Easy Access: Are Virtual Room Keys The Future Of Hotels?

Smartphones can do just about everything these days: handle your bank accounts, monitor your home for burglaries, and now unlock your hotel room. A chain of boutique hotels is hoping the use of virtual keys will be the next big thing in hotels.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. announced it will begin implementing technology to allow guests to skip check-in and open their hotel rooms with a virtual key on their smartphone at two hotels in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan and Cupertino, Calif.

Guests staying at Aloft Hotel will receive a message via a Starwood app to unlock their door with a tap or twist of their phone using Bluetooth technology, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Officials with Starwood say the new technology may be a novelty at first, but they think it will raise the bar in hotel convenience for consumers.

It’s not the first attempt to streamline check-in with technology, but it’s uncertain how successful it could be: Check-in kiosks at two Holiday Inns were pulled after guests showed a preference with talking to an actual person, which could mean we’re not quite ready to digitize everything.

Marriott International Inc. introduced mobile check-in, which allows loyalty program members to check-in using their phone, at 350 of its hotels, with another 150 hotels to be added this summer.

Officials with Starwood say they have no plans to remove traditional check-in counters from their hotels.

Smartphones to Open Doors at Some Hotels [The Wall Street Journal]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.