Power of facial recognition — The new face of the travel industry?

Jul 15, 2019 · 3 min read

Imagine your guests walking into your hotel’s lobby, receiving a personalised greeting, checking in, and payingall without having to scrabble around for documents, cash or cards. Without, in fact, doing anything except being themselves.

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Such is the power of facial recognition technology. And it’s already here.

Two Marriott hotels in China have already introduced facial recognition technology to help streamline the check-in and check-out experience. Guests who have opted in can bypass queues at the check-in desk by heading straight to a machine that scans their faces, identifies them and issues a key card, all in under a minute.

Key cards have also been under reinvention over the last 10 years, with Alibaba introducing facial recognition room access in April 2019.

The benefits don’t just stop at cutting queues though. Facial recognition can be used to create a more personalised and improved customer service experience. By identifying returning guests before they reach check-in, staff can not only offer a personalised greeting, but also have a wealth of information flash up on their screen, from room preferences to departure times and more. Such a system has already been developed by Agilysys as part of its rGuest property management system.

It also aids security, helping to keep out unwanted or banned guests. Several airports already use it for this purpose, as do some casinos, where self-identified problem gamblers can be excluded from entry. In an age of terrorism, facial recognition might prove to be the first line of defence against the most unthinkable acts.

Payment methods are also increasingly turning to biometrics such as facial recognition, with numerous banks and payment apps utilising customers’ smartphones to authenticate transactions. It’s payment, essentially, with a selfie. A similar situation could be imagined in hotels, with guests paying for rooms and services via facial recognition software on their phones or in-house screens.

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There is also the data angle. Facial recognition can give excellent information on guest numbers throughout different times of day or night. And it can help you segment that data into gender, age groups and even emotional states, allowing you to improve future guest experiences. Do a large number of incoming guests seem more stressed or unhappy at particular times? How about some welcome drinks to lighten the mood?

There are of course some concerns about the technology. It isn’t fool proof and has been known to make mistakes. And in a world where personal data is increasingly mined to provide targeted marketing opportunities, there are also privacy concerns. Facial recognition won’t be to everyone’s taste so it should be used as an optional service, perhaps tied to loyalty and reward schemes.

Here at Sciant we look at how your existing technology platforms and customer engagement systems can be optimised to leverage new technology developments. We can help ensure your data is fully integrated with robust, secure connections so you can harvest the information to improve your operations while providing a more seamless guest experience.

Whether you agree with the technology or not, it could be a case of keeping up or being left behind. Biometrics such as facial recognition are expected to be mainstream in the travel industry by 2025. And more than 64% of travellers are in favour of them according to one report.

So it’s not really a case of if but when. The face of the future, it seems, is the face.

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