Self-Service Kiosk wie er in einem Hotel ohne Rezeption verwendet wird.

Self check-in hotel: from service to self-service


Reception – the heart of every hotel, the first impression and figurehead, indispensable for good guest care. Or is it? More and more hotels are doing away with the traditional front desk, and especially in the budget segment, self check-in hotels are popping up. This is not only changing the way hotels think operationally. It is also changing the guest experience. In this blog post, we delve into the world of self check-in hotels, explore the technical requirements, shed light on the guest journey and outline the advantages and disadvantages for hoteliers. We also clarify whether self check-in hotels could replace the traditional hotel industry and what hoteliers can learn from the new concepts.

What is a self check-in hotel anyway?

Simply do away with the reception and become a self check-in hotel? It’s not quite that simple after all: the reception or front desk is an integral part of the traditional hotel industry. It is the central point of contact for guests at the hotel, from the first contact to departure. This is where check-in takes place, registration data is recorded, the room key is handed out, payment is processed and check-out takes place at the end of the stay. The reception staff are also generally available to guests in person for all further information and questions about their stay and beyond.

Today, there are different approaches, possibilities and concepts for these processes. Even in a self check-in hotel, these processes do not simply disappear, but are usually moved into the digital world. Guests use all these services digitally and do not only self check-in using their phone or a kiosk. This is why we often speak of a self-service hotel. However, there are many other ways to create a self check-in hotel. They all require some basic technical requirements.

Technical requirements for self check-in hotels

Property Management System

A good Property Management System (PMS) has become indispensable for most modern hotel businesses. It serves as the central management system in the hotel and coordinates reservations, including guest data, availability, payments and much more. Many other systems rely on the interfaces and the data they transfer to and from the PMS. Choosing the right PMS is therefore crucial to the success of a self-service hotel. On our partner page you will find an overview of all PMS providers with an interface to straiv.

Online bookability

Another basic requirement for a self check-in hotel is online bookability. This should not only be provided via Online Travel Agencies (OTA), but above all (if not exclusively anyway) via a dedicated Internet Booking Engine (IBE) on the hotel website. A channel manager is used to control availability across all channels. Online bookability enables seamless integration with other technological solutions such as digital check-in and mobile keycard and is therefore an important building block for a consistent and modern guest journey.

Professional locking system

Theoretically, a self check-in hotel can also be realized with physical keys, e.g. by issuing keys via key boxes. In modern hotels, however, these have long since become obsolete. Digital access control systems dominate here, allowing guests to open their rooms and other doors digitally using a PIN, keycard or their own smartphone. Digital door opening from straiv can be implemented with a large number of locking system providers.

Digital payment service provider / payment partner

Cash is king – this saying is increasingly becoming a relic of the past. Especially for self-service hotels, digital and automated payment processes are another important basis for a functioning business. Digital check-ins and check-outs are made possible by automated payment systems that process transactions seamlessly and securely. A trustworthy payment partner with the right interfaces, desired payment methods and attractive conditions should be selected.

Communication tools and chatbots

Efficient communication is also crucial for a good guest experience in a self check-in hotel without a reception desk. Hotels must ensure that the guest receives all relevant information about their booking, check-in and the next steps of their stay. In addition, chatbots and other communication tools can be used to answer concerns, questions or other requests efficiently, quickly and satisfactorily.

Software for the digital guest journey

In the end, all of the above elements should be brought together and offer the guest a simple, user-friendly and seamless guest experience via a modern user interface. A software solution for the digital guest journey combines digital check-in & check-out incl. registration form, guest communication, the door opening process, payment, the digital guest folder and much more. This is the central element, especially for self check-in or self-service hotels. When making your selection, pay attention to existing interfaces to other systems. straiv offers interfaces to the most important and innovative players in the industry.

Die Self-Service Kioske von straiv und Kiosk Embedded Systems in 3 Varianten
The new self-service kiosk from straiv & Kiosk Embedded Systems in 3 variants.

The optimal guest journey in a self check-in hotel 

The technical requirements have been clarified, but what does a self check-in hotel mean in practice and in particular for the guest experience along the guest journey? The optimal guest journey depends on the selected technical options, the hotel product and the target group and therefore varies from hotel to hotel. Nevertheless, the following is an example of what an optimal guest journey could look like in a self-service hotel without a reception desk.

Guests can book and pay online anytime, anywhere. The guest receives the booking confirmation automatically. All preliminary information about the stay such as arrival, parking options, link to fill out the registration form / online check-in etc. is also sent to the guest automatically. They can then conveniently enter their registration data via the digital registration form from home or on the move, enter any other relevant information and pay. An app download should not be necessary for this. straiv therefore uses progressive web app (PWA) technology.

