A HOTEL in Japan’s Nagasaki prefecture has been making headlines for its bizarre and uber-high tech approach to hospitality: its operations are almost entirely run by robots.
While it may appear to be a scene taken out of a science fiction movie, the aptly-named Henn Na Hotel (which is loosely translated as “Weird Hotel”), has robots placed on almost all fronts – from the reception, housekeeping, and right up to gardening – with automation and high efficiency in mind.
Since 2015, the hotel, which is part of an amusement park along Omura Bay in the southwestern city of Sasebo, has been so popular with tourists that its operator Hideo Sawada has plans to expand to several more cities within the next few years, the Business Insider reported.
“Having robots in charge of the reception and placing robots everywhere, we aim to make it the most efficient hotel in the world,” Sawada was quoted as saying.
In March, Sawada said he plans to open the second hotel near Tokyo Disney Resort in Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture.
Describing his experience lodging in the hotel, Mike MacEacheran, who writes for The Independent, said he was greeted by a robotic velociraptor at the reception counter. As intimidating as its all of it’s flashing teeth and sickle-shaped claws sounds, the “predator” was donning a bellhop’s hat and white bow tie, chatting in Japanese just as any normal front-line staff would do.
Instead of pouncing on MacEacheran, the dinosaur asked for the customer’s credit card while making jokes. The automated prehistoric creature is flanked by a humanoid colleague, Yumeko, a talking mannequin with pearl skin, amid a backdrop of a baby grand piano tinkling pop ballads.
Vacuum cleaners and gardeners are fully automated, just like the hotel porter that carries luggage to the rooms of hotel guests. Excess luggage is stored with the help of a large robotic arm that stows them away in special compartments.
“There isn’t a human to be seen – anywhere. The open-plan lobby is given over to a bank of vending machines selling digital water clocks, data SIM cards and virtual-reality glasses,” Maceacheran says in a recent travelogue.
“I check in via what appears to be a talking ATM, it gives me a paper slip with my room number (there are no keys here), and I set off (there’s no embarrassing squabble with a porter, though for travellers with heavy bags, there’s a luggage service – little more than a motorised trolley).”
Instead of a room key, guests enter their rooms using biometric technology by having their eyes scanned to unlock the doors.
Besides that, a mini-orchestra at the common area of the hotel can be heard playing tin-can rendition of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, while the Transformer-sized doorman welcomes a coach load of new guests, MacEacheran wrote.
The cost per night ranges anywhere between JPY15,200 (US$137) to slightly over JPY25,000 (US$220), including taxes and service charge.