With the recent launch of the E-Visitor Authentication (EVA) System in Singapore, several select hotels have now gained the ability to perform faster verification of guests’ stay validity; facilitating a seamless hotel check-in experience for guests via the use of facial recognition technology.
Such initiatives seem like an overall improvement. Generally, the check-in process at hotels can be time consuming and tedious for guests. With this system, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) claims that the check-in process will speed up by 70 percent, while also allowing for the use of mobile apps or kiosks to scan the guests’ passport to check-in.
Participating hotels can then use facial recognition technology to authenticate their guests’ identities, and the guest data will be sent to the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) to verify the validity of their stay.
With the check-in process being cut short, the STB claims that the frontline staff of hotels will be able to use the saved time to interact with guests and share customised recommendations on Singapore’s offerings and experiences. With the increase in face-to-face engagement, hotel staff will be able to connect with guests on a meaningful level and improve the overall customer experience.
Currently, there are three hotels in Singapore using this technology; that being Ascott Orchard, Swissotel The Stamford, and Grand Park City Hall, with many other hotels expected to adopt the system sooner or later.
The concept of customising services by recognising guests is nothing new. The Oriental Hotel in Bangkok gained a reputation for exemplary service in the 1980s through this very method. Photographs of guests would be secretly taken and distributed to all departments; thus allowing staff to recognise and greet them by name whenever they were in the hotel.
Unfortunately, this method might not go down so well with guests today. The rise of technology has also brought with it a multitude of problems. Digital systems now permeate almost all aspects of life. So much of our personal data, including sensitive information like bank account information, are all being kept in a digital system. As such, privacy has become a premium.
The rollout of facial recognition technology is already causing widespread privacy concerns in many countries. And, even though the technology is being used to increase security it could, in fact, do the opposite. What if the system was broached by skilled hackers keen to hijack the user’s data and physical identity?
Customers are already feeling uncomfortable with being tracked outside the confines of their hotels. Imagine what they would feel if they checked into a hotel, expecting confidentiality and data protection, only to find out that they were being tracked via facial recognition within the confines of the hotel. Such a system could potentially leave hotels vulnerable to customer backlash.
The need to share guest data with the authorities shows that this technology is doubling as a surveillance tool. Savvy travelers may end up shunning hotels or even avoid travelling to the country because of this; not because they have anything to hide, but because they might feel that their privacy is being exploited.