Thanks to the rise of Near Filed Communications (NFC), it is possible to have a chip embedded into smartphones that can handle all aspects of a guest’s stay. In the near future, hoteliers will be able to offer guests the option to open door locks, process credit cards and checkout through their mobile devices.
Driving much of this new change are younger travelers – Gen Y – who are mobile-dependent and seek travel opportunities that are effortless. Gen Y travelers represent a major segment that spends up to $240 billion each year on travel and want to use their devices to skip the front desk.
NFC will ultimately serve as the foundation for this true shift towards mobility. However, there are a few challenges that stand in the way today. First, there is no unified standard for NFC interoperability. Second, while Samsung has already embedded NFC chips into their smartphones, Apple has yet to achieve this with the iPhone.
However, this is not stopping some of major hotel brands from embracing NFC. For example, Hyatt has room keys integrated with the new chips. If a guest leaves his or her room, an elevator will automatically be sent to the guest’s level. Best Western and Nordic Choice Hotels also have some properties that use NFC room cards to open room doors without any contact.
Two Starwood Hotel properties – W Hotels and Aloft – are also taking advantage of NFC. The system is being piloted at two Aloft properties and by the end of 2014, the company is hoping to introduce the virtual key at all its W Hotels and Aloft hotels, which represents 123 properties.
It is clear that mobility will be dominating the guest experience for hospitality in the near future. We look forward to seeing how hotels will embrace this new frontier, which can help boost overall guest loyalty and up the stakes when it comes to competition in this sector.