The hotel reception in transformation

The hotel reception is still a core element of most hotel operations as the central point of contact for guests throughout the entire guest journey.
However, as in most industries, a major transformation has taken place here in recent years, particularly in the wake of digitalization.
In this blog post, we shed light on the transformation of the hotel reception, its tasks and the changes along the guest journey in this context.
But in order to better understand the changes, we will first look at the basics: What is a hotel reception anyway, who works there and what tasks does it perform?

Hotel reception: What is a reception in a hotel?

The term reception (from the Latin recipere = to receive) generally refers to the reception area of a building or room where guests, customers, patients, etc. are received or welcomed. In addition to hotels, reception areas are also found in doctors’ offices, banks and other businesses. The term is also used to refer to the central piece of furniture, that is, the reception desk or counter. However, it also describes the entire operational area, including the people who work there and their responsibilities.

The following terms are also used synonymously for the hotel reception:

  • reception desk
  • front office
  • front desk
  • front of house
  • lobby
  • check-in / check in counter / check-in counter / check-in desk
  • concierge area / concierge desk

The hotel reception is the central interface between the guest and the hotel, but also between the other departments of the hotel. It is the guest’s primary point of contact from the moment they enter the hotel to the moment they leave, so it is a key part of the guest’s first impression and overall experience. However, there are also more and more hotels without a traditional reception desk or with a limited reception service, where many elements are automated and transferred to the digital world.

Who works at the hotel reception?

People who work at the reception are called receptionists. They are also known as (hotel) desk clerks, (front) desk clerks, concierges, hostesses, front desk agents or front office managers. These terms are often used synonymously, but in some hotels they may refer to different positions. Depending on the rank or responsibility, additional variations or subtitles are used to further differentiate, but there is no single standard.

There is also no internationally standardised degree, certificate, training or similar to become a receptionist. As a result, there are many different ways to become a receptionist. Requirements and qualification criteria vary from company to company. However, prior training in the form of an an apprenticeship as a hotel specialist is particularly common, at least in the DACH region.

What are the tasks of a receptionist at a hotel reception?

The tasks and duties of a hotel receptionist are varied. As they are highly dependent on the hotel operation, it is difficult to provide a generalised summary of tasks. However, the following tasks may fall within the scope of a hotel receptionist:

  • Check-in: This includes greeting guests, taking their details (registration form), providing important information about the hotel, handing out room keys, etc.
  • Luggage service: assisting guests with their luggage and storing it, or coordinating and supervising a luggage room. 
  • Information Centre: Advising and informing guests about leisure activities, places of interest, events, routes, restaurants, hotel services, etc.
  • Sales: Reception helps to increase revenue through various up-selling and cross-selling activities.
  • Guest care: Reception is available to guests not only for information, but also for other requests, questions and concerns.
  • Complaint management: Reception receives complaints, directs them to the right people, offers solutions and compensation to guests, and ensures a high level of guest satisfaction through good complaint management. 
  • Telephone: Answering, handling or transferring calls
  • Reservations: Accepting, processing or transferring reservations (if no separate reservation exists or is not occupied)
  • Invoice and payment management: create and issue invoices, collect invoice amounts, process invoice items in the system accordingly.
  • Check-out: check-out and farewell of guests, payment if necessary, return of room keys, etc.

The transformation of the hotel reception

Current trends and developments are constantly changing the industry. Hotel reception and the profession of receptionist are changing accordingly.  As mentioned above, the role of the receptionist is very diverse and can vary from property to property. As a result, developments in this area will be slightly different in each hotel. However, there are some themes and trends that affect almost all businesses in one way or another. Digitalisation permeates all of these areas and is a fundamental driver of change.

A challenging situation

The increasing shortage of skilled labour in the hospitality industry, including at the front desk, is one of the biggest challenges companies face today. Due to the shortage of staff, services often have to be reduced and it is not uncommon for existing reception staff to be severely overworked. Both can have a negative impact on employee satisfaction, service quality and guest satisfaction, ultimately resulting in a loss of revenue. These developments can further reduce the attractiveness of the profession and encourage staff to leave, further contributing to the staff shortage – a vicious circle.

