What Exactly is Contactless Check-in?

June 24, 2020

In the face of a global movement toward less physical interaction, hoteliers are trying to make the necessary adjustments to operate in a new normal. The ability to check guests in without any physical contact has become a crucial priority. As hoteliers rush to try and solve this need, phrases like “mobile check in,” “remote check in” and “contactless check in” have become buzzwords, causing confusion around what hoteliers need and what services are available. 


We thought it would be helpful to break it down. What exactly is contactless check-in? What do I need at my property? What hardware, what integrations, and what new operational procedures does it require? Let’s take a look. 


To start, know that contactless check in, remote check in and mobile check in are all referring to the same process. It is the idea of allowing a guest to check in on his or her mobile phone without any material or physical contact with your team members. I’ll refer to it as “Contactless Check-In” moving forward.  


In order to understand contactless check-in, we need to start by reviewing the steps in the current check-in process today:

  1. The guest arrives on property.

  2. The front-desk agent requests the guest to provide information. This normally includes:
    – A government issued photo identification
    – A form of payment (most often credit or debit card).

  3. The front-desk agent then retrieves the reservation in the Property Management System (PMS) and conducts a check-in by assigning a room, authorizing the credit card, and performing a visual inspection of the ID to verify the guest’s identity.

  4. The agent then asks the guest to sign a registration card to confirm guest information.

  5. Lastly, the hotel provides a roomkey and information about the hotel.

Now that we’ve looked at the current check in process, we can distill what is needed to conduct the check-in process contactlessly. From a technology perspective, there are three components:


A.  Collection of guest information & acknowledgement  (Steps 1, 2, & 4 from above)

Securely gathering information from the guest remotely and matching that information to the PMS is critical. The best approach to securely collect guest information without any physical exchange is by using the guest’s mobile device, instead of a device provided by the hotel that is going to be used multiple times. 

Collection of information on a guests mobile phone can be done two different ways: web based or app based. Most guests prefer mobile web as it does not require them to download a new app.

Another component to be mindful of is ensuring information is collected securely and making sure you are collecting all the necessary information (ID, credit card  and registration form). Payment information in particular must be collected in a secure, PCI-compliant environment. 

Lastly, ensuring you collect the guest’s autograph for an acknowledgement (reg form), will be critical in protecting the property. 


B. Assigning a room (Step 3 from above)

This is handled by the PMS and does not involve any physical contact. As a best practice, ensure the solution you utilize for collecting guest data is properly integrated with your PMS so that you do not need to do this manually.


C. Creating a mobile key (Step 5 from above)

Ideally, instead of coding a physical card, the key would be delivered to the guest’s mobile device. This requires hardware to be installed on each door and a key provider to manage the connection to each lock. In order to ensure the best experience for your guest, you’ll also want to ensure the mobile key system and secure guest information collection system are linked and compatible.

Fortunately, hoteliers don’t need to tackle everything at once. Many hotels do not have the budget to spend in the current environment and are taking a phased approach to contactless check-in. Consider starting with a new contactless way to collect guest information and then phasing in mobile key once you are able to upgrade the hardware. 

Hoteliers have been driving toward what was commonly referred to as “mobile check-in” for nearly a decade. Now that the coronavirus pandemic has forced us to look at physical transactions in a new way, the impetus is there to accelerate adoption. To learn more about moving to a Contactless Check-In environment, contact us here.

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