While hotel chains like Starwood and Marriott have launched pilot programs which allow you to check-in and check-out from your smartphone, Hilton announced today that by 2016, guests will be able to have control and choice over their entire hotel stay with the ability to check-in, check-out, obtain room keys, and even choose your exact room based on digital floor plans, all from the comfort of your smartphone, tablet, or computer. These enhancements are reported to cost over $550 million and will rolled out across all 11 of Hilton's brands in over 80 countries, and will have an impact on 650,000 rooms across 4,000 properties. The plan is to roll-out these enhancements in phases, as outlined below:
Rapid Roll Out Across Hilton Properties Globally
Hilton is rolling out these digital enhancements globally over the next several months:
- By the end of this summer, Hilton HHonors members can check-in and choose their room from digital floor plan maps online or via the Apple and Android HHonors apps across the following U.S. brands: Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, Conrad Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Garden Inn, Homewood Suites and Home2 Suites.
- The functionality will also be available at DoubleTree by Hilton and Embassy Suites Hotels properties within the U.S. this fall.
- By the end of 2014, room selection, either from digital floor plans or lists, will be available globally for over 650,000 rooms at more than 4,000 hotels across Hilton's portfolio of 11 brands.
- Digital check-out, currently available at all U.S. hotels, will be rolled out globally by the end of 2016.
There is also additional information from the press release outlining the process by which a guest can select their room, receive their room key, and check-in and check-out:
Simple and Streamlined Process
Once a room is booked, the process for guests to manage their stay is simple:
- Room selection: At 6 a.m. the day before a booked stay, Hilton HHonors members can sign into their account via their mobile device, tablet or computer to check-in and choose their preferred room through floor plan maps or lists populated from the hotel's available inventory. Photos of rooms are also available to help with their selection. Hilton's digital lobby function is updated in real-time, so guests no longer have to wait until they are physically in the hotel lobby to be assigned a room.
- Special requests: After choosing a room, guests can further customize their stay at full-service hotels by purchasing upgrades and requesting specific amenities to be delivered to their room before arrival.
- Room key: Next year, the company will begin to equip its hotel rooms with the technology for doors to be unlocked with guests' smartphones, enabling them to go straight to their rooms upon arrival. For now, once they arrive on property, guests simply pick up their room key from the front desk, a streamlined process since the guest's payment information and other details are already verified through their Hilton HHonors account prior to arrival.
- Check-out: Guests can bypass the front desk upon departure as their bill will be automatically sent to their email address.
Hilton claims in the press release that they are "revolutionizing" the hotel experience with these enhancements. That seems bit extreme to me - while Hilton is the first of the chains to announce these enhancements across its entire portfolio, the fact of the matter is that Starwood and Marriott are already providing a limited digital experience, and it stands to reason that they will be following-up with similar announcements shortly.
Don't get me wrong - I'm excited about the prospect of skipping the check-in lines altogether and minimizing human interaction. But while this is certainly a welcome enhancement and in-line with technological enhancements in other industries, the fact of the matter is that you can already do similar things with airline reservations by checking-in and selecting your seat from a mobile app. So in that regard, hotels are still playing catch-up with other industries.
In my opinion, in order for your hotel experience to truly be "revolutionized", the technology needs to have an impact on more aspects of your hotel stay than simply the check-in, check-out, and room selection process. This is where hotels have the leg up over airline and car reservations, which when it comes down to it, are really just forms of transportation. Your hotel experience has so many more layers and interactions, and this is where the technology can be used to improve service by personalizing each stay. Here are a few examples that come to mind of how that could work:
- One-touch ability to request your vehicle from the valet
- Room service preference and order history to easily repeat prior orders
- Concierge and front desk services: online requests for everything from dining reservations to toothpaste
- Request housekeeping at specific times or indicate when you will be returning to your room
- Online reservations for hotel services such as pool cabanas, bikes, house car service, fitness classes, spa, etc.
What are your thoughts on Hilton's announcement? What other services would you like to see in the mobile app in order to truly "revolutionize" your hotel experience?