Hilton to speed check-ins with digital room keys at 4,000 properties worldwide

Hilton is planning to make life a lot easier for business travelers by allowing digital check-in, including the ability to choose rooms. Digital room keys are expected to come in 2015.

Hilton speed check-in
Image: Hilton Worldwide

Hilton Worldwide has announced a massive new digital initiative that will give hotel guests the ability to check-in and choose their hotel rooms from airplane seat-style digital floor plans. This is the biggest announced hotel smartphone technology rollout yet.

The program will see digital check-in and room selection available at more than 4,000 Hilton properties by the end of 2014, including at Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, Hilton, Hilton Garden Inn, Homewood Suites, Home2 Suites, DoubleTree, and Embassy Suites properties across the United States. Additionally, guests will be able to purchase upgrades and request specific amenities from the app.

New technology, likely based on Bluetooth LE, that allows iOS and Android smartphones to be used as room keys will be enabled by the end of 2015 across four Hilton brands in the US, with the majority of Hilton rooms worldwide gaining this capability by the end of 2016. Until the digital room key technology rolls out, guests will pick up their room key from the front desk after checking in online. Check out will occur automatically, with the bill sent digitally.

"Travelers can use their smartphones as boarding passes to get to their seats on an airplane," explained Christopher J. Nassetta, president and CEO of Hilton Worldwide. "It is only natural that they will want to use them as a way to enter their hotel rooms."

For business travelers who are used to digital ticketing and seating on airlines, the move should be second nature and help save time during check-in. The ability to select which hotel room to stay in, along with maps of hotel floors that show exits, elevators, and amenities like ice and vending machines should help business travelers pick the best room possible.

Photos of rooms will be available in-app, along with real-time updates on room availability. Check-in and room selection will begin at 6:00 AM the day before check-in.

Hilton HHonors Choose My Room Package h264 from Hilton Worldwide on Vimeo.

For Hilton, the initiative will likely drive membership to its HHonors loyalty program, as membership in that program will be required to participate in the digital check-in and room key initiative.

Hilton isn't the first company to enable mobile check-in, but it is the first to allow users to choose their rooms via a digital floor plan. Earlier this year, Starwood began a pilot program that allows guests to use their smartphones as room keys at a handful of properties, but the company has not announced an expansion of that initiative yet.

With Hilton kickstarting the digital hotel bandwagon, planning to offer this technology across 650,000 rooms at 4,000 hotels and 11 brands, it's likely that other large hospitality chains will begin or accelerate their own digital initiatives.

Do you think digital hotel room check-in and room keys will eventually become standard practice with business travelers? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.

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