“I stumbled into a insider talk in the lounge between a general manager and a group of hotel industry types”, posts FlyerTalk member lovenola in this discussion. “They are discussing a new program where you can bypass the front desk at check in and use your spg card as a key at any hotel you are checking in to. It’s being tried out on a limited basis right now. Has anyone here participated in this yet?”
The “new” program to which lovenola is referring is the Smart Check-In program — a pilot program first launched in 2009 in which certain members of the Starwood Preferred Guest frequent guest loyalty program are selected to participate on an invitation-only basis. You cannot voluntarily opt in and join the pilot program at this time — you must be targeted with an official invitation to participate; and the invitation cannot be transferred to another person.
The way the Smart Check-In program works is that you receive a special card which contains a near field communication — or NFC — chip and doubles as your Starwood Preferred Guest frequent guest loyalty program membership card. On the day you check into the hotel property, a message with your room number is sent to your mobile electronic device. Simply bypass the front desk and proceed directly to your room. Once you arrive at your room, simply touch and hold your card to the door lock and the door will unlock automatically. Any costs incurred during your stay will be charged to the credit card used to book your reservation.
In other words, checking into a hotel property to begin your stay cannot be any faster — not even with a kiosk.
Sounds like a great program, right?
Not so fast. If you want to be able to select your room or be upgraded — as well as interact with the person at the front desk when you check in — this program may not be ideal for you. If you are on a mobile telephone plan where you pay by the message, that is an extra cost to you which could add up over time — minimal as the cost may be to you. Also, what if you use several subscriber identity module — or SIM — cards when you travel internationally? Will the message with your room number find you if this program should expand globally? How would software application programs on mobile electronic devices — such as Passbook on an Apple iPhone — work with the Smart Check-In, if at all?
What if you are assigned a room which has been already occupied, as has happened to countless FlyerTalk members such as xrayflyer, who found a completely naked man in his room?
I can tell you that those are not deal-breakers for me. I like the idea of walking into the hotel property and bypassing the front desk as though you have already checked in — especially if there is a long line at the front desk and I have just completed a 13-hour flight.
A condition of the program is that you consent to receive e-mail messages and a survey regarding the pilot program. Other terms and conditions apply.
Only nine hotel properties of the Aloft brand within the United States currently participate in the pilot program, with four more hotel properties slated to be added in the near future — including the Aloft Montreal, which will be the first hotel property outside of the United States to participate.
I have never personally used the Smart Check-In card myself, but other FlyerTalk members have and say that they really like the program thus far. Despite the Smart Check-In program being at least four years old, FlyerTalk members are still receiving invitations to join this year.
What do you think of the Smart Check-In technology? If you received an invitation to join the Smart Check-In program, would you participate? Will Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide ever get around to expanding the Smart Check-In program to additional hotel brands on a global basis as lovenola seems to have inferred, even though Smart Check-In has been a pilot program for at least four years? Should other lodging chains consider implementing this technology?