According to The Wall Street Journal, guests arriving at Harlem Aloft Hotel in Manhattan, N.Y., will soon be able to enter their rooms using an iPhone or other smartphones. The report claims that the boutique hotel brand from Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide will be offering virtual keys to its guests via the Starwood app which will unlock the door with a tap or twist of their phone through the use of Bluetooth technology.
Starwood officials are hoping the initiative will be one of the biggest technological changes in the industry since free Wi-Fi. “We believe this will become the new standard for how people will want to enter a hotel,” says Frits van Paasschen, Starwood’s CEO. “It may be a novelty at first, but we think it will become table stakes for managing a hotel.” By the end of next year, the company is hoping to introduce the virtual key at all its luxury W Hotels and Aloft hotels, which currently represents 123 properties.
“Starwood executives say they recognize that some guests prefer the personal touch at check-in and have no plan to remove front desks. But they are also betting that a virtual-key approach will win over guests at a time when people are increasingly reliant on mobile devices for everything from ordering food or movie tickets to watching their favorite sports team.
The Aloft and W are newer hotel chains that attract a younger, more tech-savvy crowd. Owners of older hotels may find the costs associated with lock upgrades could be prohibitively expensive, and that guest demand for mobile check-in could be more limited, hotel analysts say.”
The report notes that the iPhone 4s or newer models and the Android phones running 4.3 or newer will be compatible with the upcoming technology.