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
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
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
In terms of the three Deloitte objectives for better guest experiences,
NFC/MIFARE is 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 transport. 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
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
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
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 some place they want to return to, time and
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