Hilton Worldwide has made a major investment in the future of mobile tech and their guests’ digital experience – a $550 million dollar one. Recently, they announced plans for new mobile technology destined for 4,200 properties worldwide. This new technology will allow guests to bypass the front desk completely and use their smartphones as room keys by the end of 2016. Additionally, by the end of 2014, guests will be able to use their phones to select their own rooms from digital floor plans “for over 650,000 rooms at more than 4,000 hotels across Hilton’s portfolio of 11 brands.” Guests will also be able to personalize their stay by purchasing room upgrades, and make special requests for items or other custom preferences on their smartphones, tablets, and computers.
The ability to implement this technology required a huge overhaul of Hilton’s property management systems. Chief information officer Bill Murphy says the company unified 13 property-management systems into one, replaced its servers and other back-office equipment, and spent “tens of millions of dollars” building out the digital platform. Other hotel companies that offer mobile check-in require a front desk employee to manually input guest information into their central booking system. Hilton’s operations are more streamlined, the guests can interact directly with the reservation system; which in turn, frees up Hilton’s front desk employees to focus on face-to-face guest interaction.
Other hotel operators such as Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Marriot International and InterContinental Hotels Group are also offering or plan to offer similar mobile features at some of their properties. Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide says its guest loyalty program members will soon be able to access rooms with their smartphones thanks to mobile, keyless check-in. Their pilot program is set to begin at select locations in the coming months with the potential to launch at some Aloft and W Hotels in 2015.
The evolving hotel guests are driving the change, and their ever-changing preferences and desire for a sleek technological experience has created a race for customer retention in an industry that has witnessed its guest loyalty programs plummet. Not all hotels are focusing their energy on just hotel mobile apps anymore, they’re more concerned with the guest experience, and how they can use hotel technology to create a more intimate dynamic between the front desk employees and their arriving guests.
Hoteliers are providing alternatives to the front desk stand by arming their smiling employees with tablets. Guests have the option of checking-in before they get there, or interacting and chitchatting with the front desk employees. With the huge investments hotel operators are putting into hotel technology and how it molds their guests’ experiences, employees will finally be equipped with the tools to offer a personal interaction that leans more towards great hospitality, rather than something that feels purely transactional.
By Ronnie Coleman Sales Executive at StayNTouch, Inc.