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Marriott International checks in Apple Pay for extended stay

Marriott International is gearing up to streamline the check-in process even more for travelers by becoming the first global hotel brand to integrate Apple Pay, displaying further evidence that the mobile payments sector and the hospitality industry are becoming steadily more intertwined.

Customers will now be able to use the mobile payments platform via their iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and the Apple Watch while checking in at Marriott hotel lobbies. Travelers can wave their smartphone near the front desk’s contactless reader to complete a quick payment process and allow consumers to bypass a complicated experience before going up to their rooms.

“It is important because our goal is to create a seamless and effortless mobile experience for the millions of guests who use Marriott mobile from the time they book their reservation on, to the stay itself, to when they checkout,” said a spokesman for Marriott International. “By introducing Apple Pay we can make the mobile experience more rewarding.”

Streamlined guest experience
Marriott has placing a higher focus on mobile strategy as of late, and the mobile payments sector is extremely well-suited to its industry. After guests wave their mobile device at the contactless reader during check-in, the smartphone will respond with a beep and vibration to signal that the payment has been completed.

“In terms of functionality, this is the same as paying for your groceries at Whole Foods (another Apple Pay location),” said Scott Michaels, executive vice president at Atimi, Vancouver, Canada. “The difference being that Marriott will hold this payment like they do for all credit cards, as the security against your room, the deposit for incidentals.

“This isn’t really groundbreaking work, more like ‘me too’ and with the large number of payment gateways and merchant processors all supporting Apple Pay, I would expect that all hotels will soon have this same functionality,” he said. “Soon, it will be more of a detraction if your hotel does not support Apple Pay when you check in.

“As a replacement for pulling out your wallet, hotel chains that do not support Apple Pay at least at this basic level will be seen to be lagging behind in making the guest experience smooth and friction-free.”

This means that guests will no longer have to rummage around for their credit cards, or even carry one on their person while traveling. The smartphone is becoming a replacement for the physical wallet, and Marriott is capitalizing on that to enhance the guest experience even more.

The brand has found that approximately 75 percent of its customers travel with at least one mobile device, with the number resting even higher among the 25 to 35-year-old demographic. Millennials are also set to become a significant portion of Marriott’s guests over the next several years, prompting it to ramp up mobile strategy in an effort to cater to those clients’ needs and lifestyle.

Marriott has seen millions of consumers leverage Marriott Mobile to book accommodations, check-in or check out with the tap of a finger, and hopes that Apple Pay will make that process even more pleasant and quick.

The brand is expecting to introduce Apple Pay to a slew of hotels this summer. Participating properties include JW Marriott Chicago, EDITION Miami, The Ritz-Carlton Washington D.C., The Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park, New York Marriott Downtown, San Jose Marriott and Renaissance New York Times Square Hotel.

The San Francisco Marriott Marquis, San Francisco Airport Marriott Waterfront, Courtyard Los Angeles L.A. Live, Residence Inn Los Angeles L.A. Live and Courtyard Chicago Downtown/Magnificent Mile will also be offering the functionality.

Mobile focus
Marriott first launched mobile check-in and check-out options on its mobile application in 2013, a move that kicked off the brand’s long-term dedication to mobile strategy. The company is also integrating Apple Pay with its loyalty platform by enabling members to load their Marriott Rewards credit cards into Apple Pay and select it as the primary form of payment, allowing them to earn rewards points each time they pay via Apple Pay at thousands of retailers.

Marriott is jumping on the Apple Watch bandwagon by unveiling an app for the wearable upon availability. Members of the Marriott Rewards program will be able to leverage it to check-in prior to arrival at the hotel, receive notifications when their room is ready for them and check out of many hotels worldwide.

The hospitality brand is also testing a service request app at select location, which allows guests to text with associates to make requests, reservations and more.

In other news, Marriott’s first short film, Two Bellmen, premiered in mobile-optimized form on YouTube. The film, detailing an action-packed heist featuring two bellmen, also offers a clever look at some of Marriott’s iconic properties (see story).

GameStop is another major brand introducing a national rollout of the mobile payment technology, proving that Apple Pay remains an unstoppable force as 2015 progresses.

“What the ‘W’ hotels have done is much more than just Apple Pay, by integrating it will the room keys, as well as showing your reservation and room number all on the watch even before you arrive,” Mr. Michaels said.

“The takeaway point being that right now its a catch up game, to be as good as what the ‘W’ is doing, and onboarding with Apple Pay for the registration desk experience is a very low bar to meet, to begin that process.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York