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Will hotel room keys and front-desk checkin soon be obsolete?

Lauren Brousell | Aug. 4, 2015
Starwood Hotels is eliminating pain points for guests by offering digital room keys, mobile check-in and functionality through an Apple Watch app. It's also allowing hotel managers to make pricing decisions based on a new analytics system.

Other hotels are rolling out similar capabilities. For example, Hilton Hotels now has digital check-in so guests can select their own rooms. Hilton is also piloting digital key and lock technologies.

Using analytics to price rooms

Starwood is additionally ramping up its data analytics to alleviate a common frustration for hotel workers: how to price hotel rooms each night. To address the issue, the company built and implemented its Revenue Optimization System (ROS), which Poulter says, helps with the age-old problem of getting "heads in beds."

Revenue managers at the hotels decide on the price of rooms each night based on a series of factors such as competitors' pricing, events in the area, weather and more. The system provides these managers with better insights, "what if" analysis and recommendations on how they should adjust prices on a given night.

"The complexity for us is pricing," Poulter says. "Having these tools in the hands of managers gives them better information to make decisions."

One Starwood hotel, the Four Points in Halifax, Nova Scotia, reports a 20 percent increase in revenue per available room and is now outperforming its competition by 20 percent per share, all because of the new revenue system, Poulter says. So far, over 700 hotels have the system and the company is rolling it out to 50-150 hotels each week.

What's next? Robotics and room service

Next up, Starwood is experimenting with sensors, perhaps using them to tell when guests leave their room and when it's OK for maintenance or housekeeping to enter. The company is also planning to expand the use of its robotic butler, which currently operates at its Cupertino Aloft hotel.

Poulter says they're always looking at ways data and technology can improve the guest experience and produce repeat customers. "The annoyance factor for guests is a big predictor of whether they will stay again. If you have something go a little bit wrong, you're done and if you have a choice you will go somewhere else," she says. "There's a lot of choice and we really need to, every time, hit the nail on the head from a guest experience perspective."


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