Hoteliers readying for wearable tech
05 FEBRUARY 2015 8:39 AM
The hotel of the future will belong to technology that speeds up and predicts the guest experience, according to property tech experts.
GLOBAL REPORT—Envision a hotel stay free of room keys, credit cards or reception desks, where with a flash of a wrist, guests can open their doors, pay for meals and check in and out in a matter of seconds.
This future is almost here.
As wearable technology such as Apple Watch and Google Glass enter the mass market, hotel brands are beginning to integrate smart devices on property and beyond.
“We envision endless ways Apple Watch could help us enhance our guests’ experiences at our hotels,” said Chris Holdren, senior VP of the global digital and Starwood Preferred Guest programs, at Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.
“For instance, when you arrive at a destination airport, a notification will take you to a list of transportation options to your hotel,” he said. “When you arrive at the bar, you’ll be asked via notification if you’d like your usual drink brought to your table.”
SPG members could bypass the front desk entirely, he added.
The Apple Watch will be available in early 2015. In the meantime, Starwood Hotels has developed a Bluetooth-enabled smartphone app that allows customers to unlock their rooms with a simple swipe. The company upgraded 30,000 room locks across nearly 150 hotels, and in November the app went live at Starwood’s Aloft, Element and W brands.
Hilton Worldwide Holdings is rolling out a similar mobile room key program in 10 U.S. properties this year, and by 2016, Hilton aims to deploy the keys across 11 brands globally, including DoubleTree, Hampton Inn, Embassy Suites and Waldorf Astoria.
Smartphone apps could be easily transferred to smartwatches and other wearables as devices become available.
“The marriage of high-tech and high-touch is poised to transform the hotel experience in so many exciting ways,” Starwood’s Holdren said.
Westin Hotels & Resorts, another Starwood brand, launched a wearable tech program, also in November, according to Brian Povinelli, Westin’s global brand leader.
Priding itself on its wellness initiatives, Westin gave guests at eight of its properties sleep-sensing wristbands that, along with an app, tracked sleep patterns and provided virtual coaching.
Povinelli said the project is a way to utilize new technology and aid guests’ wellbeing.
He said it is still too soon to disclose the pilot’s results but noted participants generally benefitted from using such technology.
It’s not just the United States-based brands that have eyes on wearable technology.
Palladium Hotel Group, a Spanish hotel chain, recently unveiled its own high-tech wristbands at Ushuaïa Ibiza Beach Hotel and Hard Rock Hotel Ibiza, both on the Spanish island of Ibiza. These bracelets allow guests to access their rooms and other facilities, pay for meals and shop using an assigned PIN code and participate in special drink and nightclub promotions.
Gül Heper, commercial manager of Swedish hotel brand HTL, said her company hasn’t yet introduced wearable technology. If HTL does integrate wearable devices in the future, Heper said it should be as an extension of the digital platform.
“It has to be relevant; it has to be engaging; and it has to be something that makes the hotel experience much better and on the best terms,” she said. “We try to remove all the gimmicks.”
Heper added while the most innovative brands will kick start the use of wearables on property, eventually all chains will need to adapt and upgrade along with their customers.