x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Aloft hotels bring self-service check-in to capital

A new US hotel brand, which offers guests a self-service check-in facility, is set to make its Middle East debut in Abu Dhabi in October.

A new American hotel brand, which offers guests self-service check-in, is set to make its Middle East debut in Abu Dhabi in October. The Aloft hotel, located at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC), will have designer styling and accessible technology at an affordable price aimed at business travellers, its management said. "We have the ultimate product in terms of technology and convenience but then we do away with things like costly concierge services," said Stephan Vanden Auweele, the general manager of Aloft Abu Dhabi. He said that the brand had scrapped the "cliched" and "old-fashioned" aspects of hotels. Guests, for example, will be able to check themselves in and out of the hotel through touchscreen stations, where they can select their room and floor, confirm rates and receive room keys. The hotel will also provide free Wi-Fi and free access to a number of computers with printers. "For an exhibition development to be successful it must have accommodation on site which suits all aspects of its audience, from luxury to value," said Simon Horgan, the chief executive of ADNEC. "The high demand and relatively low supply of hotel accommodation in Abu Dhabi is a concern for our international exhibitors and visitors." This month, Abu Dhabi was named as the second most expensive city in the world for business travellers to stay, in a survey by Hogg Robinson Group. Aloft, which is part of Starwood Hotels and Resorts, is described as the world's fastest-growing brand. The first Aloft hotel was launched in Montreal last year, and by the end of the year a total of 17 Aloft hotels had opened, mostly across the US. The aim now was to have 40 Aloft hotels open by the end of this year, Mr Vanden Auweele said. Agreements for 130 hotels, including one in Saudi Arabia, have already been signed and the target is to reach 500 in five years. From the outset, Starwood has striven to position the Aloft brand at the cutting-edge of hotels, launching the brand in the online virtual world Second Life before its first real-life hotel had opened, and giving users the chance to suggest improvements. Mr Vanden Auweele said guest satisfaction scores for its Aloft hotels were already rivalling those of Starwood's luxury hotel brands, which include Le Meridien, Sheraton and W Hotels. But not all business travellers welcome the idea of sacrificing the traditional service elements of hotels to save time and money. "I can't think of anything worse than getting off a long-haul flight and having to deal with self-service check-in," said Brad Crewe, 35, a visual merchandising manager from Dubai. "I would rather let someone else do it all for you. I prefer the personal service." But Mr Crewe said that self-service check-out "could be good if you're in a hurry to catch a flight" and that the free computers and printers "would definitely be handy". Mr Vanden Auweele said: "As people become more familiar with the concept, we believe that we will create ? enthusiasm. There are many hotel brands currently in the UAE, but the majority are extremely similar to each other." With 408 rooms, the Aloft hotel will be the second-largest hotel in Abu Dhabi in terms of capacity after Beach Rotana. "Exhibiting internationally can be extremely expensive and for some companies the cost of accommodation can be the deciding factor in whether they participate in an exhibition or not," said Mr Vanden Auweele. rbundhun@thenational.ae