IN THE FIELD WITH DAVID ESSERYK -Part 5 / Mobile Technologies & Security

The New Hotel Key – Your Smartphone

David Esseryk, the Accor Group’s Vice-President Consumer Technology is in charge of guest-facing technology for all brands. In this issue’s regular report, he looks at how hotels can leverage mobile technologies at check-in and indeed as a room key…

Remember checking in for flights at the airport, or having to call an airline the night before to confirm? Both used to be standard operating procedures for travellers. Now, the entire airline industry has become digitized and mobile check-in is the norm. On par, hotel culture is embracing tech developments and hotels are vying for the forefront with new digital services.

Mobile-friendly consumers want connection, convenience and comfort, and as such they are demanding more self-service options that incorporate mobile technologies into their hotel stays. Indeed, it is often faster and easier to engage in automated self-service than to wait in a long line to interact with hotel staff at the front desk.

For many hotel guests, self-service has become an amenity, and there is no better way to meet travellers’ demands for self-service than to enable them to check into a hotel on their own terms. Hotel security vendors are exploring a variety of ways to employ emerging mobile access technologies, such as Near Field Communication (NFC), to convert mobile phones and other devices into guestroom keys. Besides being innovative, this advanced technology provides added convenience and time-savings by allowing guests to skip the traditional front desk check-in process entirely, while easing hotels’ bottom lines through reduced staff requirements.

Meanwhile, mobile hotel check-in is poised for rapid expansion this year across the industry. Marriott Hotels, for example, during the first half of this year has been rolling out mobile checkin in all 500 of its hotels globally, for Marriott Rewards members. Guests who are members can check-in via the Marriott Mobile App from 4 pm on the day before arrival. Upon arrival, their key card will be waiting for them at a designated mobile check-in desk.

Hyatt Hotels and Resorts have a similar process at select hotels, with kiosks available for incoming guests to pick up their keys.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Aloft brand has taken a slightly different approach at the nine properties currently piloting the Smart CheckIn program. Guests receive an Aloft-branded Starwood Preferred Guest Card and, on the day of their arrival, receive a text message telling them their room number. They can then head straight to their room and use the SPG card as their key.

Accor has announced the worldwide implementation of a digital solution to offer customers a personalized welcome. There are four steps involved. Two days before their hotel stay, guests are invited to check-in online. On the arrival day, guests receive a welcome message by SMS, confirming their room and key are ready. When guests arrive at the hotel, their key has been prepared and is handed over immediately without the usual administrative formalities. This means staff can be more available to greet guests and cater to their specific requests. When it comes to check out, guests simply hand in their key and the invoice is sent to them by email.

In this area, vendors in the hotel sector have, in some cases, been ahead of those in the consumer market… for once! This is true in the case of OpenWays, who developed a proprietary guestroom key consisting of sound impulses via any mobile phone (not just smart phones). This innovative concept is now spreading to the broader residential market with Okidokeys brand.