Gone are the days when every reception manager had to keep a list of keys getting lost each week and send a receptionist to fetch replacements. Collecting vintage key tags might have even been considered an art of its own, but it is clearly not what the new generation of hotel guests expects from a modern hotel.
What are the expectations then? Certainly not the room key cards that most traditional hotels still use these days. Because 64% of hotel guests would like to use smartphones as a room key and, according to Oracle Hospitality, 64% of them consider technology investments in hotels as “very or extremely important”.
What’s wrong with key cards?
In their own time, hotel room key cards were considered a ground-breaking technology. In fact, the idea behind them has a long history to it. If we look at this 1954 article from the Popular Mechanics Magazine, or this US patent from the 1970s, we can see that the “innovation” that started appearing in hotels worldwide quite some time ago doesn’t really belong to the 21st century.
In the context of the hospitality industry, the still-popular key cards were supposed to be a remedy for the maintenance work related to analogue keys. Life showed that they didn’t quite live up to these expectations. In fact, the trend is reversing now. The Telegraph expects the “frustrating” hotel room key cards to disappear in five years’ time. The New York Times was quicker to foresee the doom of key cards – they wrote about it as early as in 2005.
Of course, there are different types of technologies behind key cards, some of them more advanced than the others. But they all share the same flaws. And, more importantly, they share most of these flaws with traditional metal keys, too.
Why? Because they’re almost the same thing. Each room key card is a piece of “hardware”, a physical object that belongs to the hotel and is “rented” to the guest. That means that nearly all the faults associated with the traditional metal keys still don’t go away. A key card can be re-programmed, but it can also get lost. It can get stolen. It can break. There are still plenty of hotels worldwide that charge each guest a “security deposit” for key cards, simply because replacing such a card is expensive. In fact, sometimes it’s much more expensive than re-creating a traditional metal room key.
So, what now? Did the hospitality industry really invest so much time, research and effort in key cards just to end up in the same place as before? Where do we go from here?
The answer is: personalization. That’s one of the key words you need to remember when approaching the millennials with your offer.
Digital key – how does it work?
From the guest’s perspective, the digital key technology is blindingly simple. All they need to do is download the hotel app to a mobile device (e.g. a smartphone or a smartwatch), go to the right door and touch the screen. If they have access to the fitness room, the garage or the elevator, they do exactly the same thing. They don’t need to worry about losing key cards or remembering door codes. All they need to do is take care of their mobile devices – which they do anyway, at all times.
From the hotel’s perspective, not only does it remove most of the traditional problems related to door access and security, but it also makes room for a lot of new, practical solutions that have been out of reach so far.For example iLumio app is not only about opening doors – it’s much more than that.
By embracing the digital key technology, the hotel can easily use all the other iLumio’s possibilities as well. For example, guests may be allowed to select a preferred room in advance (45% of hotel guests want this capability and 79% of them are willing to share the room location preferences to get the room they want). Guests can also easily book hotel activities (e.g. a SPA session) or restaurant tables. They can quickly look up their current hotel bills and pay them whenever they want. The hotel, on the other hand, can gather data on guests’ preferences and prepare more personalized, individual offers.
Ailleron is a certified Partner of two biggest suppliers of hotel door locks, ASSA ABLOY Hospitality and SALTO and local provider Adria Electronics from Croatia. This means that the digital key technology is going worldwide, first embraced by the most dynamic and competitive hotels, and then by all those that will follow. The iLumio app will reach its full potential on an unprecedented scale.
Right now, a good example of what iLumio can do for a hotel is a leading Croatian hotel chain – Valamar.
In June, Valamar introduced My Valamar – a fully branded version of iLumio. Using the app, guests can quickly check in online, open their door with a smartphone and book a wide variety of hotel activities in a matter of seconds. They can also settle their payments online and look up their current bills. The in-app hotel calendar recommends events that match each guest’s individual preferences. The application is also integrated with the Opera property-management system and Adria Electronics door locks.
What’s more than that, soon iLumio will allow Valamar guests to hold video calls with the hotel’s concierge, which simply means they won’t have to go all the way down to the reception desk to get the personal support and information they need.
The next step
The digital key feature is only the beginning of innovations the hospitality industry starts to embrace. But given its practicality and ease of use, it’s a perfect way to start adjusting hotels to the modern guests’ needs.