Travelers, both business and pleasure are not only packing their wardrobes, but about 90% are also bringing one or more mobile devices. Many airlines are offering in-flight WiFi now at all stages of the journey, and once at their destination, most travelers report that if they had to choose, it would be WiFi over sleep.
Hilton Worldwide has taken note of this trend and upped the experience from simple connectivity to extended service. In what they are calling "a first for the hospitality industry," Hilton guests will have full choice and control over their entire hotel stay with the ability to check-in and out, choose their exact room from digital floor plans, as well as customize their stay by purchasing upgrades and making special requests for items to be delivered to their room—all from their mobile devices, tablets and computers.
The company piloted an initial version of digital check-in more than five years ago, and in 2012 it launched Conrad Concierge, the first hospitality software application that enables guests to customize their hotel experience through their tablets or smartphones.
"We analyzed data and feedback from more than 40 million HHonors members, as well as guest surveys, social media posts and review sites, and it's clear that guests want greater choice and control," Geraldine Calpin, senior vice president and global head of digital at Hilton Worldwide said in a release. "In fact, in a recent study, 84% of business travelers surveyed said they wanted the ability to choose their own room. We are giving our guests the ability to do just that by enabling them to select not just their room type, but the exact location in the hotel, all the way down to their room number."
Going forward, Hilton anticipates delivering further digital advancements to guests every six to eight weeks. Calpin said via email to Mobile Enterprise, that Hilton employees are highly mobile too.
"Our apps, sites and training are available on our team members’ own or company mobile phones. In addition we have work-from-home and virtual global teams using mobile technology and allowing us to be flexible for our Team Members location and flexibility needs," she explained.
Once a room is booked, the process for guests to manage their stay is simple.
At 6 a.m. the day before a booked stay, Hilton HHonors members can sign into their account via their mobile device or computer to check-in and choose their preferred room through floor plan maps or lists populated from the hotel's available inventory. Photos of rooms are also available to help with their selection. Hilton's digital lobby function is updated in real-time, so guests no longer have to wait until they are physically in the hotel lobby to be assigned a room.
After choosing a room, guests can further customize their stay at full-service hotels by purchasing upgrades and requesting specific amenities to be delivered to their room before arrival.
Next year, Hilton will begin to equip its hotel rooms with the technology for doors to be unlocked with guests' smartphones, enabling them to go straight to their rooms upon arrival.
Christopher J. Nassetta, president and CEO, Hilton Worldwide said, "Travelers can use their smartphones as boarding passes to get to their seats on an airplane, so it is only natural that they will want to use them as a way to enter their hotel rooms. We have spent the past few years testing a number of different options to make this vision a reality, and we are developing proprietary technology that is safe and reliable for our guests to use, and cost-effective for our hotels to install."
For now, once they arrive on property, guests simply pick up their room key from the front desk, a streamlined process since the guest's payment information and other details are already verified through their Hilton HHonors account prior to arrival.
Guests can also bypass the front desk upon departure as their bill will be automatically sent to their email address.
How is this new hotel experience initiative enabling employees? Calphin said, "We have trained 18,000 Team Members already (will be a total of 30,000) to ensure they understand this new technology and deliver the great service we are known for. We have enabled the training across all platforms, so our tens of thousands of team members who need to be trained, can access the dynamic, interactive training online, on tablet or from a mobile phone—so they can take it wherever they choose."
She noted that the technology is so intuitive that training time was minimal—less than one hour on average per each Team Member, and it was delivered digitally and available through desktop, tablet and mobile.
"The new digital tools enable Team Members to provide better service with less time spent on the administration process related to a reservation at check-in and more on meeting guests’ needs," said Calphin. For example, when HHonors members check-in digitally, there is no need to check ID, swipe credit cards or sign registration forms. This makes for a much faster arrival process.
Rapid Roll Out
Hilton is rolling out these digital enhancements globally over the next several months:
Check-in and room selection will be available for Hilton HHonors member by the end of this summer via the Apple and Android HHonors apps across the following U.S. brands: Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, Conrad Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Garden Inn, Homewood Suites and Home2 Suites.
The functionality will also be available at DoubleTree by Hilton and Embassy Suites Hotels properties within the U.S. this fall.
By the end of 2014, room selection, either from digital floor plans or lists, will be available globally for over 650,000 rooms at more than 4,000 hotels across Hilton's portfolio of 11 brands.
Digital check-out, currently available at all U.S. hotels, will be rolled out globally by the end of 2016.
In 2015, Hilton will introduce technology that enables smartphones to be used as room keys, and all U.S. hotels across four of its brands will have this capability by the end of that year. By the end of 2016, the majority of its rooms system-wide will be equipped with this functionality.
"For nearly a century, our guests have counted on us to consistently deliver exceptional experiences around the world, and in today's digitally connected culture, that means providing them with more choice and control over their hotel stay through technology," said Nassetta. "The tremendous scale of our world-class operating platform enables us to quickly and nimbly introduce exciting enhancements for our guests at all of our hotels worldwide."