Digitalization & automation

On the other hand, digitalisation offers great opportunities to address this shortage and also has a huge impact on the job profile. Traditionally, receptionists were mainly involved in administrative tasks such as check-in and check-out, manual data entry, room reservations, payment processing and dealing with phone calls. With the rise of digital technologies, these tasks have changed dramatically.

Thanks to automated processes and self-service options, guests can, for example, complete the registration form from home, check in online using their own smartphone or at a self check-in kiosk, access important information digitally 24 hours a day, pay and view their bill themselves or book additional services without the help of a receptionist. Depending on the hotel concept, fully automated hotels without a reception desk are already possible. Service-oriented concepts benefit from a huge increase in efficiency and allow receptionists to focus more on the individual needs and wishes of guests and to take on more demanding and personal tasks.

Artificial intelligence & data analysis

The integration of artificial intelligence and chatbots has also changed the way that hotels communicate with their guests. Chatbots can answer frequently asked questions, take bookings and handle individual requests at all hours and in multiple languages. This is a fast and convenient service for guests that further reduces the workload for receptionists. This allows them to focus on more complex enquiries and personal interactions.

Another important trend is the increased focus on the individual guest and the individualisation and personalisation of guest care and communication. Modern digital solutions enable receptionists to store and analyse guest data and preferences. This allows personalised recommendations to be made both digitally and in person, special occasions to be catered for and the stay to be made a memorable one for each guest.

Service times

These developments can also make working hours and shift schedules at the reception more flexible and employee-friendly. For example, more and more hotels are moving towards only staffing the front desk at certain times. At the same time, digital services can avoid complete gaps in service. For employees, this can be another factor that makes working as a receptionist more attractive. This development is also reflected in the classification criteria for hotel stars, where digital communication and self-service have long since found their way in. From 2025, the minimum number of hours a reception desk must be manned to be awarded 3 or 4 stars will also be further reduced.

Interim conclusion

All in all, the current transformation of the hotel front desk presents a number of challenges. But there are also great opportunities, particularly through digitalisation. By adopting the right technologies and using them intelligently, hotels can improve the quality of their service, increase guest satisfaction, improve the employee situation and ensure long-term success. It is important to be strategic in harnessing the power of digital, while ensuring that personal service and human interaction are not neglected.

The hotel reception and the digital guest journey

Based on the developments described above, changes can also be observed along the guest journey. In particular, contact with digital touchpoints has a decisive influence on the guest experience and also on the work of the reception desk and its interaction with guests. Below is an example of a guest journey in relation to the reception desk, as it may be encountered today.

Exemplary presentation of the contact points and tasks of the reception along the guest journey: today vs. in the past.

Before the stay:

Bookings are processed digitally and automatically; manual processing by the reception is not necessary. A booking confirmation and all other information is automatically sent to the guest. Any questions the guest may have in advance are already answered by the information provided digitally or automatically by a chatbot. Only more complex requests need to be handled manually by staff.


Instead of long queues, paperwork and endless manual data entry, the guest has already entered all registration data and checked in digitally in advance. Alternatively, a self-service kiosk is available to further reduce the burden on reception. Guests can also encode their own keycards or simply use their smartphone to open doors. Any preferences or special requests have already been digitally recorded and processed, and room upgrades or other upsells are automatically offered to the guest.

During the stay:

All important information is available to guests at all times in a digital guest directory. Further questions are automatically answered by an AI or chatbot. Hotel services, restaurant reservations and other transactions can also be conveniently handled by the guest via the guest app. Guests can even cancel room cleaning with a single click, further optimising processes. Of course, guests can still contact the front desk, if available, for more complex questions and concerns, as well as for personal advice. Supported by digital tools and data, they can focus on the individual guest and provide excellent service.


Check-out, payment and billing are fully digital, automated and triggered by the guest. Reception no longer has to deal with payment and invoicing manually. Instead, the front desk can spend more time saying goodbye and checking on the guest’s stay to make the experience complete and personal.