Meeting Mentor Magazine

December 2018

Wearable Technology

Hotels Take Different Tacks
With Apple Watch and Smartwatches

With the Apple Watch debut, the leading hotel companies are taking different approaches and moving at varying speeds in adopting wearable technology. Marriott International and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide were early out of the gate.

Members of Marriott Rewards program (50 million) who have purchased the Apple Watch will be able to use it globally to access check-in and check-out, get real-time room-ready alerts, view the nearest hotel and next reservation, and see rewards account details. Guests who are not members can enroll in the rewards program at no charge to gain these benefits at 19 brands and 4,100 hotels. The hotel company is currently testing keyless entry at the Baltimore Marriott, but no future plans have been announced, said John Wolf, global communications and public affairs. “We are confident [the Apple Watch features] will be extremely beneficial” to Marriott Rewards members who purchase the watch.

Also for guests in its loyalty program, Starwood started with SPG Keyless. It uses the Apple Watch and smart phones for: check-in, room number, room key in enabled properties, information for up to four current and upcoming stays, transportation options and directions, plus SPG account status information. Initially in English, SPG Keyless and the SGP app operate globally in Chinese, Spanish and Japanese languages, cited Starwood spokesperson Maire Griffin. More than 130,000 SPG members in 130 countries have registered for SPG Keyless. “Since travel is inherently mobile, wearables are where the future is,” she said. And because the Apple Watch pairs with a phone, Starwood is working with partners ensure a safe and secure environment.

As Hilton Worldwide presses forward with its digital strategies, it is looking to “push the boundaries and deliver a more personalized, seamless digital experience to our guests,” said Rich DiStefano, senior director of web and mobile product management. “Wearables will create a new way to interact with the guest, one that is immediate, personal and actionable.” Although specifics were not yet available, he foresees the Apple Watch and smartwatches relaying timely information on hotel happenings or room notifications and freeing up team members from their systems, so that they can engage in a more direct and personal way in the hotel.

According to spokesperson Stephanie Sheppard, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts doesn’t have “anything to share about plans for the Apple Watch at this time.” But the hotelier is “actively piloting the ability for guests to use their smartphones as a room key in select hotels. We firmly believe that technology is not the end game, but rather an important facilitator of experiences and engagement, and that this is not an issue specific to a smartphone or watch.”

Because it’s a small screen, “you don’t want it to do much more than [provide] basic app features,” added Matthew Donegan-Ryan, director of mobile strategy, Crowd Compass by Cvent. “Adoption may be low in the next couple of years, but it’s still early in the game.” — Maxine Golding

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ConferenceDirect is a global meetings solutions company offering site selection/contract negotiation, conference management, housing & registration services, mobile app technology and strategic meetings management solutions. It provides expertise to 2,500 corporations and associations through our 325 Associates globally. www.conferencedirect.com

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