Starwood’s limited test with Assa Abloy’s reception-skipping, Bluetooth door-unlocking system makes things interesting. The problem with NFC is that not all phones have it. Not even close. And we won’t know until the end of summer if Apple is going to not include it yet again. Bluetooth, on the other hand, is in every smartphone… and most of the not-so-smart phones as well. The “keyless key” gets sent to guests before arriving at the hotel and allows the door the be opened via an app.
Whether it’s NFC or Bluetooth, hotels are going to have to start looking at a new way to welcome guests. For some — especially repeat guests — getting a virtual key sent to their phone and bypassing the check-in on the way to the room is going to be fine. But hotels may not want to start streamlining their front desk staff just yet. For many guests — even those with virtual keys already on their smartphone — it’s nice to be welcomed by an actual human and at least pointed in the direction of their room. Getting handed a welcome drink and answering a question or two won’t likely hurt with loyalty as well.