Mobile check-in is transforming the hospitality industry

By Nicole Di Tomasso

For years, travellers have relied on their mobile devices to check in for a flight and not surprisingly, travellers want this same convenience when checking into a hotel. It’s one of the many pieces of technology transforming the hospitality industry and it’s here to stay.
“Mobile check-in technology has been around for a while, but COVID exacerbated the need for a contactless solution,” says Chaz Farris, senior account executive and market head – North America at RoomRaccoon, a hotel-management software for independent hoteliers. “Guests are looking for simplistic ways to arrive at hotels, but that process can look different depending on how a hotel operates.”

In a recent study entitled Hospitality in 2025: Automated, Intelligent…and more Personal, Skift and Oracle Hospitality surveyed more than 5,000 consumers about what they expect from the next phase of hotel technology and services and more than 600 hoteliers about what they’re most likely to implement. Conducted across nine global markets, the survey revealed that 53.6 per cent of travellers would like to see contactless check-in/out permanently adopted by 2025. On the hotel side, more than 60 per cent of executives worldwide said that “a fully contactless experience for all basic hotel transactions, including check-in/out, food and beverage, room keys, et cetera” would be the most widely adopted in the next three years. Generally speaking, 34.4 per cent of executives said they’re already heavily invested in contactless technology, while another 26.6 per cent in early stages. Only 3.7 per cent said they don’t plan to invest in this technology.

Marriott, Hilton and Accor are a few early adopters of the mobile check-in process, but the option was limited to members of their loyalty programs. Marriott has offered mobile check-in through its Marriott Bonvoy app since 2013, and has now expanded the offering beyond its loyalty program. Hilton began giving members the option through the Hilton Honors app in 2015 and by 2019 had rolled out the technology to approximately 4,000 properties. And, Accor deployed digital check-in at approximately 1,000 hotels by the end of 2014 for all loyalty card or subscription-card holders, as well as guests who booked directly through Accor via brand websites, mobile apps and direct phone with the hotel.

Taking it one step further, Accor began rolling out a digital-key solution called Accor Key to all new hotels opening in 2021, in collaboration with StayMyWay, to streamline the check-in process further and reduce the amount of plastic used for traditional key cards. Guests can access the keyless door entry solution via Accor’s digital key app using their smartphone for entry into guestrooms, meeting rooms and floor access via lifts. The company is aiming to equip at least 50 per cent of all rooms across its network by 2026.

That same year, IHG Hotels & Resorts made digital check-in available through mobile devices, computers and tablets at more than 3,000 properties across Canada and the U.S. Built on the cloud-based IHG Concerto platform, guests receive a notification with the option to check-in from their phone or the IHG App. Once the process is completed, guests go to a designated lobby area, show their identification and pick up their room key.

“Digital check-in is a crucial part of the Stay with Confidence program,” says John Weiss, VP, Guest Products and Platforms, IHG Hotels & Resorts in a release. “Building this capacity on our IHG Concerto platform allowed us to work quickly to deliver a product our guests want. It also creates an integrated experience for our hotel colleagues and helps support our owners through recovery. This is beneficial to our hotel teams because it minimizes transaction time and complexity, giving them more time to engage guests on-property in other meaningful ways.”

On a smaller scale, Fantasyland Hotel in Edmonton announced its partnership with INTELITY in July 2023 to provide guests with mobile check-in/out and mobile keys, while streamlining the day-to-day operations for staff through GEMS – INTELITY’s suite of staff-facing tools. By using the property’s mobile app and INTELITY’s BLE Lock integration with ASSA ABLOY, guests can bypass the front desk and securely access their rooms.

“At Fantasyland Hotel, our goal is to create a fun guest experience for more than just the weekend,” says Jay Vashi, director of Operations at Fantasyland Hotel in a release. “We strive to make our guests feel at home, and today that means bringing the convenience of technology to the guest’s stay. Our attention to detail doesn’t stop with our themed rooms, but continues through to our digital guest journey, allowing customers to access their rooms and communicate with staff on their terms.”

On the supply side, RoomRaccon recently integrated with Nuki to enhance and modernize hotel check-ins. The two-way integration will enable guests to check-in and access their room through their smartphone with automated access codes shared in the online check-in.
“In most cases, guests aren’t required to download any apps. The codes are embedded into a pre-arrival email and the guest simply clicks a URL to access the code and is re-directed to a web browser,” says Farris. “Nuki is an out-of-the box solution where hoteliers receive the software and hardware together, whereas other providers might need you to outsource the hardware.”

Farris says RoomRaccon has roughly 80 customers using some kind of remote-access app. In addition to Nuki, its full list of lock integrations includes RemoteLock, Flexipass, SALTO Systems, SALTO KS, dormakaba and ASSA ABLOY. He says most North American customers pay between $100 and $300 per lock, including installation.

“Frog Point Inn is a newly renovated six-room property using a contactless model including booking, check-in and check-out. We do not have a front desk,” says Shane Molson, owner of Frog Point Inn in Courtright, Ont. “Mobile check-in from RoomRaccoon integrated with RemoteLock keyless entry is a perfect solution that saves us administrative costs and effort. Guests also enjoy the flexibility, ease and convenience of gaining secure access to their rooms no matter when they arrive.”

“The main challenge is knowing what hardware is needed for the locks and getting them installed because there’s so many models and manufacturers,” says Farris. “It’s important for hoteliers to know exactly what they need in order to secure the best available option for their property and provide a seamless check-in experience.”

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