Personality Hotel guests use mobile key to bypass check-in lines
By Kari Jensen
January 8, 2014
Hotel Diva and Hotel Union Square guests now can check in with customer service and unlock their room doors with their mobile phones, bypassing the front desk and avoiding standing in any lines.
The San Francisco boutique properties are offering the Mobile Key service via their mobile applications. The feature is another way that mobile devices are simplifying travel for consumers and providing marketers with new ways to promote hotels.
“A boutique hotel wants a device applicable to as many customers as possible,” said Michael Cohen, Toronto-based senior vice president of business development at OpenWays. “Eighty-five percent of all customers carry some kind of mobile device. That’s why we can do a mobile key.
“We can take away the frustration of the line up when you get in that busy New York hotel [or] that busy Las Vegas hotel,” he said. “It’s the hotel’s personality.
“It’s about driving the mobile strategy for the hotel brand.”
Smartphone users can download the hotel’s app, which includes the feature. The app serves as a check-in tool and provides guests with their room numbers.
The hotel’s room doors are outfitted with a feature on the lock plate, which senses a guest’s smartphone when it is held in font of the lock plate.
Non-smartphone users also can use the service. On their arrival day, they will receive a text message, which directs them to call a specific number when they are in front of their room door and to place their phone next to the lock plate.
“There are millions of mobile phones that are not smartphones,” Mr. Cohen said. “In hospitality, in a hotel, it’s about the functionality.”
Mobile keys are encrypted and secure, according to Mr. Cohen.
At the same time, in a boutique hotel, marketers want to offer amenities and services above and beyond normal.
Tech-savvy travelers are increasingly turning to mobile devices to plan and execute their trips. Last May, a survey found that more than 50 percent of respondents had used a mobile device to book recent travel (see story).
As marketers better understand how and when consumers use mobile they can adapt their services.
Consumers now are familiar with using their mobile devices at ATMS, coffee shops and stores.
Mobile Key is similar in that it is intuitive and easy to use, according to Mr. Cohen.
Some hotels, such as Hotel Diva and Hotel Union Square, offer Mobile Key only in a hotel app. Other properties offer the feature within a suite of hotel services, such as room service, housekeeping and customer service.
Since a guest in the hotel may use their mobile device as a room key multiple times during the day, each time that guest is also being exposed to the hotel’s other amenities.
“You need traction, usage of the [hotel] apps,” Mr. Cohen said. “When you embed Mobile Key into the app, [the guests are] using the app.
“When people open their doors four to five times a day, they see other things they can do with the app,” he said. “[They say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know I could get room service from the app. I didn’t know I could get room service.'”
Hotels also can offer incentives and mobile discounts via their apps.
Mobile Key is undergoing trials at other major brand hotels in the United States. Mobile Key is in use at Regal Hotels in Hong Kong as well asin Belgium, France, Australia and Thailand.
The travel and hotel industries are always are looking for ways to improve service, including via mobile devices.
“It’s happening,” Mr. Cohen said. “Sometimes with mobile technology it just makes sense.”
Kari Jensen is staff writer on Mobile Marketer, New York