The recently launched system allows guests to check into hotels using kiosks or mobile phones to verify their identity.
Since tourism accounts for about 4% of the nation’s gross domestic product, companies in Southeast Asia (Singapore) are testing a facial-recognition system known as E-Visitor Authentication, which is linked directly with the city-state’s immigration authority. The recently launched system allows guests to check into hotels using kiosks or mobile phones to verify their identity. According to the Singapore Tourism Board and local hotel association, “That can trim check-in times by as much as 70%.”
So far the technology is reportedly being piloted at three hotels and one of the users, Grand Park City Hall, estimates the new process to reduce the time it takes for a guest to check in down from about five minutes to now about one minute. “Guests now enjoy more convenience,” says General Manager John Kockan. The other hotels testing the technology are Ascott Orchard and Swissotel the Stamford.
Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat announced the initiative at the Hotel Industry Conference 2019. Chee told the event: "Today, hotels have to deploy staff at check-in counters to check passports to confirm that the individual's face matches the passport photo, and to verify that they are in the country legally. Some hotels have implemented self-check-in kiosks with facial recognition technologies to automate the first task, but not the second. With EVA, both tasks can now be automated."
Chee believes the reduction in check-in time will translate to more than 11,000 hours saved annually for larger hotels and will also free up front-office staff. General Manager of Fairmont Singapore and Swissotel The Stamford Marcus Hanna, says the system has helped “eliminate large amounts of paperwork while enhancing productivity and efficiency.”
"In the past, there used to be long queues behind counters with colleagues manually helping to process guest check-ins. Now, technology has made possible the completion of check-in in about three minutes and check-out in less than 30 seconds for each guest," Hanna said.
However, Chee warns that technology is not meant to replace employees but to help them increase efficiency: "The aim is to enhance the capabilities of our workers, so that they can take on higher-value roles which are more productive and earn better wages over time."
Other ways facial recognition technology can help generate revenue for hotels includes:
- Creating a more personalized customer experience: At its core, face recognition is an organizational tool. It allows for information to be associated with a specific person's face and is able to access that information when it detects that person’s presence. For example, rather than asking who they are at entrance, hotel staff and front desk attendants can greet guests by their given name, which not only creates a streamlined check-in process but also makes guests feel more at home. This also allows for personal preferences or interests to be saved. Why would they want to stay at a different hotel when one remembers all of their personal preferences and information?
- Augmenting a hotel's customer database: Hotels can leverage face recognition technology to gather information about the guests’ gender, ethnicity and even their age. With the ability to instantly pull this data from photos, hotels can capture a more detailed customer database. For example, if data shows a certain criteria of demographic who regularly use the swimming pool, then that hotel could alter a marketing strategy to appeal to that group of demographics.
- Increased security: More than just monitoring, face recognition can also aid in the prevention of crime. Any troublemaker’s face that is caught on camera can be saved into a hotel’s database or sent straight to police. Face recognition technology can house records of undesirable guests, or people who have a history of trouble, and alert staff if they are detected on the premises.
While the hospitality industry is a competitive landscape and technology can be a differentiator, as Chee cautions, it must be mixed with the human touch and strong security measures in order for companies to reap the benefits.