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With Biometric Technology, Hotels May Soon Know You Better Than You Know Yourself

A new promotional campaign shows a glimpse of a future where the hospitality industry collects all manner of data about travelers.

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BY Christine Lagorio-Chafkin - 02 Jul 2018

With Biometric Technology, Hotels May Soon Know You Better Than You Know Yourself

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Hotels haven't yet gone full Minority Report, allowing guests to use biometric eyeball scans, rather than a card or key, to enter their rooms. Nor are robot butlers a thing. But we may not be far off.

Artificial intelligence is already in hotel rooms, with Amazon's Alexa-enabled devices taking commands from guests at some Best Westerns, Dream Hotels, and Marriotts. Now, with the global biometrics industry expected to top $30 billion in three years, according to ABI research, at least one hotel business is trying its hand at analyzing the biometrics of its clientele.

AccorHotels' new promotional campaign uses biometric data to better understand members of its loyalty program, called Le Club--and to give them a neat experience that might spur them to book reservations. The company has developed a website that takes visitors through a quiz to find their travel preferences (hot tropics or snow-covered Alps? City or countryside?).

Participants may opt in to using their computer's webcam to monitor and analyze their heart rate, which provides data that augments the quiz's results. Yes, this is a real, tested technology; software calculates a users' pulse based on the optical intensity of colors in their face. As visitors to the site select vacation images appealing to them, the biometric data will more heavily weight quiz answers that coincide with an elevated heart rate.

"We want to know you better than you know yourself," says Siobhan Mitchell, director of loyalty marketing at AccorHotels.

For the campaign, which was created by the Toronto-based creative agency Cossette, AccorHotels also created an immersive biometric-tracking experience for influencers and reporters. "We said, what if we read their minds? What if we go there and try to understand what really drives people and drives their desires?" says Rachel Adams, an associate creative director at Cossette.

The technology holds promise for the hospitality industry in multiple areas, including security, marketing (the novelty of it all!), and perhaps most compellingly, customer loyalty.

The new campaign is tied to the July 2 merger of other loyalty programs, Fairmont President's Club, Swisstel Circle, and Raffles Ambassadors, with Le Club. Select AccorHotels will have kiosks where customers can try the website starting later in July.

Accor says it is not looking to monitor or store customers' heart rate, or to retain their biometric data for any other use. Still, the technology has the potential to turn off privacy-inclined consumers.

"There's a fine line between cool and creepy," says travel industry analyst Henry Harteveldt. "And that fine line is a subjective one."

Harteveldt's Atmosphere Research Group recently surveyed British and American consumers about whether they would share their biometric data with hotels. Of more than 5,000 Americans surveyed, 64 percent said they would. Of the more than 5,000 U.K. residents surveyed, 60 percent said they would. Even more said they would share data with airlines, which Harteveldt chalks up to the idea that customers see an efficiency and security benefit to biometric scanning of passengers in airports.

"With on-the-cusp technologies there's a race to be first," says Accor's Mitchell. "We are positioning ourselves to be a leader in this space."

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