Digital Apps Create Value for Hotel Sector


Hotel guest apps allow hotels to engage directly with individual guests and make personalised offers. Apps enhance customer experience, loyalty and increase hotel revenue.

But guest apps have an even greater impact when they incorporate digital keys. When guests know they can get their key via the app, download rates increase and the in-app purchase rate goes up to an estimated average of $140 per room per year.

Digital key solutions such as SALTO’s Justin Mobile can be implemented as a standalone app, but some national and international hotel groups choose to embed it into a branded guest mobile app, which is integrated with the hotel’s property management system (PMS).

The Hilton experience

Hilton Adelaide, partnering with SALTO and implementing their solution at the property, gave the hotel the ability to seamlessly integrate SALTO with the Hilton Honors app.

“Many of our loyal Honors members are business travellers who are incredibly tech-savvy,” Hilton Adelaide general manager Rupert Hallam said.

“We are thrilled our hotel is able to offer them this cutting edge digital key technology and give them an easier, more convenient stay.”

Within 24 hours of arrival, Hilton Honors members who book direct through Hilton’s channels can digitally check-in, choose their exact room from a digital floorplan and request a digital key through the Honors app.

Hilton Adelaide will notify guests via the app as soon as their room is ready.

Honors members with previous stay history can then head straight to their room when they arrive, pressing the virtual “unlock” button on the app when they’re within five feet of their door.

“With the app, Hilton Honors members can take advantage of a seamless and contactless experience,” Hallam said.

“Digital check-in and digital key allow guests to go straight to their selected room, bypassing reception. Messaging hotel team members, contactless check-out and reviewing guest receipts are also available features at select hotels.”

Benefits of digital keys for hotels

Hygiene and safety is top of mind for the hospitality sector and with a digital key, hotels eliminate plastic cards being passed from hand to hand. The guest has their key before arrival and can check-in with no contact at the reception desk.

Selecting locks finished with an antimicrobial coating such as BioCote®, like the SALTO range, increases protection even further. But there are other benefits to hotel operations:

  • Customer experience: with their key sent in advance, the guest can go straight to their room and start enjoying their hotel experience. Guests have information at their fingertips—concierge services or spa treatment bookings.

  • Flexibility: digital keys include information such as expiry date and time and authorised access—keys can be very easily reprogrammed if the guest extends their stay, re-rooms or books a facility such as the hotel spa.

  • Cost and time efficiency: hotels save on the cost of producing and sanitising plastic cards. With fewer guests using reception they can operate with less staff and potentially without the need for a 24-7 manned front desk.

  • Up-selling opportunities: when digital keys are embedded into a guest app, hotels can make real-time offers on room service or spa treatments.

  • Reporting: full audit trails for new requirements such as contact tracing, and visibility of actual and attempted access.

  • Insights: digital keys and guest apps give hotels valuable data about behaviour, preferences and the customer lifecycle.

Selecting the right digital key system

To get the full benefit of digital keys, operators need to be aware of the following when selecting an electric access control (EAC) and digital key partner:

  • Compatibility: not all PMS providers integrate with mobile guest apps, or communicate with the electric access control (EAC). The EAC manages the encrypted digital key, but the PMS instructs it to send the key to the guest. So it’s essential to select an EAC that integrates with the PMS and guest mobile app.

  • Compatible Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) access points: for the guest digital key to work, every access point the guest uses must be part of the same system, from the same provider. Some hotels—especially those that are part of a mixed residential/commercial building—are specified with one system for guest rooms and another for the base building (including, for example, lifts and car parks), rendering digital guest keys inefficient. Look for providers like SALTO who provide a turnkey solution that can be used for every access point—from guest to back-of-house.

  • Smart wireless locks: access points don’t all need to be wired. Wireless on-line real-time locking like the SALTO system reduces installation and running costs.

2021 looks to be a more positive year for the hospitality sector and operators are harnessing the power of electric access control and digital keys to keep their returning visitors happy, safe and secure.

Cedric Duigou is a specialist in electronic access systems for hospitality and accommodation developments with SALTO Systems.

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