When Nordic Choice Hotels (www.choicehotels.no) launched its newest concept within the Comfort brand, Comfort Hotel Xpress, in January 2011, it did so to introduce travelers to a different kind of hotel experience. The brand, which is ideal for mobile-savvy travelers seeking urban, efficient and affordable accommodations, focuses on giving its guests smooth service by providing a variety of options from the moment a reservation is made.
To establish immediate brand differentiation, Nordic Choice sought a way for its mobile-confident and self-service minded guests to have a smooth check-in/out experience, including the ability to use a mobile key to access rooms immediately upon arrival. We call it “Smooth Access” and it’s a part of the “Smooth Service” initiative. To launch the initiative, we needed to find partners who lead the industry in self-service technology, guestroom access control, security and mobility. OpenWays (www.openways.com), the hospitality industry’s first provider of front-desk bypass and mobile key solutions, was quickly chosen as one of our partners to deliver the Smooth Access program.
The Comfort Hotel Xpress in Oslo, Norway, was the first property to go live with Smooth Access in June. Guests who prefer not to stop by the front desk or use a key dispensing kiosk are encouraged to enroll in the Smooth Access service online and go to their room without having to stop and register at reception. On the day of arrival, the guest receives an e-mail or SMS/text message containing the room number. He or she can then proceed directly to the room and use their mobile phone as a room key.
To offer truly Smooth Service with Smooth Access, Nordic Choice believed that the program must be readily available to all guests from the onset, regardless of the type of mobile device they carry. OpenWays is fully interoperable between carriers and leverages highly secure protocols to offer a safe transaction. With OpenWays Mobile Key, all types of mobile phones can be used and it is totally mobile carrier independent.
Here’s how it works: OpenWays is based on an “acoustic credential” that is an audible tone deciphered by OpenWays’ hardware and software integrated within the lock. Guests owning any type of phone (smartphone or otherwise) access this acoustic credential by following instructions sent to them via a text message. This message contains their room number and a secured link to retrieve the room key. When the link is accessed, an audible tone is emitted and the door is unlocked. It’s important to note that the type of lock used — RFID, magnetic-stripe, proximity, smartcard, etc. — does not have any impact on how OpenWays and its acoustic credential functions.
The solution is eco-friendly since a mobile key, which is made only of data, makes a significant contribution to the environment.
Guests who prefer a plastic keycard still can obtain one at the front desk or at one of the hotel’s Ariane-equipped kiosks. While Comfort Hotel Xpress encourages self service, whether it is by mobile phone or kiosk, our crew is always available to help any guest with any need.
The hotel was a new construction property, and OpenWays worked with Saflok (www.saflok.com) to design an RFID locking system integrated with OpenWays Mobile Key technology. The Saflok RT RFID lock and OpenWays Mobile Key solution provides more choice and more convenience than ever before to our guests.
At Nordic Choice Hotels, we believe Smooth Service will revolutionize the way we run hotels. Today, the Comfort Hotel Xpress in Oslo is the first hotel in the Nordic Choice family to offer a mobile key solution for front desk bypass. Smooth Access will gradually be implemented at all Comfort hotels, and in the longer term will be offered at all the chains operated by Nordic Choice Hotels.
Thomas Westergaard is senior vice president for the Comfort brand. He has 10 years of experience working as a hotel director at various hotels in the Nordic region. Thomas is a graduate of Johnson & Wales University and Cornell University in the USA.