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Your Phone Is All You Need

Hilton’s global head of digital Geraldine Calpin wants your smartphone to be your key, front desk, porter—and pocket psychic.

How are hotels embracing mobile?
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“Not long ago, the idea of hospitality and technology coming together seemed foreign. But they complement each other: You can use our new app to book your trip, view previous stays, check in, and choose your room. For example, a family might choose a room that opens to the pool and a business traveler might want a quiet room at the end of the hall away from the elevator. You can even use it to make sure extra pillows or even a burger and fries will be in your room to greet you. If you check in from your phone, your key will be ready and waiting for you at the front desk. And when it’s time to go home, you can check out right from bed.”

What should travelers watch for?
“This year, Hilton is turning your phone into your room key, so no more carrying around a plastic key card. Soon, the app could allow you to pin your favorite room or curate local information on things to do provided by locals. Another idea I’d love to see: Once guests have arrived in their room, we could check in with them via the app: You’ve arrived a hotel and are getting settled in your room and you receive a message on your phone, ‘Welcome Mr. Jones. Is everything to your liking? Is there anything we can do for you?’ You may reply that the air conditioner isn’t working well. Lo and behold, 10 minutes later, an engineer arrives at your door with a note and ice water to cool you down while he fixes the issue. We want our app to become one part psychic, one part magician.”

What are other hotel companies coming up with?
“They’re realizing the power of technology to create a hotel stay that customizes a guest’s preferences right down to the number of towels they like in their room or if they’d like a bottle of wine waiting for them each night. Some companies are opening innovation labs, even building robots.”

What’s still missing?
“We see opportunities in mobile payments. I know I’m not the only one who loves not having to fuss with my wallet. We’re also looking into wearables. Imagine a world where all Hilton Team Members were equipped with wearables to help them recognize individual guests or guests’ preferences so they can quickly personalize conversation and services to each traveler. Guests could opt-in to this feature on a stay-by-stay basis, just like you enable location services on your phone today. So, guests who want us to know them can enjoy that personalized experience, but those who don’t can choose to remain anonymous. For us, it’s all about giving guests total choice and control. On the flip side, guests wearing an Apple Watch could use it as their room key and to get timely information about hotel happenings and room updates.”

What’s the tool that makes travel better for you?
“Global Entry, 100 percent. I love never needing to queue at immigration. Just another example of how technology can make travel just that much more enjoyable by fixing a major traveling pain point.”

Suitcase photograph by The Voorhes.