A guest walks into a hotel. She bypasses the packed lobby, forgoes the line at the front counter and steps into the elevator. At her room, she pauses at the landing and, after a couple of clicks, the door unlocks. She’s checked in and let herself into her room without speaking to any staff.

It might seem counter-intuitive to remove the most quintessential hospitality moment from the guest experience, but, according to Brian Shedd, VP of Sales and Marketing at Texas-based OpenKey, the front-desk check-in experience is considered more of a tollgate than a service by guests and is one of the most-cited customer-service issues on social media. And, as Shedd explains, removing it has benefits. “Without irritated travellers waiting in line to check in, the front-desk staff can help guests with questions, requests and issues, providing the kind of hospitality guests appreciate.”

Keyless entry provides balance between tech solutions and traditional hospitality to enhance the guest experience. “Technology isn’t here to replace hospitality, it’s here to complement it,” says Ryan Killeen, general manager at The Annex in Toronto, which uses Operto (formerly Slickspaces) software to empower guests to bypass the hotel’s hosts.

The company’s flagship solution programs keypad locks with unique entry codes for each reservation, which are shared with guests without the guest having to download an app.

But it’s not just nimble operations taking advantage of a guest’s desire for autonomy — adoption can be seen across all segments. “At OpenKey, we’re seeing every segment embrace mobile keyless-entry technology,” says Shedd. “It’s clear mobile keys will replace plastic keycards in years to come.”

And mobile is where to look. Nicolas Aznar, president of Americas at ASSA ABLOY Global Solutions, notes an aspect of keyless entry that’s continued to evolve is its growing presence within hotels’ guest-facing mobile apps. “Hoteliers increasingly recognize that, for a guest to download their app and review promotional offerings, they must first be provided with an instant value that offers a practical purpose towards enhancing their stay. Hotels, as a result, have increasingly moved toward mobile apps where digital-key features are found alongside functionalities such as the ability to order room service and control in-room amenities, including lights or thermostats.”

Implementing keyless entry can take time, as brands first want to understand the impact on guest experience and operations. As reported by Shedd, companies currently rolling out mobile key in all properties include; Hilton, Marriott, MGM and Hyatt. Brands currently piloting mobile key include Best Western, Radisson and Caesar’s Entertainment. “OpenKey [has] hotels with 80-per-cent mobile-key usage and others with single-digit usage. Average mobile-key usage across our portfolio of hotels is around 25 per cent.”
Killeen is confident in the technology and that The Annex’s guests approve. “Once they understand how [to use it] they love it. Knowing they always have access to their room without having to think about it is something that gives guests peace of mind.”

Because digital-key technology is still relatively new, some guest demographics will need assistance accepting the technology. “Hoteliers should, therefore, continue to work with providers in training staff to ensure they’re able to pass on knowledge to all guests about the platform’s availability and how it functions,” Aznar explains.

It’s likely keyless entry as the norm isn’t far off, according to Shedd. “We’re five years away from mobile keyless entry reaching market saturation.”

Written by Andrea Victory


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