For quite a few years now Hotel chains have been trying to win guests loyalties. Or in other words, they’re trying to win back your booking from the Online Travel Agencies(OTA) such as booking.com to their own booking channels. With margins tight on rooms, and with competition high - especially from Airbnb - the hotels are sick of paying the OTA’s between 10-30% for the guest’s booking.
One of the tools they’re using to win back the guest booking is called a ‘digital strategy’. Hilton Hotels have invested US$550 million into their digital strategy; Accor hotels set aside $280 million for their digital strategy, and Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) recently attributed a 9.5% profit from last year to their own ‘digital strategy’. Millennials have also recently become the biggest spending demographic on travel, and so it makes sense to attract them to their hotels with a unique digital experience, so they’ll come back and stay again.
An integral part of the hotel digital strategy, is digital keys – that is unlocking your room door with your smart phone. Digital Keys improve the hotel guest experience by never having to be locked out of your room with those pesky keycards – keycards often demagnetise when held against a mobile phone. In addition Digital Keys means that you can self check-in on your phone, like you do with the airlines, and go straight to your room without having to stop or line up at the hotel reception desk.
Digital Keys are also great for hoteliers – for smaller hotels that are only staffed 9am-5pm, it offers a 24/7 fully automatic or partially automated ‘virtual’ check-in desk. Hotels can also save money in not having to manage metal keys, and keycards – and the costs to manage metal keys can stack up as everytime someone loses a metal key, a locksmith has to be called out to replace the lock.
This month Hilton Hotels announced the expansion of its digital key program to UK hotels – so far they’ve invested over $100 million in their digital key program in over 1700 hotels mostly in USA and Canada.
Digital Keys are not new – some hotels such as IHG and Marriott began experimenting with digital keys way back in 2010.
The biggest Chinese hotel chain, Jin Jiang, which has over 619 000 rooms, and which acquired France’s Louvre Hotel Group in 2015 for 1.3 billion Euros, only announced last month that it has completed trials of a digital keys solution in France, and it has plans to roll-out digital keys in the future in all of its Louvre hotels across the globe.
Other hotel chains including Bloc hotels, Marriott and a few other smaller chains have also got digital key programs in place.
But the question has to be asked is this; if hotels are investing hundreds of millions on digital strategies and digital key programs, and they’re been trailing this digital key technology for over 7 years, and the hotels can appreciate the value digital keys brings, then why hasn’t digital keys become more prevalent in hotels around the world? At the moment, Digital Keys are only found in less than 1% of hotel rooms.
The answer is simple – the hotels have not been provided with a secure, affordable, easy intergrateble, and convenient digital key technology solution – until now. A new technology has emerged called NB IoT, designed specifically for smart digital devices to communicate with each other and the cloud, enables a more secure, affordable and more reliable digital key solution.