Guest loyalty, contactless technology, and the hotel of the future 28. April 2017

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.

  • Integrate the hotel with its surroundings. People tend to want to feel at home where they stay, meaning they want to feel more like a local. Even small things, like locally-themed artwork on the walls or a locally sourced tasting menu, can make a hotel seem more connected to its neighborhood.
  • Connect guests with other people. Travel is, in many ways, a social activity, giving people the chance to get together and make connections. Hotels provide a convenient place to gather, and can even help guests expand their business and social circles, through things like dedicated online communities, shared workspaces and meeting rooms, and curated events that bring like-minded people together.
  • Create personalized experiences. Travelers want the freedom to relax and be themselves, while having the option to do what they like best. Hotels can satisfy these desires by getting to know their guests, understanding their preferences, and providing access to a broader range of activities.

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 standard ISO/IEC 14443, with which MIFARE® products are compliant, and offers a a good level of security and reliability compared 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 and MIFARE products are a natural fit.

  • Localization – The guest’s key card, phone, or wearable can be configured to access their room, the parking garage, or an onsite meeting center, but can also be configured to interact with the local community. They can sign up to use their hotel key as an access pass to local events, museums, or attractions, or when they want to use a nearby gym, or get a discount at a local restaurant. They can rent bikes, access rental cars, or ride public transportation. In resort settings, they can make payments, earn loyalty points, and view receipts, all without carrying a wallet.
  • Interaction – Guests can have new ways to interact with their surroundings and other people. Like a piece of furniture in your room? Tap its RFID tag and get product info. Want to pair with the room’s media center or control the thermostat? Tap your phone and the mobile app can automatically download your preferred settings. You access credentials can also be used for secure access to the hotel’s own online services, making it easier to connect with other people on social-media sites.
  • Personalization – As guests begin using their new key cards and interacting with mobile apps, the hotel can begin to tailor their experiences and make individual recommendations based on their tastes and habits. Personal identities and other details are protected with the same high-level of cryptographic security that banks use to protect financial transactions, so guests can personalize their stay without risking their privacy.

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 MIFARE products are 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.

MIFARE contactless ICs are both intuitive and flexible, and serve guest needs without putting technology into the spotlight. As a result, hotels can use MIFARE products to create individual, branded experiences without imposing a technology learning curve.

Hotels that take advantage of MIFARE’s combination of simplicity, security, and flexibility, and integrate new MIFARE product-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.

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You can also read this article on our NXP blog.