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Hilton to Test Kiosk for Check-In

September 04, 2003|Terril Yue Jones | Times Staff Writer

Checking into a hotel may soon be as simple as withdrawing cash from an automated teller machine.

Hilton Hotels Corp. said Wednesday that it is working with IBM Corp. to develop self-service kiosks to allow guests to check themselves into and out of two of its hotels, one in New York and the other in Chicago. If the machines are well-received in an initial test, they could be rolled out to more hotels.

The kiosks will assign a guest a room based on his or her preferences, then print directions to the room and issue keys. At the end of each stay, the kiosks will provide a receipt.

The test will begin in the fourth quarter and last three to six months, according to the Beverly Hills-based hotel chain. Terms of the partnership were not disclosed.

IBM has installed almost 3,000 self-service check-in kiosks at airports, train stations and other locations around the world for customers such as UAL Corp.'s United Airlines, British Airways and Amtrak.

But the Armonk, N.Y.-based computer giant didn't fare so well in its previous attempt to build electronic kiosks for Hilton. In the late 1990s, the companies teamed up with American Express Co. for a similar kiosk pilot program, but the idea didn't catch on at the time.

Today, however, "consumer acceptance is higher and the technology has advanced, and travelers are accustomed to alternate modes of transactions," said IBM spokeswoman Linda Hanson. "The pilot tried a few years ago was perhaps ahead of its time."

Although some may miss the human interaction at the hotel registration desk, Hanson pointed out that each machine "frees up desk agents to take care of the more complex transactions."

Eventually, IBM hopes to expand the kiosks' capabilities so that they can reserve rental cars and seats on airline flights.

Shares in both companies gained Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange. Hilton rose 18 cents to $15.46, while IBM rose 57 cents to $86.33.

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