Mobile key adoption continues to climb

While the hotel industry’s focus on contactless services is not as strong as it was during the height of the pandemic, the technology continues to hold considerable influence over what guests expect from their hotel stay experience. While technologies such as mobile keys and QR code-based services were effective in preventing the spread of germs, the lasting impact is the enhanced convenience and faster response times that guests have now become accustomed to. As a result, mobile access solution adoption rates remain high with the technology on the fast track to becoming a universal hotel amenity.

However, what counts as enhanced guest convenience continues to evolve towards ever higher standards, with mobile key providers spurring additional new innovations in technology that can keep pace.

"For example, a new and advanced feature now allows guests to store and use room keys directly within digital wallets located on their personal device,” said Nicolas Aznar, president, Americas at Assa Abloy Global Solutions. “This allows guests to effortlessly gain room access without first having to open and navigate a separate and unfamiliar app—resulting in additional time savings while sidestepping the risks of guests experiencing frustration."

The great acceleration in the use of technology, digitization and new safety guidelines for hospitality will continue beyond the pandemic. If hotels have not yet incorporated electronic access, with the capability of offering smartphone access or digital keys, they will soon, said Beth Kahwajy, hospitality industry leader for North America, Salto Systems. 

“All the steps of the check-in process for guests need to work flawlessly, from issuing a card to the guest to the guest being able to access their room, swimming pool, spa or other amenities,” she said. “Deliver a digital and connected experience to guests by allowing them to check in/check out, make changes to a stay and access any facility in seconds—all from their smartphone.”

Mobile keys are not just for big brands, said Darien Long, VP of sales, hospitality at dormakaba. “Using a phone to support our daily lives has become second nature,” she said. “Guests may stay at a traditional business hotel while working, then a luxury resort for vacation. They expect the same experience at all stays from economy to luxury, work to leisure.”

Long said she’s seen a faster mobile adoption rate in the high-end leisure and business/transient markets. Highway hotels have been slower to adopt mobile, but they are still finding a path to add it.

The post-pandemic recovery has been driven by leisure and family travel, according to Fayyad Sbaihat, president, Supra and Onity at Carrier. The challenge is making mobile key accessible to non-frequent travelers. “Hotels need to make it easy for them,” he said. “They need to be issued keys even if they are not members of a loyalty program. It needs to be easy to use and intuitive so anyone can use it.”

The pandemic served as an important reminder that trends and industry needs can change in an instant. Traditionally, this has meant that a property’s technology stack must change to address new market conditions, but excessive costs often have stood in the way of hotelier efforts.

“Innovative security technology providers have recognized this widespread challenge and have made focused their [research and development] strategies on creating scalable and future-proof technologies,” Aznar said. “With door locks, next-generation platforms are now available that can continue to be upgraded long after initial installation. Hoteliers can update security protocols, add new service features and facilitate integrations with third-party solutions, even for technologies that don’t exist yet.”

Guestroom Safes Are Now Focused on Design

Electronic safes have undergone a transformation in recent years to provide hoteliers with more options when it comes to design. Previously hid away within guestrooms as unsightly black boxes, hoteliers can now make their electronic safes a centerpiece amenity that enhances a room’s interior décor. Customization options include the ability to select any color and install keypad backlights that can seamlessly blend in with any room design.

Sbaihat said this increased design trend started in Europe and the Middle East over the past three to four years but U.S.-based hotels are wanting these solutions in the past year. “Customers are realizing while they need a safe, they can have a better looking, higher-end solution that can blend seamlessly into the room décor,” he continued. 

Like door locks, the security needs for protecting guest belongings can be subject to change, Aznar said. “To prevent the requirement for costly replacement, some safe models are now available that are modular in design and that can be upgraded as needed,” he said. “Should software protocols need to be updated, hoteliers can now easily perform this task using either a connected computer or PC.”

Sbaihat said his company has seen increased interest in using radio frequency ID or electronic lock technology to access the safe instead of just a keypad. RFID keycards that can allows guests into their room can also allow them to access the safe with the same access authorization. 

“Security still obviously has to be robust, both physically and electronically, but the solution has to be easy to use to please the customer,” he said.