In the modern age of travel, if you can check in for a flight using your mobile phone – or even double-check that your garage door is closed while you wait to board – why not also check into your hotel room via an app? As the hotel industry seeks to enhance its guest experience through smart tech tools, digital check-in technology is becoming more common in hotels from New York to Los Angeles.
Mega-hotel chains including Hilton Worldwide, Starwood Hotels & Resorts and Marriott International have been testing and piloting digital keyless room entry over the last two years, with plans to expand the number of hotels where these tools are offered. Starwood recently announced that 350,000 members have registered for SPG Keyless since they first piloted the technology at 10 hotels in November 2014. As of last summer, Hilton reports that their HHonors members had checked in to their rooms via smartphone more than 5 million times, with the technology available at more than 4,100 properties across the world.
Most hotels operate the digital keys through their loyalty program apps; after downloading the app, a guest can select a preferred room and receive an alert when the room is ready – completely bypassing a line at the front desk. The breath of functionality varies by hotel chain, but the apps typically enable hotel guests to check in, select their rooms and open their hotel doors, fitness center or other guest facilities. Guests at the Virgin Hotel in Chicago can maximize their relaxation by using their smartphones to control room temperatures, adjust room lighting and change TV channels, according to Hospitality Net.
“Creating tech-enabled, personalized hotel stays will become increasingly important as America’s 80 million millennials beat out the baby boomers as the generation spending the most on travel, something that’s predicted to happen within the next five to 10 years,” says Hospitality Net. “By 2017, millennials are expected to be spending $200 billion a year.”
Data from the U.K.-based InterContinental Hotels Group 2015 Trends Report reveals that when it comes to travel, “millennials are much more comfortable with technology-enabled personalisation while boomers are more comfortable with people-enabled personalisation.” While 44 percent of millennials prefer to book their hotel services via a digital device compared to 26 percent of baby boomers, IHG notes that there members of both generational groups who prefer a combination of both personalization approaches.
As with any new technology, there are always kinks to work out and potential security issues to address. Geraldine Calpin, senior vice president and global head of digital at Hilton Worldwide, told Condé Nast Traveler that the digital key is “highly secure” – even more so than a plastic key card. “The digital key will only work with your phone, with your reservation, and the room you chose when you checked in with the app,” Calpin said.
Now if only mobile apps could eliminate the lines to board and deplane your flight…
Marie Ruff is Communications Senior Manager at NAIOP.