Marriott, Alibaba trial facial recognition at China hotels

Guests at Marriott International’s Chinese hotels soon will be able to check in with a scan of their facial features. The joint venture of Alibaba Group  and Marriott International is spearheading Marriott International’s facial-recognition check-in pilot with Fliggy, Alibaba’s travel service platform.  The facial check-ins will debut at two China hotels, Hangzhou and Sanya on the tropical island province of Hainan, this month with plans for a global rollout later.

“We are excited to partner with the joint venture yet again to offer an innovative and convenient check-in alternative for Chinese travelers. Marriott International has a track record of embracing cutting-edge technology to create memorable experiences for guests,” said Henry Lee, COO and managing director of Marriott International Greater China and board member of the joint venture, in a statement. “With technology, our hotel associates can work more efficiently to do what they do best—delivering personalized service to our guests.”

This move is set to position Marriott International as a pioneer global hospitality company to offer this seamless check-in experience for Chinese travelers, the company said.

The traditional hotel check-in process takes at least three minutes and even more during peak times with most of it spent on queuing. With the adoption of facial-recognition technology, the check-in process can be completed in less than a minute. Chinese guests simply need to scan their IDs, take a photo and input contact details on a self-help machine. The intelligent device will then dispense room key cards after identities and booking information are verified.

Through strategic findings from the joint venture, facial-recognition check-in improves operational efficiencies. And according to market research results by consulting firm Ipsos, Chinese travelers have shown a strong interest in new technologies in hotels with more than 60 percent showing their preference for facial recognition technology.

Since the establishment of the joint venture last August, Marriott International has benefited tremendously from the joint venture’s comprehensive matrix of digital travel solutions and consultancy services, including digital platform consulting and management, customized marketing, business intelligence; and service innovation, the company said.

The Marriott storefront on Fliggy ( is now managed by the joint venture given its digital platform consulting and management expertise, and it is also a Chinese booking gateway with multi-faceted offerings in one platform. Guests can now access to approximately 6,000 hotels from across Marriott International’s global inventory of 30 brands and choose Li Yu certified hotels, presented in a Chinese traveler-friendly layout.

The joint venture has also enabled a seamless booking experience by rolling out the Post Post Pay functionality at more than 1,000 Marriott International hotels globally in addition to enabling exclusive members-only rates through the storefront.