For many in the hotel industry, hospitality is becoming less about the physical spaces within buildings and more about how people feel during their stay. It’s one thing to be in a good location and have a well-appointed lobby and attractive rooms, but if being in a particular hotel feels generic or impersonal, today’s travelers are likely to minimize their time in the hotel itself and may not book a return visit.
Improving the guest experience is one of the reasons why hotel brands around the world have invested heavily in digitalization, which brings technology to many familiar places in the hotel, including guest rooms and lobbies. Many of these investments serve their intended purpose by enhancing accessibility and convenience, but some don’t go quite far enough. Connectivity and charging capabilities have become essential requirements for business travelers and other hotel guests, especially millennials, but some hotel properties still fall short when it comes to things like fast, reliable Wi-Fi access and sufficient USB power outlets.
The right kind of investment in digitalization addresses what have become checklist items for many travelers, and help bring today’s hotels up to present-day expectations. Even so, digitalization is really just a first step. Hotels are now building on their digital investments to develop new services that not only make the stay more comfortable and convenient but also give the hotel a more central role in the guest’s overall travel experience – all with the goal of fostering sustainable guest loyalty.
Ways to create lasting relationships
The international consultancy firm, Deloitte Consulting, has some recommendations for anyone considering ways to make guests more loyal. The firm recently conducted an in-depth survey in the United States. Based on extensive interviews with a wide range of travelers, hotel owners, and hospitality experts, Deloitte identified three things that hotels can do to make lasting relationships with their guests.
All three of these things – localization, interaction, and personalization – can be made more engaging with a well-designed mobile app. At the same time, another area of digitalization, involving the replacement of legacy key cards, can be used to support these efforts, by bringing a new level of convenience and creating new interactions, either on their own or in combination with a mobile app.
HF contactless key cards
The familiar magnetic strip (mag stripe) key card is notoriously unreliable, easily erased by electronic devices (such as smartphones), and often frustrating to use. As part of digitization, hotels are migrating from mag stripes to high-frequency (HF) RFID, a much more flexible, and much more secure technology that’s already built into more of today’s smartphones, in the form of Near Field Communication (NFC).
HF RFID is covered by a number of international standards, including ISO/IEC 14443, which is known to many as MIFARE®, and offers a level of reliability and security not available with mag stripes. HF RFID can be programmed to take on multiple applications, including payments, and can extend the capabilities of mobile apps. What’s more, many travelers are already familiar with HF RFID, since it’s already a part of everyday applications, including corporate access, student cards, smart mobility, and more.
In terms of the three Deloitte objectives for better guest experiences, NFC/MIFARE is a natural fit.
Redefining the hotel concept
Using contactless technology in conjunction with a mobile app can open up new business cases. For example, access credentials can be sent directly to your phone, before you arrive, so you can go directly to your room, without having to check in or wait in a registration line. This feature adds convenience to regular hotel stays, but can also be used to provide access to other, less traditional hotel locations, too. Shared workspaces, meeting places, and even offsite accommodations, including private apartments, can be integrated into the hotel’s access scheme. In this way, hotels can take on many of the same aspects of online services, such as Airbnb, which match lodgers in rooms and apartments in areas of the city that might not be serviced by a larger hotel chain.
An influential trend
Secure, convenient, and flexible NFC/MIFARE contactless technology is making it possible to use smart cards, smartphones, and wearables for guest room access, eliminating the frustration of using unreliable mag stripe. That same technology is also finding its way into new credential-based applications, including payment, loyalty programs, sharing services like bike and car rentals, public transport, and more.
NFC/MIFARE is both intuitive and flexible, and serves guest needs without putting technology into the spotlight. As a result, hotels can use NFC/MIFARE to create individual, branded experiences without imposing a technology learning curve.
Hotels that take advantage of NFC/MIFARE’s combination of simplicity, security, and flexibility, and integrate new NFC/MIFARE-driven services into their mobile apps, begin to extend their offerings, develop enticing new guest services, and create unique, gratifying guest experiences that make their properties feel more home, and someplace they want to return to, time and again.