The other day I did the unimaginable. I snuck past the front desk attendant at a hotel, got on an elevator and checked into a hotel room for the next few nights. How in the world did I do it? Well I wish I could say there was some sort of magic trick or invisible superhero shield that I used, but unfortunately that would just be way too unbelievable. Well, any guesses? Okay, I won’t leave you on the edge of your seat anymore. Here’s how I was able to go straight to the hotel room without checking in at the front desk. First, I downloaded the hotel’s app (the name will remain anonymous). Then I booked the reservation. Then I was given the choice to receive what is called a “Digital Key” which would allow me to check into and open the room door along with gain access to the other hotel amenities (such as the fitness center, door entrances, business center, etc.).
How did it feel you ask? Well to be honest, a little weird. I’m on the fence about this new technology as I experienced both positives and negatives surrounding its use. On the upside, I was able to bypass waiting at the desk for both check-in and departure. However, on the downside having an “electronic” key on my phone was oftentimes incredibly inconvenient when I exited and entered the room as I had to unlock my phone, pull up the app, wait for the app to load, then touch the screen to “unlock the room” door (which took several seconds longer than a standard access card due to its sensors trying to read and connect to the phone signal). Additionally, I ended up having to go to the front desk anyways to get a hard copy key as the “digital key” did not open the laundry room. While I never got a phone call in the middle of trying to open the room door, I’m sure that would have posed a safety issue.
It also just felt weird not speaking to the front desk receptionist upon my initial arrival as it felt like I was sneaking into the hotel as a squatter of some sorts just rummaging through rooms and randomly popping up for the continental breakfast. Not having that rapport or at least initial acknowledgement that I was a guest in the hotel seemed a bit odd.
After this experience, it really got me thinking about the future of travel in regards to positions such as the front desk receptionist. How much longer will these positions exist? Will “digital key” be the future? If so, how will that affect the travel experience? With so much moving towards “diy” without the human interaction how will hotels retain the “service” experience?
No matter how cool and convenient that “digital key” seemed, I couldn’t help but think about the ripple effects of its potentially ubiquitous usage. In the meantime, I guess I’ll just have to smile and make conversation while walking past the front desk 🙂