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Starwood Introduces Keyless Hotel Access Through Apple Watch

Alex Spencer

Daniel_kerznerHotels group Starwood has launched its SPG loyalty app on the Apple Watch, featuring 'keyless entry' app functionality that makes it possible to unlock the door of their room, and common areas such as gyms or lifts, using the smartwatch's Bluetooth connectivity.

The ability to unlock doors using a mobile device has been available in a growing number of Starwood's hotels since it was first trialled in the W Doha in Qatar last November.

“This isn't just about cool functionality on a smartwatch, but how our guests travel and how we can give them a better experience,” Daniel Kerzner, VP of digital, loyalty & partnership marketing EMEA at Starwood told Mobile Marketing.

“With the Apple Watch, it wasn't just a case of taking our mobile app and shrinking it down to fit a smaller device, but thinking about how a guest would want to interact with the device. If I'm on the app on a mobile device, it might be more about dreaming and planning my next stay, but that's not the case on a wearable device.”

Keyless entry was today introduced on mobile and Apple Watch in the W hotels in London and Barcelona, bringing the total number of Stawood hotels offering this functionality to 118. It's aiming to raise that figure to 150 by the end of 2015, and Kerzner said, “I can imagine a day when all our doors are keyless”.

So far, 130,000 SPG members have registered for keyless, which Kerzner said was “ahead of our forecasts”. The system has multiple benefits for Starwood – from a staff perspective, it enables the brand's hotels to be more efficient, especially in the markets where guests are able to bypass the check-in desk entirely. This isn't possible in the UK for regulatory reasons, but Kerzner told us that even without this, staff save time by virtue of not having to issue key cards – plus, users have to set their arrival time in the app, meaning the hotel can know which rooms to have ready and when.

“The time this gives back to our staff, we're reinvesting in creating a better experience for guests,” Kerzner said.

One example of this is the two-way messaging service Starwood operates in a number of its hotels, which enables guests to text a number with their questions or requests – such as asking when the restaurant is open, or ordering room service – and receive a reply from a member of staff, which on average takes less than a minute. Kerzner referred to this as “like Siri plus,” but noted that it's currently done manually, with front desk staff manning a smartphone. He said that Starwood had considered building this functionality into its app but, for now at least, has opted to stick to familiar methods of messaging.

“This is how people talk to their friends and family, and that shouldn't be different from how you talk to one of our hotels,” Kerzner explained. “What we're doing is creating loyalty. We're giving guests more of a reason to use Starwood than the competition.”

There is one final benefit to the introduction of keyless entry. The functionality is only available to members of the SPG loyalty programme – encouraging them to become members of the scheme – and, vitally, only for bookings made directly through Starwood's site and apps. Kerzner said this was an intentional decision, to discourage guests from booking through third-party sites, which take a percentage of the sale.