Hotel access: the last hurdle in building your digital hotel ecosystem

AMSTERDAM – 8th of september 2019

Sometimes going back to nature is best thing to do. Although not considered ‘real nature’, one of my favorite places to go with family is Burgers Zoo in Arnhem (The Netherlands). Not to see any exotic and locked up animals but mostly because of the impressive tropical rainforest that you can walk through. Nothing wrong with the Dutch forests and grasslands, but this is the closest tropical rainforest I can go to…by car.

’The Bush’ is an impressive 3.7-acre indoor tropical rainforest with a humidity that varies between 70 and 100% (depending on ‘the season’), and a tropical temperature between 20-24 degrees. When creating the environment in 1988, the largest challenge was replicating the complex ecosystem of a tropical rainforest. How to make sure plants and animals thrive in this self created natural ecosystem? The answer: all individual components should be arranged neatly to work together and interact for an overall purpose.

This challenge very much resembles the challenge hotels are facing today. First finding their path through a jungle of new tech solutions and then discovering a way to make all individual components interact towards the envisioned overall digital ecosystem and experience.


Ecosystems in hotels
It’s becoming apparent that the hotel systems space is finally making strides to catch up on this challenge. The pioneering phase, with the fast-growing trees and plants with a low shade tolerance, is making place for the secondary development phase in which the slow-growing trees gain momentum. API’s and intelligent cloud-based systems – very visible in all new generation hotel PMS, software and tools – provide the nutrients that all components depend on and interact with. Hereby strengthening a connected hotel ecosystem. Unfortunately, however, we’re not entirely there yet. The biggest hick-up in the ecosystem today: hotel access and mobile keys.

Almost all digital guest journeys break down at this last piece of the puzzle. This is highly unfortunate for two reasons:

1. If one species is to die or doesn’t function, this will have a wider impact on all other elements in the chain.
Like many other hotels, you can try to simplify operations and reduce queues with online check-ins or self-service kiosks. Now let’s say you’ve done a great job in communicating this and a majority of your guests perform the online check-in. If you then need staff to manually create a digital key and/or if you then need to force guests to download an app for access to their room, you will lose a massive
chunk off your guests (I would dare to say ~95%). Although you started off great with a majority of guests checking in online, you will now still have 95% of guests arriving without a key. As a result you will see no significant changes to your operations or queues. Your ecosystem is not working and to put it even stronger: when the system breaks down, the benefits that were provided by the previous solutions are now also lost.

2. Mobile keys do so much more than open the door.
The mobile key physically connects the hotel to the guests’ favorite device on the day of arrival and during their stay. Now ‘the door’ is opened for you to communicate with, serve and surprise your guests during their entire stay. What a waste of opportunities if only 5% of your guests use their digital key

Although there has been progress in the hotel lock industry over the years to solve this issue – we already went from metal locks to electronic locks and now to digital locks – making hotel locks part of the entire ecosystem has still been very unsuccessful.

How to make this hotel ecosystem work?
When we took our first dive in the world of mobile keys for hotels, our approach was simple: by focussing on the currently experience downsides of mobile keys we soon figured out that mobile keys should be done differently, and better, than current solutions out there.

Acknowledging that a hotel is a unique environment is a first step. Understanding that you can’t just take technology that works in residential properties or office spaces and expect that it will also work in hotels is an important second.

For example, hotels don’t have ‘fixed guests’ that will use their keys for the next 2-5 years to come as commonly seen in residential and office spaces. No, hotels have new guests everyday, assigned to a room on the very last-minute or even changed during their stay. Hotels don’t have a Monday morning meeting  (or any time at all) to grandly introduce and explain the new digital key solution to their guests. When it comes to hotels, mobile keys need to be secure, connected, fully automated, real-time, flexible, absolutely monkey-proof and seamless for guests.
To summarize all these requirements, mobile keys need to be tailored specifically to hotels’ unique requirements. It is only then, that all interacting components are arranged neatly to work together for an overall purpose.

The main purposes of mobile access for hotels are:

  • To simplify operations;
  • To reduce costs;
  • To optimise experiences


Hotel ecosystems are fragile. To make the purposes work it is essential that there is both staff adoption and guest adoption of new technology.

Staff adoption
No additional interface is needed when using the 4Suites mobile key platform. An initial 30-minute setup with other components in the system (like PMS and online check-in) ensures that zero actions are required by the hotel. Users’ access rights and locks are updated in real-time and issuing mobile keys is complete automated and running on the background.

Guest adoption
When is the last time you downloaded a new app on your phone? An average of 2-5% of guests wil actually download an app, register, log-in, etc. to use mobile access. Also, a large group of business travelers are not allowed to download an app on their business phone or need to place an IT request to do so.
4Suites has developed a secure web app where no login or registerion is necessary. The two-click journey ensures that a large percentage of hotel guests will use mobile keys. This results in living up the the purposes as described above: simplify operations, reduce costs, optimise the experience.

Book a demo
4Suites has been able to deliver a unique, fully automated and seamless mobile key solution for hotels. Would you like to see how this can be embedded in the ecosystem of your hotel? Book a 15-minute demo right here.