The End Is Nigh For Room Keys At Hilton-Operated Hotels

Arriving at the door of your hotel room after a long day of traveling only to find that the key doesn’t work can be a frustrating experience. But that could be a situation of the past for guests at Hilton Hotels now that the company plans to rollout an initiative that would do away with flimsy, magnetic strip keys.

Hilton is expected to announce this week a plan to implement a new technology that would allow guests at the companies’ 4,200 properties to enter their rooms with the use of their smartphones, The Wall Street Journal reports.

While customers can already check in and out of the hotel chain via their phones, the new plan, which is part of an ongoing $550 million technology investment, will allow guests to see the location of and select their own rooms by phone at six Hilton brand hotels by the end of the summer.

Officials say the subsequent phases of the initiative will begin to rollout over the next year, including the ability for guests to use their smartphones to unlock the doors to their rooms. Most of the company’s hotels should be equipped with the technology by the end of 2016.

“We are giving customers unprecedented choice and control at scale, and in the palm of their hands,” Christopher Nassetta, Hilton’s chief executive, tells WSJ.

Hilton joins other hotel brands such as Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Marriott and InterContinental Hotels in offering guests a more virtual – and possibly hassle-free – experience.

Starwood announced in January that it would 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.

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.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the use of mobile-phone services by hotel companies is one way chains are competing with online travel agents such as Expedia and TripAdvisor. Additionally, the services are an additional way for hotels to collect more information about their guests’ preferences.

While the new services could streamline the guest experience, previous attempts to implement similar technology has been met with mixed reviews.

Check-in kiosks at two Holiday Inns were pulled after guests showed a preference for talking to an actual person, which could mean we’re not quite ready to abandon all of the older ways of doing things.

Hilton Books Upgraded Technology [The Wall Street Journal]

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  1. theoriginalcatastrophegirl says:

    i don’t know the statistics on who does or doesn’t own smartphones and who doesn’t own smartphones while traveling. but i do definitely know people and talk to people through my job that don’t have smartphones. i haven’t even had one for two years myself.
    i really hope they have a backup option for people without smartphones or people who left their phone in the room or have a dead battery.
    when i worked in a hotel i had loads of early morning fitness buffs go jogging or to the gym next door and leave a room key for themselves to pick up at the front desk so they didn’t have to carry anything. many of them did not take their phones to the gym

    • theoriginalcatastrophegirl says:

      poor word choice: i have owned a smartphone for fewer than two years myself.

  2. CzarChasm says:

    The new technology is a small, flat piece of metal with indentations along one edge that you insert into a hole in the door and turn. It’s found to fail a a significantly lower rate than the key cards.

    But seriously, I have stayed at 3 hotels in the last two months and have had a total of 5 key card failures, one of which (after 3 failures) required the replacing of the battery in the key mechanism. I don’t know how many other people are having issues, but it can be pretty frustrating, especially if you are in a hurry, or coming in from a late night.

  3. SingleMaltGeek says:

    I recently stayed in a hotel (not in the US) that had what appeared to be RFID keys. You touched the keycard to the pad on the door (or by the entryway) to unlock it. I wonder if those will be used for guests who do not have smartphones. Because as catastrophegirl points out, not everyone will have one, and those that do may not always be able to use it for entry.

  4. furiousd says:

    I can’t wait to see how long it takes for someone to bypass the inevitable security flaws. Far too many companies implement new tech without ensuring that it has been created correctly.