Empowered Experience: The Hotel and Access Control

Most hotels, even the ones with the best customer service, are not known as places of convenient access. You wait to check in and to check out. You’re given a key card that may or may not work with the door in question. Other steps: putting a credit card on file, being given cards for the fitness room or the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet.

Fortunately, that experience is changing for the better. A number of hotels, Marriott among them, are exploring how to better serve guests. That question is leading to integrations of APIs like Marriott’s and Apple Pay.

People not only can pay with their Apple credentials, but they also can tie those payments to their Marriott credit card and associated rewards program. No more fumbling for the credit card; no more visiting multiple apps to ensure reward points have been recorded. Everything is done through a single app. It’s seamless, simple, and secure.

The actual process is similar to using Apple Pay at any opted-in grocery or retail store. Guests use a kiosk in the Marriott lobby, tap their phone against it, and automatically pay for their stay.

Other hotels, like the Starwood, aim to enhance the experience further. Payment is only one of the hurdles. The other, obviously, is the dreaded door and key card system.

The Starwood is exploring keyless entry systems. With them, guests aren’t asked to remember to keep the card with them at all times—and how many times has a guest exited the room certain he or she has the card only to discover otherwise?

Instead of traditional cards, access credentials are issued to a person’s mobile phone. They approach the keyless lock. Depending on the system, either they present their mobile phone to a screen, or the lock “reads” the mobile signature and credential. In either case, the door automatically unlocks, a nice benefit when a guest’s hands are filled with luggage and carry-ons.

Starwood’s solution, however, doesn’t necessarily resolve the payment issue. Guests still have to stop at the front desk to put a card on file before receiving their credentials. While the step may not be frustrating, it certainly isn’t seamless. In fact, it can be hugely inconvenient if the receptionist is away from the desk.

To simplify the process, apps and systems should be integrated further. What if the access control system synced with payment and a hotel’s reward system? Guests might still need to visit with the clerk and present an ID card, but at least they don’t have to pull out a credit card and wait for key cards.

Then again, mobile identities could take care of even that point. Front clerks would still be needed; they are, after all, the face of the hotel. But they wouldn’t be required to act as the authenticator and provider of credentials. The access control system takes care of that efficiently and securely, leaving the receptionists free to answer questions about where the best local sushi place is or how to get to the Metro.