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Rethinking hotel kiosks: Creating a better check-in experience

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The check-in process is a guest's first real interaction with a hotel and sets the tone for their stay. By looking at how efficient airport kiosks are and how streamlined airlines operate, we can find valuable insights to improve hotel check-in systems.

This article evaluates current hotel kiosk technology, draws parallels with airport and airline check-in processes, and proposes enhancements to improve speed, convenience, and guest engagement.


Lessons from the aviation industry

Airport passport control kiosks are a great example of efficient processing. These kiosks minimise interaction, requiring only a passport scan and facial verification, speed up passenger flow and reduce wait times compared to traditional staffed counters.

This process shows the importance of speed and minimal guest effort — key benchmarks for any check-in process. Passengers prefer these kiosks because they are faster and easier.

The airport shift to online check-ins

Airlines have made check-in even more efficient by reducing physical interactions at airports. Recognising the high cost of airport space and the inconvenience of long check-ins, airlines have moved most of the check-in process online.

Before arriving at the airport, passengers can check in via mobile devices, choose extras for their journey, and receive a digital boarding pass. At the airport, they only need to scan the boarding pass at the gate. This approach saves time and helps airlines manage passenger flow more effectively with fewer staff during peak times.

Comparing traditional hotel kiosks


Traditional hotel kiosks often struggle to match the efficiency and convenience of passport or airline check-in processes. Guests using hotel kiosks usually have to manually input many details, resulting in check-in times similar to or longer than those at a staffed reception desk.

While checking in at the reception typically involves showing ID and payment methods to staff, kiosk check-ins make guests responsible for data entry and verification. This extra responsibility can be off-putting, so many guests use kiosks only when reception lines are long. As a result, many upscale hotels see kiosks as a low-cost, lower-service alternative rather than a true service enhancement.

Smarter hotel kiosk solutions

Using best practices from airport and airline check-ins, we propose a solution that separates the moments of check-in and arrival. This solution optimises the process for speed and convenience while giving guests a choice between a fully automated or human-assisted, digitally facilitated check-in experience.

1. Automated online check-ins

Hotels should invite guests to check in online through an automated system they can access from their smartphone or laptop. This simplicity reduces formalities and waiting times upon arrival, allowing for easy ID recognition and one-click payments via mobile wallets. During this relaxed check-in phase, guests can explore meaningful upgrades and additional services without feeling rushed.

2. The Hotel Pass

Like the airline boarding pass, a "Hotel Pass" can be issued immediately upon booking confirmation or online check-in. Guests can print or save the pass in their mobile wallet, which is ready to use after online check-in. Upon arrival, guests scan their Hotel Pass at a kiosk, which quickly completes check-in by issuing room keys, handling optional payments on a connected card terminal, and directing guests to their rooms in seconds.

3. Streamlining human-assisted check-in

The Hotel Pass can also make human-assisted check-ins faster for guests who prefer the traditional method. Reception areas equipped with QR code readers enable guests to quickly present their Hotel Pass, allowing receptionists to access their reservation details instantly.

This system is especially useful in hotels where room access technology does not support self-programming key cards, ensuring guests experience minimal wait times and maximum convenience.

4. Handling incomplete pre-arrival preparations

If a guest arrives without completing the online check-in process or downloading their Hotel Pass, the kiosk will detect this and offer alternatives. It will prompt guests to fill in their family name to receive a new email for online check-in, allowing them to complete the preparations on their mobile devices.

After obtaining their Hotel Pass, guests can return to the kiosk to scan it and finish the process. This method lets guests complete the check-in comfortably using their device in the lobby instead of at a public kiosk.

5. Integrating the systems

For the proposed solution to work seamlessly, hoteliers must ensure that all system elements, including online check-in, guest messaging, kiosks, property management systems (PMS), and payments, are tightly integrated. This integration ensures a smooth transition from online preparation to physical arrival.

For example, the kiosk system must assume the online check-in is complete and guide guests who haven't finished this step to the online process. Additionally, payment guarantees must be consistent across the online check-in, kiosk, and PMS. The PMS must recognise the hotel passes issued by the online check-in system to facilitate an efficient human-assisted check-in process.

Clock's platform offers a complete solution, integrating PMS, guest messaging, online check-in, kiosk, and payment systems into one seamless platform. Instead of relying on tablet cameras, our approach uses devices with embedded QR code readers to ensure maximum efficiency and the best guest experience.


Improving hotel check-in processes by learning from airport passport kiosks and airline operations can greatly enhance guest satisfaction and operational efficiency. By adopting smarter kiosk solutions that separate check-in from arrival, optimise speed and convenience, and offer a choice between fully automated and enhanced human-assisted service, hotels can significantly improve the first point of contact with guests.

This approach meets modern travellers' expectations and sets a new standard in hospitality by ensuring a welcoming and efficient experience when guests enter the hotel. With advanced technologies and strategic system alignments in Clock's hotel platform, hotels can achieve a delightful check-in experience that rivals the best airline check-in systems.

Pelle Sundin

Senior Content Writer

Pelle's mission is to make hotel technology insights practical and easy to understand. In his free time, he travels the world to hunt for waves, drinks coffee and makes music.

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