On arrival at the hotel, check-in has never been easier. Guests who have already checked in online can either use their phone to open all the doors and check into their room independently and conveniently. Alternatively, hotels can provice a self check-in or self-service kiosk where guests can check in and encode their keycard if necessary.

During their stay, guests can access useful information at any time in a digital guest folder . In addition to information about the hotel, local attractions and sights, guests can cancel room cleaning, book services, report problems, get answers to questions and contact the hotel team directly. Automated processes also ensure efficient handling of cleaning, maintenance and other hotel activities for the hotel management. This saves costs and relieves the hotel staff.

Checking out is just as easy as checking in. Guests can easily view and pay their bill via their smartphone if it has not yet been paid before or at check-in. After successful check-out, the room key is automatically deactivated and the guest can leave the hotel without having to queue at a reception desk or hand in a key.

After the stay is before the stay. Successful self-service hotels stay in contact with their guests even after their stay – digitally and automatically, of course. For example, feedback and ratings can be obtained or incentives can be set for the next hotel visit.

Advantages and disadvantages of self check-in hotels

A self check-in or self-service hotel hoteliers many advantages and disadvantages compared to traditional hotel concepts. But what are they and how can you counteract the possible disadvantages?

Grüner Kreis mit Häkchen als Symbol für Vorteile

Advantages of self check-in hotels:

Increased efficiency: The high degree of automation leads to a considerable increase in efficiency in a large number of operational processes.

Cost savings: Compared to traditional hotel operations, a self-service hotel can be operated with significantly lower personnel costs. Added to this are the efficiency gains mentioned above. This results in considerable potential cost savings.

Optimized personnel deployment: Especially in times of labor shortages, personnel is not just a question of cost. In this way, self-service hotels create more independence. In hybrid models with (limited) reception and some personal service, the existing staff can also concentrate better on providing great service to guests, as administrative processes are no longer minimized.

Guest satisfaction: Self check-in hotels also offer many advantages for guests. These include absolute flexibility at check-in and check-out, 24/7 availability of digital functions and applications, no or minimal waiting times and a modern, efficient, seamless and contactless experience.

Roter Kreis mit Kreuz als Symbol für Nachteile

Disadvantages of self check-in hotels:

One-off costs: If the technical requirements are not already in place, the realization of a self check-in hotel will initially incur comparatively high one-off costs.

More impersonal experience: A self-service hotel without a reception is not the ideal experience for all target groups. Some guests expect personal attention. Care should therefore be taken to address the target group in a good and transparent way that raises the right expectations. In addition, digital guest information and communication can be individualized and personalized in order to offer guests the most personal experience possible even without a reception desk and to be available digitally to answer questions at any time. Many establishments also work with hybrid models so that guests can decide for themselves how personal or digital their experience should be.

Technical challenges: Self check-in hotels are particularly dependent on the functionality of their technical infrastructure. This makes it all the more important to select reliable providers with appropriate interfaces and good support. Should technical faults nevertheless occur, it is advisable to have a backup solution ready to bridge short-term outages and offer guests a seamless experience at all times.

Are there already self check-in hotels without a reception desk in the DACH region?

Yes, there are already some examples of hotels in the DACH region with no or very limited reception hours. Many apartment concepts also rely on self-service without a reception desk. However, we do not have exact figures on the number of self-service accommodation establishments.

Some of our customers already work without a traditional reception desk. For example, the Schlafwerk in Stuttgart. The Digital Guest Journey was already reviewed by TREUGAST and the AHGZ in 2022 and rated 100/100%. You can read the blog post here.

Laubengang im Schlafwerk Stuttgart
The Schlafwerk in Stuttgart.

Self-Service – the end of the traditional hotel industry?

As you can see, there is more to self-service hotels than the absence of a reception desk. It is a new type of hotel concept that differs from the traditional hotel both in terms of operation and guest experience. There are some important technical requirements that need to be met, and operating a self check-in hotel has a number of advantages and disadvantages for both the hotelier and the guest.

Will those new concepts replace the traditional hotel industry? Probably not. They are very interesting from a business point of view because they can be operated with comparatively few staff and running costs. There is also a growing target group that is looking for this digital and modern experience. In particular, price-sensitive target groups who are primarily looking for accommodation without the need for personal service will find the right product in this. However, the traditional hotel industry is here to stay and the demand for personal service is still very high. These personal encounters and experiences cannot be easily digitized and will continue to exist as a counter-trend to an increasingly digitized and automated world, and may even increase in value.

But the traditional hotel industry with a front desk can also learn from self check-in hotels and use the technologies used there as a complement to offer guests a contemporary additional service, optimize processes, shorten waiting times, relieve staff and thus concentrate even more on their core competence: personal service and an outstanding guest experience. In this way, the benefits of both concepts can be combined to create added value for both hoteliers and guests.