The Future of Hotel's Keyless Keys

By Anthony Maggio Co-Founder & Head of Product, CheckMate | May 25, 2014

Anyone who travels frequently likely has encountered the frustrating experience of arriving at a hotel and waiting in a long check-in line. While airlines and rental car companies have made mobile check-in and boarding stations commonplace, hotels have been slow to adopt mobile solutions and solve pain points around the arrival process.

A recent study by Cornell's Center for Hospitality Research found that for guests from the United States, waiting more than five minutes to check-in at a hotel diminished satisfaction levels by 50 percent. Given the impact that lines and wait times can have on guest satisfaction, it's no surprise that hotels are beginning to prioritize resolutions to these challenges.

In the past year, a number of initiatives have emerged in the spirit of providing guests with a more seamless arrival process. Notably, Marriott launched mobile check-in and check-out at more than 300 properties, and CheckMate announced a platform that allows hotels to white-label their mobile check-in services.

The latest endeavor around hotel check-in came in late January 2014, as Starwood announced their plans to roll-out a "Keyless Key" at select aloft and W properties. Guests who download the Starwood Preferred Guest app are able to check-in and use their phone as a key to their room. This move is a big step forward in providing hotel guests with a convenient alternative to waiting in line and serves as yet another example of technology advances designed to reinvent the hotel check-in process.
The announcement raises several questions about the path forward for hotels and other chains planning to follow suit:

  • Which wireless protocol will become the next standard for mobile keys and which handsets will be supported?
  • How much is this going to cost … and who's going to pay for it?
  • Will "keyless keys" eliminate the front desk? Is this the end of personalized service?
  • What alternatives exist to help hotels reduce wait times without implementing new hardware?

Wireless Protocols

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.