Starwood Preferred Guest On The Cutting Edge Of Apple Watch Development

User error caused this to be posted in part earlier this morning.  Apologies.

In case you hadn’t heard, Apple had a bunch of announcements yesterday (did you get your free U2 album yet?).

One of the long-anticipated announcements was the Apple Watch.  And, for travel enthusiasts, we caught a quick glimpse of what the Apple Watch could mean for us when this familiar logo popped up on the screen during the presentation.

Preferred Guest

When I think of hotel companies that embrace technology, Starwood Preferred Guest certainly comes to mind.  I’d have to rank them at the forefront.  If pressed to name the 2nd best hotel chain in terms of tech, I’d have a harder time because I believe SPG has made much more progress than their peers.

To get a better sense of how deeply Starwood is committed to technology, this internal SPG e-mail below that went out company-wide gives us a great sense of the time and effort they devoted to this effort:

We are thrilled to share an exciting image from Apple’s announcement today of the brand new Apple Watch. In another example of Starwood being first, a very small team of talented Starwood leaders were invited by Apple to their headquarters in Cupertino, California to develop our SPG App for Apple Watch. As you might imagine, this was an opportunity reserved for only a small number of companies, and Starwood was honored to be tapped as the sole hospitality company.

When it launches next year there are endless ways Apple Watch will help us enhance our guests’ experiences at our hotels from instantly recognizing guests with a warm, personal welcome to empowering our SPG members to bypass the front desk. We envision that when a guest arrives at a destination airport, a notification will take them to a list of transportation options leading them to their Starwood hotel. When that guest arrives at a hotel with SPG Keyless, a notification will show them their room number with instructions for using Apple Watch to unlock their room and potentially a day when they arrive at the bar, they’ll be asked via notification if they’d like their usual drink brought to the table. The marriage of high-tech and high-touch is poised to transform the hotel experience in so many exciting ways, and at Starwood we’re committed to being on the cutting edge of what’s next.

We have no fear of mud and arrows, and are thrilled to once again be first to innovate and to be a part of Apple’s next big bet.

As a whole, I don’t think the travel industry has been quick to innovate.  I don’t think there are a whole lot of examples to be held up as folks blazing a path for using technology to make the customer experience more enjoyable.

Some of the things that SPG envisions make a ton of sense and aren’t just tied to Apple Watch.  The time will come when you won’t need to stop by the front desk of most hotels to grab a key.

And, the ability to track an airport shuttle, be it from a smart phone or watch, strikes me as way overdue.  In my day job, we operate a retail business that uses decidedly old technology, and yet we have the capability to locate a driver for any of our customers at any time.  Nothing new here, just very new for the hotel industry.

I’m not sure I’m quite ready for the hotel to know my favorite drink based on my ordering history, but I’m strongly in favor of better technology for travel.

Are you?  

What do you want to see for technological innovation in travel?  Do you want to wear the Apple Watch as the next foray into a connected world?

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