pleasant setting of scenographic impact.
“How nice!” exclaimed Dennis Zambon, “Finally somebody understood that the desk is unnecessary!”
“Sure! And even in lounge bars the trend is to serve customers out of a trolley rather than a counter” added the lady who was with us.
But what about receiving guests? Checking in and checking out?
The manager was coming our way, so what was better than asking him for information.
“We have abolished the reception desk in order to be closer to our guests, to remove all barriers; now we are really doing hospitality: we receive people by paying them direct attention. On the side, we have arranged a large round table to receive guests, and the people who come, while they are waiting for their turn, can have a drink poured from the large jugs available or eat something sweet”.
Not being fully convinced, I remarked that, without a partition, there is a risk that people will try to be served first without respecting priorities, causing distress for those who are behaving correctly.
“It is not so. We have tested this new arrangement at the Milan Furniture Fair, and the result was very encouraging. What was most impressive was that the personnel shared this choice completely, and actively helped to make a smooth transition”.
Playing the devil’s advocate, I observed that innovations are often initially welcomed out of a sense of curiosity, as long as they are later put to the test of time.
“And what about the telephone, how can they answer the phone without the switchboard on the desk?” The answer came with a smile: “Nowadays, with the use of cellphones, we actually receive very few phone calls, and our employees are equipped with a palmtop that contains all the procedures. So this is also not a problem “
I don’t know. A few days later, out of curiosity, I went to that hotel at check-out time and saw that, in fact, things were proceeding in an orderly manner, even though I felt this system allowed for too little privacy among the people waiting to be served.
But this may be a silly way of thinking, from a person who, perhaps, has been in the hotel business for too long. Probably, this is the new way forward, and the changes under way, though seeming superficially unimportant, are in fact significant. We will see.

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