Hilton Rolling Out Pick Your Own Room and Use Your Phone as a Room Key

Hilton is about to launch a revolutionary product that several chains have been talking about for years: an iPhone and Android app that will let guests check-in by phone, assign their own choice of room, and use their phone as a room key.

This gives the power of choice to customers, and cuts down on hotel staffing needs if it takes off. But there are several challenges, and one in particular that will make me wary of using it..

Hilton has announced that guests will soon be able to use their mobile device to check-in, choose rooms from digital floorplans, purchase room upgrades, and make special requests.

By the end of this summer, guests can check in and choose rooms via Apple and Android HHonors apps at the following properties – Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, Conrad Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Garden Inn, Homewood Suites and Home2 Suites.

In the fall, DoubleTree by Hilton and Embassy Suites within the US will be added to the list of mobile check-in enabled properties. By the end of 2014, more than 4,000 Hilton Worldwide properties will be included.

Here’s how it works:

  • Guests can check in via the app or desktop at 6am the day before a stay.
  • They’ll be able to pick a specific room (and will be given floor plans and photos).
  • Room selection will be based on available hotel inventory.
  • The system will offer paid upgrades.
  • Starting next year rooms will be set up to allow guests to use the app as a room key.
  • Once that happens, no need to visit the front desk, just go straight to the room.
  • Something I use already with Hyatt and much like, online checkout will be available and an email bill will be sent. Hilton expects this rolled out worldwide by end of 2016.

Choose your own room, and mobile device as room key are potentially revolutionary.

There are real challenges, some that will no doubt get worked through and with clear solutions by the time this is all live and some fundamental to this sort of approach:

  • I would have expected check-in and room assignment to be available only on the day of arrival, not the day before. If they only show rooms that are vacant the day before check-in at 6am that’s going to be of pretty limited use at busy hotels (since there won’t be (m)any. If they include rooms that are supposed to become available that’ll be a problem: What if they extend their stay? What if they get late checkout? What if a room got trashed and has to be taken out of service? At what time does the key activate inside the app?

  • The app is brilliant not just as a hotel guest convenience but as an upsell tool — show them the rooms they can choose from, they look kind of bad, and an eStandby upgrade is only a few bucks more… Better to have the app do the upsell than to rely on front desk agents to do it. You can ensure consistency and show photos of what they’d be buying.

  • Decent free elite upgrades will be hard to get via an app. Hilton doesn’t guarantee suite upgrades, sometimes they get assigned but even if they are available there’s no entitlement. It’s hard to imagine an app being generous, that will or will not get done on the hotel level by a human. I’d rather talk to the human in that case.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Interesting to be able to select room and use phone as key. Marriott has had online check-in and check-out at many properties for a while (not all, but definitely some). They’re also piloting a guest services app to request more towels, toiletries, pillows, shoe shines, etc.

  2. On a recent visit to a Hilton, I was placed on a floor newly enabled for RFID keys (so newly that the RFID contractors were still on site converting other floors).

    An hour or so after I arrived, early enough that I hadn’t bolted the door, while I was working on my laptop at the desk, the door flew open. Another guest (cocktail from the lounge in hand) stood there, RFID key card in hand. I yelled: “Get out of my room!” He bellowed: “What are you doing here? This is my room!” After a few moments and some back-and-forth yelling, he checked the room number, turned beet red, and stammered that he had returned to the wrong room.

    The hotel was apologetic and sent a technician to examine the data record from the RFID lock. I know that magnetic key cards can be assigned as duplicated (or duplicated maliciously), but I wonder about the security implications of cell phones as keys.

  3. Perhaps not ALL rooms will be available through the app. I have used choose your own suites at Homewood Suites several times and it usually gave only a couple of choices. (Choose suite the day before online) Curious that my current stay didn’t have this option. Perhaps because of this new software. Thanks for the news.

  4. The problem with this is that most real elites expect some sort of upgrade, and they aren’t interested in paying for it, at least 90% of the time. If I’m spending 100 nights at your properties but the only upgrades I can get are by paying via some app I’m more likely just to switch to another chain that understands loyalty.

  5. Most activities in which human judgment gets replaced by machines usually end up worse for the customer. I’m not a Hilton Elite, but I agree w/ Nick that loyal customers will bear the brunt of this “improvement”.

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