Starwood Hotels and Resorts, the hotel company that counts the Westin, W Hotels, Sheraton and the St. Regis amongst its brands, will soon make traditional hotel check-in and room keys a thing of the past. Beginning this week, Starwood will offer the SPG Keyless function on its app exclusively to members of its Starwood Preferred Guest program, allowing guests to unlock their hotel rooms with just their smart phone.
The keyless entry will be available for more than 30,000 rooms across 150 hotels in early 2015, beginning with properties in New York, Hollywood, Hong Kong and Singapore this week. Available only for customers who book their rooms through the SPG app, guests register their phones through the app and are alerted when their rooms are ready via push notifications. They are then given a room number and a key code that grants access to the room and any other area of the hotel that requires a key for entry. Upon departure, the mobile key is deactivated and guests can checkout using the app, bypassing the front desk entirely.
So what does this mean for the hotel industry?
A guests’ first impression of a property is established at check-in, so if that initial point-of-contact is diminished, hotels must think of other strategies to engage with guests during their stay. The self-service functionality is perfectly aligned with current trends and behavior, but it’s also essential that hotels find ways to provide an experience that is, above all else, warm and welcoming. Other major hotels are sure to follow Starwood's lead with the keyless entry model, but they must also develop ways to demonstrate attentiveness, disseminate information and engage with guests using both technology and traditional service practices.