If you’ve been to a hotel lately, you may have noticed a curious phenomenon. In many establishments, the traditional front desk is morphing or disappearing entirely. This is part of a nationwide trend of more open and flexible lobby design.

As Jena Tesse Fox points out in a posting on hotelmanagement.net, the front desk used to be the definitive centerpiece of a hotel lobby. Today however, hotel lobbies are transforming to resemble residential living rooms, with small kiosks or hospitality stands replacing the imposing front desk. The thought is that this design is more friendly and inviting, and helps guests feel as though they are entering a home rather than a hotel.

Designer Lauren Rottet told Fox that in many cases the look of contemporary front desks is subtle, with the wall behind them becoming the focal point as opposed to the actual desk. In one design Rottet is working on, the desk faces a fireplace rather than the front door.

Ditching the Front Desk

In some cases, the concept of a front desk is being ditched entirely. In such scenarios, staff members approach guests as they enter the hotel, establishing immediate personal contact. The peripatetic front desk clerks then use portable tablets to quickly check guests in.

This approach is not confined to hotels. Some air carriers are exploring the same idea for flight check-in. In Melbourne, Australia, ticket counter representatives for Tigerair, a Singapore-based budget carrier, are abandoning the counter and greeting customers as they enter the terminal. Using an iPad mini equipped with a scanner, credit card reader and mini printer, they can check travelers in for their flights, print boarding passes and facilitate upgrade charges. An app then transmits information in real-time to the airline’s operations systems, allowing the ground crew to know exactly how many people have checked in, as well as the weight of their luggage.

Moxy is a new lifestyle brand from Marriott. Hip and stylish with a lot of unique features, it is designed to appeal to fun-loving, tech-savvy millennials. Instead of standing on a line at a stodgy front desk, Moxy guests can register using their smartphones or check-in in at the 24/7 bar, prominently located on the ground level. Moxy currently has three properties in Europe (Milan, Frankfurt and Munich), and two in the United States (Tempe, Arizona and New Orleans.) Three dozen more are slated to open in Europe and the United States by the end of 2017.