No More Hotel Check-Ins; Your Smartphone is Now Your Room Key

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    No more waiting at the front desks in hotels, or stopping there to check in at all.

    This new program will speed up the check-in process for busy travelers, and let them go straight to their rooms, using their smartphones to unlock their room doors.

    Hotels are working to catch up to the many technical innovations that airlines have been implementing. Modern fliers are able to use their phones to check in, select seats and as a boarding pass. Hotels hope to accomplish the equivalent relationship, such as guests being able to order poolside drinks through an app on their phone.

    On Monday, Starwood Hotels and Resorts became the first chain to allow guests to unlock doors using their phones. Currently, the feature is only available at 10 Aloft, Element and W hotels but by the middle of next year it is set to expand to 140 more properties in those brands.

    The only other hotel chain to acknowledge publicly its intentions for mobile phone room keys is Hilton Worldwide, which at the end of 2015 plans to roll out at some U.S. properties. It has not been revealed how many hotels Hilton will include in the program; however it was said that at four of its brands, Hilton, Waldorf Astoria, Conrad and Canopy, the service will be available.

    Mark Vondrasek, who manages Starwood’s loyalty program and digital initiatives, said, “Guests want this because it makes their lives simpler. The ability to go right to your room, gives them back time.”

    Many hotel companies are looking for alternate ways of streamlining the arrival process.

    Last year, Marriott International launched its app, which could be used to check in at 330 North American hotels. The program is scheduled to be available at all 4,000 hotels worldwide by the end of this year. A guest receives a message on their phone when a room becomes available. The traditional room keys are pre-programmed and waiting for the guest to pick up at the front desk upon arrival. There is a special express line, at which they flash their IDs and get the keys, and avoid waiting in the crowds.

    By the end of the year, all 4,000 Hilton properties worldwide will have a similar check-in system. The one additional feature will allow guests to select a specific room using maps on the app.

    InterContinental Hotels Group is currently testing express check-in at 60 locations.

    The services are geared toward the fast-pace traveler, then the leisurely guest fonder of personal interactions.

    “If you’re at the end of a long day, you might want a little less of a chatty experience. But if you’re showing up at a new resort, you may want to know what the pool hours are,” says Brett Cowell, vice president of information technology for Hyatt, which is testing at six hotels, permanent keys for frequent guests.

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