Eight more robot-staffed Henn na Hotels to open across Japan

Travel agency H.I.S. Co. is eyeing an ambitious plan to build eight more robot-staffed Henn na Hotels in addition to the one it opened in Tokyo’s high-end Ginza shopping district this week, according to the Japan Times.

The “Henn na” name is a play on words, using a Chinese character that means both strange and change. The hotel has found success employing robots as a way to both draw in business and reduce staffing costs.

“Japan does not have enough hotel rooms and we have a shrinking population to staff stores,” Miura Tatsuki, a manager from the public relations division at H.I.S., told the Japan Times. “We created this hotel in part to respond to societal issues.”

The hotel has already demonstrated the cost-saving potential of employing robotic staff. Originally 30 staff members were assigned to work at the 140-room hotel, but the automated check-in system allowed for the company to reduce the number of staff to seven working on rotating shifts, according to Tatsuki.

When guests approach the reception desk, the androids begin speaking in a preset routine to welcome guests to the hotel in Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean. Customers can then check in at two nearby kiosks.

In addition to its latest addition in Ginza, the company plans to build four robot-staffed hotels in the Tokyo area this year and four others spread among Osaka, Fukuoka and Kyoto. The company also opened an automated coffee shop, Henn na Cafe in Shibuya Ward, on the same day as the opening of the Ginza hotel.

The original Henn na Hotel was opened in July 2015 in Nagasaki, Japan. It is run almost entirely by machinery, including the check-in receptionist (an android for guests who speak Japanese; a dinosaur for English-speakers) and the porter that helps guests with their luggage—in this case, an automated trolley.