Las Vegas is supposed to make you feel special.
Case in point: Jay Sarno’s whole premise for Caesars Palace when he opened it in 1966 was that the guest was the center of all creation. As you drove past the fountains and cypress trees, you were transported in time and space to a magical empire where you were Caesar. Everyone else, and everything else, existed only to gratify you.
And it worked. Caesars Palace became the city’s top casino overnight, and it remains one of the best-known hotels in the world. And Sarno’s approach to the customer provided the template for many 1990s megaresorts. Las Vegas may have become successful by convincing every visitor that they mattered.
In the “golden age” of the 1950s and 1960s, hotels were small enough that most guests could receive exquisitely personalized service. That simply isn’t possible in today’s Las Vegas.
Yet times have changed. If you are one of the 42 million plus who come to Las Vegas each year, you can’t help but be aware that the city doesn’t act like it’s here only to make your wishes come true. Traffic. Hustlers, costumed and otherwise, on the sidewalks. Resort fees. And the inescapable fact that you’re not the only one looking to have a good time: Even in a smallish Strip resort, you are one of thousands of very special, very important people, each of you needing what you need right now. Obviously, you’re not all going to get it when you want it.
It’s an issue of scale. In the “golden age” of the 1950s and 1960s (when everyone knew your name, and were always glad your bankroll came), hotels were small enough that most guests could receive exquisitely personalized service; some had relationships with employees going back decades. That simply isn’t possible in today’s Las Vegas.
Strip resorts, with 10 or more times the rooms of most hotels, have always struggled with the art of the check in. In a 2014 feature on The Mirage’s construction (“The Conjuring of The Mirage,” May 1, 2014), Bobby Baldwin lamented that he couldn’t eliminate the line; he could only make it slightly more bearable at The Mirage by bringing in the lobby aquarium.
But exotic fish only bring so much tranquility to guests who have been traveling for hours and don’t want to wait. What’s more, a guest standing in line isn’t doing the one thing resorts are counting on him to do: Spend money.
In 2016, 50 years after Sarno tried to make the guest the center of the action, we come full circle, thanks to technology. Caesars Entertainment has rolled out self check-in and key-retrieval kiosks in three of its center Strip properties—Caesars Palace, the Flamingo and the Linq.
Guests who use the new system can check in from home online or anywhere via the Total Rewards app and receive a notification when their keys are ready. They then proceed to a kiosk, print their keys, and head straight to their rooms—no lines to contend with, no awkward check-in conversations.
A kiosk won’t misunderstand your accent or make you feel cheap because you pass on an upsell. Of course, the kiosk will have plenty of upgrade options, but you’ll be able to decline them with the touch of a screen.
Assuming there isn’t a line, checking in from scratch at the kiosk takes less than four minutes; if you’ve already checked in at home or via the app, your keys are ready much more quickly.
For the resort, this looks to be all upside—guests have more time to spend money, and the resorts can reduce their employment expenses. That combination led to the sweeping acceptance of slot machine ticket in/ticket out technology after years of resistance.
Further, some guests might just prefer not having to talk to another human being as they check in. A kiosk won’t misunderstand your accent or make you feel cheap because you pass on an upsell. Of course, the kiosk will have plenty of upgrade options, but you’ll be able to decline them with the touch of a screen.
Between 10 and 20 percent of all guests are now getting their keys this way in the three hotels that have started using the kiosks. While no one is expecting the kiosks to replace all desk agents, it’s expected that about one-third of all guests will eventually use them instead of waiting in line.
Caesars embracing the non-check-in check-in is a sign of the future and a welcome evolution. Anything that reduces frustration is good for guests, and anything that cuts down on labor helps resorts. Combining them seems like a winning bet.
David G. Schwartz is the director of UNLV’s Center for Gaming Research.