Hyatt Hotels Corp. is boldly going where others have failed-automated check-in services-while Atlanta-based CitiInfo is hoping travelers will linger to check out its information kiosks.
Hyatt since January has been testing "Touch and Go Instant Check-In" machines in two hotels in Chicago and Atlanta.
The kiosk lets a hurried guest with a reservation and credit card bypass the front desk and get a room in less than a minute. A guest can also get a bill and automatically check out.
Each kiosk is used by about 30 to 80 people a day, said Chris Elam, Hyatt's corporate director of rooms.
"This is not to replace the front desk," Mr. Elam said, adding that it merely gives guests an additional check-in option.
Hyatt plans to put the kiosks in 40 hotels by yearend.
Hilton Hotels Corp. and ITT Sheraton Corp. tested similar services a few years ago but found that guests preferred to go to the front desk.
"We had low usage," said Mark Haley, Sheraton's information systems manager. "The guests didn't like it and the vendor went out of business."
"There was a certain amount of technological anxiety," said Michael Ribero, Hilton's senior VP-marketing and strategic planning. "Also, we're a service business, and check-in requires a certain amount of feedback to get the [desired] room."
But Hyatt thinks it will be successful because its machine is faster and easier to use. Technology also has advanced enough so that the check-in machines are connected to the hotel chain's worldwide reservations network.
The Sheraton Gateway and 16 other Atlanta hotels are trying another tactic to serve travelers. Each hotel has installed a CitiInfo kiosk in its lobby.
The kiosk lists local attractions, restaurants, night- clubs and other services, connecting guests who want to make reservations by phone and printing out coupons and maps.
Only 11 advertisers support the service, mainly restaurants paying a one-time fee of $295 for special screens that can include text and photographs. Advertisers are charged 95 cents for each direct-connect phone call or coupon or map a guest prints out.
"Hotels do not get a cut in proceeds from the service," said Jim Harvey, CitiInfo's sales manager. "It's just an additional guest service to reduce the workload of the staff."
But without the financial incentive, hotels could decide not to use services such as CitiInfo, said Mr. Haley of ITT Sheraton.
"What incentive does a hotel with its own restaurants have to advertise a restaurant across the street?" he asked.
But Thomas Faust, general manager of the Sheraton Gateway, said the service is widely used by guests and provides assistance to the hotel concierge.
CitiInfo, which is not yet profitable, plans eventually to move to other markets.