⚠ We would appreciate if you would disable your ad blocker when visiting our site! ⚠

Hilton's Digital Key – Choice And Control For Guests

Order a reprint of this story
Close (X)

To reprint an article or any part of an article from Hospitality Upgrade please email geneva@hospitalityupgrade.com. Fee is $250 per reprint. One-time reprint. Fee may be waived under certain circumstances.


October 25, 2016
Joshua Sloser

Hilton believes a great hospitality experience should be easy, inviting and seamless.  These principles are timeless, but the products and platforms we leverage to deliver this experience change as guests’ needs, expectations and technology evolve.

We know that many of our guests rely on their smartphones to manage their lives.  All of our digital tools are designed to deliver a hospitality experience with the same convenience, access and decision-making power guests enjoy in other areas of their lives.  With that in mind, we began to pursue Digital Key as a natural extension of our existing digital check-in with room selection feature.  By giving guests control over processes that have traditionally been managed by front desk staff, we’re enabling team members to have more personal and less transactional interactions with guests.


Because we don’t own the vast majority of hotels operating under our 13 brands, getting owner buy-in was critical.  We spent months collecting guest feedback and mobile technology data to create a business case for Digital Key as a tool to build guest loyalty and drive revenue.  With these proof points in hand, we then began socializing the idea to owners and management company representatives.  We made it clear that we would provide support through training, marketing and technical expertise along the way.  Also, the solution allowed many hotels to retrofit existing locks to be compatible with Digital Key instead of replacing them — resulting in significant cost savings for owners.


Once we had the technology and owner support in hand, Hilton then turned to testing, training and rollout.  It’s important to understand the magnitude of change, because we revamped the processes hotel teams have followed for decades.

In the early stages, it was challenging to our teams to navigate delivering on our hospitality promises while removing a key touchpoint like traditional check-in.  Recognizing our loyal guests, providing amenities like bottled water, and delivering warm, friendly and personal service remain at the heart of how we do business, and constantly drove us to find new ways to exceed the expectations of our Digital Key guests.  This shift to the marriage of technology and high-touch service has been done with the customer, our guests, at the heart of every decision.  As our technologies change, our options increase and our guests’ expectations evolve, we will learn and adapt accordingly.

Digital Key beta testing began in August 2015 at the Hilton Alexandria Old Town in Alexandria, Va., and continued throughout the year at the U.S. properties of four brands: Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, Conrad Hotels & Resorts and Canopy by Hilton.

The pilot hotel teams were amazing partners, and it was a tremendous relief and a thrill to see the process working seamlessly.  Although encouraged by initial results and guest response, we didn’t rush to a full rollout.  It was important to ensure we had the technology and training just right before presenting it to a wider audience.


Since the official launch of Digital Key one year ago, we’ve opened two million Digital Key doors for Hilton Hhonors members at nearly 500 hotels.  By the end of 2016, it will be available at close to 700 hotels, and by the close of 2017 we expect to be in 2,500 hotels, including international destinations.  Feedback from guests has been extremely positive, with 93 percent reporting that they are satisfied or extremely satisfied with their digital check-in and Digital Key experience.


We believe that we are driving our business forward by turning our Hilton Hhonors app into the remote control for the total stay experience.  We’ve invested heavily in making our app the best in the business, and it’s been downloaded more than 2 million times since last summer.  It’s the highest rated hospitality app on the Apple App Store (4.7 stars) and is downloaded once every six seconds — that’s 600 downloads every hour!

Hilton is reimagining the travel experience by providing solutions to challenges guests might not even know they have yet.  These features complement the Hilton team members' ability to provide amazing service and hospitality, both in person and digitally.

As Hilton moved to make Digital Key a reality, three factors became clear:

  • no off-the-shelf-solutions met its needs
  • a scalable solution was needed for maximum impact
  • a solution that enabled owners to use their current door locks or have choice in upgrading to new locks was desired

©2016 Hospitality Upgrade
This work may not be reprinted, redistributed or repurposed without written consent.
For permission requests, call 678.802.5302 or email info@hospitalityupgrade.com.

want to read more articles like this?

want to read more articles like this?

Sign up to receive our twice-a-month Watercooler and Siegel Sez Newsletters and never miss another article or news story.