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                     (Arizona Republic; 03/07/99)                     

   The front-desk clerk is quiet.

   He takes your credit card, hands you a map to your room, a key. No small 
talk. Not even a smile. Maybe only an electronic beep.

   As most hotel companies do everything they can to lavish guests with as much 
personal attention as they can, a Maryland hotel chain is running in the 
opposite direction.

   MainStay Suites, which opened its first Valley location in Tempe this week, 
has thrown the front-desk out the window. It's self-serve all the way, ATM-

   No concierge to hook guests up with tickets. No beaming manager graciously 
shaking hands as a big bill is signed.

   A touch-screen computer in the lobby does it all - from checking in guests 
to taking payments to offering suggestions for nearby places to grab a bite to 

   It's the latest in a wave of technology that is lapping at the doors of the 
lodging industry. Already, some hotels have added checkout systems on 
television sets in guests' rooms so they don't have to wait in line.

   Some have tried a kiosk similar to MainStay but set it next to a fully-
staffed front desk, said Kathryn Potter, spokeswoman for the American Hotel and 
Motel Association.

   MainStay is the first, as far as she knows, that aims for guests to rely 
totally on the computer.

   "I don't think you'll ever think you'll see high-end resorts and hotels, 
like a Ritz-Carlton, do away with the concierge or front desk," she said. 
"That's a part of what they sell, is the service. But for the limited service 
hotels, I think its definitely an emerging trend. It's been a big topic of 
discussion in the industry."

   One of the main reasons is significant cost savings.

   Normally, a hotel would staff about 10 workers to handle such functions 
around the clock, said Ken Stone, regional director of sales and marketing for 
MainStay. Though he wouldn't say how much the computer costs the company, he 
said it's far less than what it would cost to pay all those workers.

   That means the hotel can put those savings into other amenities, such as 
keeping room rates low, free breakfast and happy hour, and barbecues once a 

   It also means the 100-room MainStay Suites near Broadway and Interstate 10 
will operate with only eight employees, important in a tight labor market where 
the exploding number of hotels - and a good economy in general - make each 
position a struggle to fill.

   The computer not only saves costs and employment hassles, but waits for 
guests, who can check in in half the time, Stone said.

   "It's just like ATMs," said Keri Baehr of MainStay.

   "A lot of people were really uncomfortable with them when they first came on 
the scene, now I don't know anyone that doesn't use one. And banks are 
practically forcing customers to use the technology because it saves time and 

   Here's how the MainStay kiosk works:

   After selecting a language, users can either see what types of rooms or 
available or enter an earlier-arranged confirmation number. Once they choose, 
the computer spits out a sheet that shows details like the rate of the room and 
the length of their stay. It also gives them a personal identification number 
that will let them tap into the computer throughout their stay.

   If everything looks good, they simply swipe a credit card through the 
machine, and out comes a key, a map to their suite and directions for things 
like how to use the voice mail system.

   They can also get suggestions and maps to entertainment, sports, grocery 
stores, restaurants and realty services, all through answering different 
prompts on the touch-screen.

   If it all sounds a bit cold and lacking a personal touch, Stone said 
extensive research shows it is right up the alley of the type of customer that 
would use a MainStay Suite - people between jobs, between marriages, those 
relocating to a new city who haven't bought a house, or workers on extended out-
of-town projects or training.

   Many stay for several weeks or months. In general, they are comfortable with 
technology and appreciate value and convenience over pampering, according to 
research from focus groups.

   Stone said the system allows guests such conveniences as quickly getting a 
replacement key if they lock themselves out of their rooms or a printout an 
itemized list of room charges for weekly expense reports.

   MainStay doesn't completely take away the human safety net. If guests are 
technophobic, a small management office is open during the day where they can 
get a human to help them through the computerized process. After hours, there's 
a red phone that connects them to a live voice 24 hours a day.

   "The goal is for guests to be as independent as possible," Stone said. 
Besides the computer, there is a supply closet on the second floor, where 
guests can pick up extra towels, shampoo, pens, even comforters 24 hours a day. 
There're also do-it-yourself laundry facilities, like you'd find in an 
apartment complex.

   MainStay is the latest concept designed by Choice Hotels International, a 
publicly traded company that operates Sleep Inn, Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, 
Quality Inns, Hotels and Suites, Clarion Inns, Hotels Suites and Resorts, Econo 
Lodge, and Rodeway Inn.

   It has 3,670 hotels worldwide, and another 1,477 under development.

   So far, 19 MainStays have opened around the country, and 22 more are under 

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