Starwood recently announced the implementation of their keyless system, a first in the hotel industry.
But is it all misty hopes and dreams? No, and it's closer to reality than you think. Two words - Apple Watch. But that's just the tip of the iceberg for the innovations you can expect at Starwood hotels worldwide. At least, that's what Chuck Abbott, Regional Vice President for Starwood Southeast Asia, is envisioning - a future for the hotel room as we know it, and the positive impact it'll have on frequent travellers.
How safe is the keyless system?
"The keyless system works via Bluetooth and we worked with a partner to create both the software and hardware involved. This partner is the manufacturer of a Bluetooth lock so we changed the entire lock in participating hotels. And it can recognise the Bluetooth software from smartphones.
We worked with Assa Abloy to develop both hardware and software only for Starwood to make sure it’s appropriate. That’s why we need you to book through a Starwood platform, and not a third party system. We want to make sure that it’s all tied together for the safety and security of the guest. It’s equally as safe as your key. And people are less likely to lose their iPhones than their keycards."
Beyond keyless entry, how would Starwood integrate smartphones into its services?
"Our SPG app allows for preferences and room bookings. We’ve seen a huge increase in digital bookings, and we already have the technology from a reservation standpoint.
I think the next step would be making requests from guestrooms. If you’re in your room, instead of picking up the phone, you can go on the app and make the request instead. Help you with check-out or make a reservation at a restaurant. The opportunities are unlimited.
It would free guests up to do business instead of looking up a hotel directory to find something, it will be on an app. Whether it's pushing a button and reserving their favourite deckchair at the pool, or wanting their room cleaned at two o’clock. I think all these preferences are possible, which is why we focused on that in our SPG app."
Don’t you think this cuts out the human aspect that’s so important in the hospitality industry?
"Well, actually what we look at is one, it gives you more time that you don’t have to worry about doing your transaction. It also frees up the staff so that they can do things more personal for you. So they have more time to interact with you to do preferences or assist you as opposed to doing a transactional check-in, thereby increasing human contact that counts.
From the guest's standpoint, it gives you more time you to do things at your own pace, as you don’t have to worry about lines. Part of the keyless system is that with the SPG preferences program, we know a little more about what you like upon your arrival so you don’t have to go through the trouble of explaining it to somebody. We have the information about you so we can have the room, with all your preferences intact, all ready for you even before you arrive."
That's not all the cool there is to Starwood Hotels right?
"We just launched a Botlr (robot butler) in Aloft. It’s called A.L.O and works as concierge when you make a request like for in-room dining services. When the Apple Watch is launched next year, the SPG app will be part of the app arsenal available. And the SPG app will also be available for Google Glass next year and take wearers on a virtual tour of Starwood properties. We want to make the hospitality business a lot more digital and create a really great experience for our guests.
We are implementing a Starlab in New York City. It’s basically a laboratory for trying to do different things, and it's how we're going to get on the cutting edge and go beyond."