Japanese firm plans to build 100 robot-staffed hotels around world

Japanese hospitality company HIS Co this week opened its second Henn Na Hotel near Tokyo’s Disney Resort in Urayasu.

The hotel’s name is a play on the Japanese word kimyōna, meaning "strange", and it lives up to its title by being partly staffed by robots.

The Urayasu resort is HIS’ second such hotel – the first opened in July 2015 near the Dutch theme park, Huis Ten Bosch, near Nagasaki.

HIS has plans in to launch 100 more, including some outside Japan, in the next five years.

The aim of Henn Na Hotel "is not about being strange, it’s about transforming and evolving," Hideo Sawada, founder and chairman of HIS, said during an opening ceremony held the same day.

"Having robots in charge of the reception and placing robots everywhere, we aim to make it the most efficient hotel in the world."

The hotel’s reception desk is staffed by robots that speak Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean – an improvement on the "staff" at Nagasaki, which spoke only Japanese.

The robot in the room is cute, but keeps interrupting conversations (

Porter robots help guests to carry luggage to their rooms and cleaning robots wipe windows and vacuum carpets.

The Nagasaki hotel opened with about 10 androids servicing a 72-room facility, however Urayasu will use about 140 robots to cover 100 rooms. In addition, there is an egg-shaped "Tapia" robot in each room that turns on appliances and answers questions.

Seven human employees are also on site to help with problems that exceed the robots’ programming.

The Nagasaki hotel received a mixed reception from visitors who reviewed it on Trip Advisor.

Guests commented that the experience of dealing with robots was "unique", and the face recognition system that replaced room keys was popular, but some commented that the technology was "not there yet".

One person who stayed in November 2016 said: "The robot in our room is irritating. It speaks when we are in a conversation, but it could not help us when we needed it. They could have made the lawn-mower more cute."

A staff member of the hotel told The Japan Times that about 80% of available reservations are taken until the end of March.

Top image: Dinosaur robots serve as receptionists during a media preview for the newly-opened Henn na Hotel in Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture (

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