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Checking in by Phone: The Card Key May be History



Though it hasn’t become the norm yet, hotel companies have either started or are making plans to let you use your smartphone to not just check in, avoiding the front desk but unlock your hotel room as well.

No Waiting in Line Again
Several chains already allow you to check in with your smartphone and bypass the line at the front desk altogether. InterContinental Hotels Group is testing express check-in for its elite loyalty programs members at 500 hotels right now. Marriott International started with the ability to check in through its app last year at 330 North American hotels. You check in by phone and preprogrammed keys are available at an express check in line at the front desk. By the end of this year, all 4,000 Marriott hotels world-wide should be in the program with Hilton expecting the same number to be participating with their similar check in app by the end of the year.

No Card Key Needed
According to a Denver Post newspaper article Skip check-in: New hotel room key is your phone, Starwood Hotels have become the first chain to use phones in place of card keys. Available only at 10 Aloft, Element and W Hotels they plan to add 140 more properties by the middle of 2015. Hilton Worldwide plans to roll out mobile room keys by the end of 2015 at more than 250 U.S properties in its Hilton, Waldorf Astoria, Conrad and Canopy brands.

Is it Safe?
Security is an issue here. Phones are lost all the time. So are card keys but not only can they cancelled and reissued without much cost, card keys are rarely stolen; they have no information on them as to room number so there is no value in stealing them. On the other hand, phones are nabbed all the time. Starwood actually requires the phone to touch a pad on the outside of the door and not be able to just unlock it because it is nearby, solving one concern of accidental unlocks. There are still bugs to be worked out, but they are determined to make it work. Of course, if your battery dies, back to the front desk you go.

An Old Tradition Dies
The days of an attractive woman slipping you her room key while you’re sitting at the bar may end soon, but let’s face it, it only happened in the movies anyway. Hopefully there will always be a front desk, though there may be fewer employees working there. Hotels are hoping you will use your own electronics to schedule wake-up calls, order room service, request up-grades or order many other services previously requiring interaction with a human. Hopefully this is not a move to reduce labor costs but just a convenience for their guests. It does make you wonder who you can bribe for that up-grade to an ocean-view room though.


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