Tech Watch: Mobile Hotel Check-ins

Category:  Tech Watch
Wednesday, February 5th, 2014 at 12:11 AM

It doesn’t seem long ago that hotels began offering free Wi-Fi in your room. Some hotels are still catching on to this trend, but other larger hotel chains are already working towards being even more tech friendly. The hotel chain Aloft, one of Starwood Hotels and Resorts brands, is taking the lead when it comes to truly mobile keyless check-ins. This modern hotel chain is mostly in bigger cities, so it is no surprise that they will be the first ones attempting the change.

Smartphones have become more of a necessity than a luxury, and Starwood is taking advantage of that notion by trying the new technology out at its Harlem, N.Y. and Cupertino, Calif. Aloft locations.

Starwood’s CEO Frits van Paasschen told USA Today, “In a world where digital tech is only getting smaller and cheaper, more ubiquitous, we need to see how technology is changing what our guests want – and keep pace.” If everything goes as planned for the hotel chain, they will have this new system throughout three Starwood brands – Aloft, W hotels, and Element – by 2015.

The keyless system works through an app that runs through Bluetooth technology only compatible on the newer versions of the iPhone and Android phones. It allows users to check in to the hotel and unlock their hotel room door – not with a key or swipe card, but with the push of a button on their smartphones.

For most, this all may put security concerns into question. With so much personal information stored on our smartphone, it may raise a red flag for travelers, but Thorsten Kirschke, president of Carlson Hotels, Americas, told USA Today, “We would not expose our customers if there’s a slight concern for their security.” Carlson Hotels is not currently experimenting with keyless keys, but they are trying mobile check-ins.

The initial step towards keyless keys may be taking off in a larger city at first, but Bel-Aire Clarion’s Kerry Schwab, vice president of Schwab Hospitality Corporation, made a point that, “It’s not so much anymore [Erie] necessarily of catching up to bigger trends in larger cities, when it comes to applications that we’re speaking of now. We are in a franchise with Choice Hotels, and it’s more or less once the parent companies – whether it’s Choice, Marriott, Starwood, or Hilton – make the decision to adopt a standard, they will do their own data test market and make their appropriate decision and give guidelines for appropriate implementation.”

Marriott, a hotel chain that has brands located in Erie, recently introduced a mobile check-in service, but hotel-goers still have to use the front desk to pick up their key. Unfortunately, when I looked into it, not one Marriott in Erie offers this service yet.

Bel-Aire Clarion hasn’t reached the point of mobile check-in either. But when asked, Kerry said, “Is it something that we would entertain? Absolutely. It is probably the way that the hotel industry is headed.”

Technology has reformed the hospitably industry – no questions asked. “The second you put your head down on the pillow or you take the afternoon off to play nine holes, you’re behind,” Kerry says. “It’s exciting; it really is. The Internet has changed our industry maybe more than most. Maybe not, but it certainly has put the consumer in the driver’s seat.”

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