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A new smartphone app offered by Doubletree’s parent company, Hilton, puts control in the hands of the traveler.
“You can check-in with the Hilton app online and you can choose your own room,” said Doubletree General Manager Kole Siefken. “You can either stop by the front desk and get express check-in, meaning your key will be ready for you. Or you can choose to use digital key which is available through the app as well.”
The move is part of an industrywide trend toward using digital solutions to make travel easier for guests, especially millennials who tend to be more tech-savvy. Marriott International and Radisson have also started offering digital keys.
The keys are not for everyone, however, so physical key cards also are available for guests who prefer them.
The new Hilton app does more than just open doors.
Under Hilton’s loyalty program, HHonor, the hotel’s most frequent guests — silver, gold or diamond members — can enter their credit card information when they make their online reservations, which enables them to bypass front desk check-in.
Less active blue Hilton HHonor members need to visit the front desk and provide credit card information upon arrival before obtaining either a key card or app-based digital key.
All Doubletree properties will have the digital key access by the end of the year.
“That really appeals to diamond members,” said Siefken. “When you have at least 30 stays a month in a hotel, you’re on the road a lot. So, it’s very convenient for them to not have to go by the front desk.”
After the first three days in use at Modesto’s Doubletree, the digital keys proved to be popular with a variety of travelers.
“It’s really going to appeal to business travelers, but you know the leisure guests this weekend used it as well. They think it’s really neat,” said Siefken.
He said any major change at the Doubletree needs buy-in from both the staff and the consumer to be successful.
“I can honestly say that this is one of the best changes Hilton has made in recent memory,” he said. “This is flawless. We have had no problems with it. We have a younger staff — they really think it’s neat.”
Not all improvements at the hotel are digital, however. The Doubletree property itself is also getting a makeover.
The hotel’s cocktail lounge sports new flooring and a more modern look. The pool area has been redone. The hotel’s fitness center features new weights and new Precor equipment including treadmills that contain embedded television sets.
Guest room renovation will begin in January and is expected to be done by spring.
“It entails a whole room renovation on every single room whereby we’ll be replacing the wall coverings, the drapes, the carpet, the desk chair, the soft seating in the rooms,” said Siefken. “Basically, it’s an overhaul of our entire guest rooms. I’ve seen the initial plans and they look fantastic.
Each of the hotel’s refreshed 261 guest rooms will feature decor reflecting the Modesto area’s culture and heritage.
“The initial artwork that I’ve seen is highlighting the almond trees and the agricultural feel of Modesto. It looks very, very nice,” Siefken said.
The hotel’s upgrades are timed to take advantage of an uptick in tourism business. The area has enjoyed an influx of visitors due to growth in several travel categories including leisure, business and sports. That has resulted in an increase of several hundred thousand dollars in Modesto’s Transient Occupancy Tax between the fiscal years of 2014-15 and 2015-16.
Some of that increase comes from leisure tour companies turning to Modesto as a more centrally located and less expensive stopover option than San Francisco.
“It has easily doubled as far as the number tour buses coming in the last year, and there are more coming,” said Jennifer Mullen of Visit Modesto. “A lot of them are coming because of the increased prices in the Bay Area. They are getting a much better value by coming to Modesto.”
Corporate travel also has grown and traveling sales people are increasing the frequency of visits to clients as well.
“I really feel there’s a definite increase in consumer and corporate confidence levels,” Mullen said. “We’re actually booking for conventions into 2019, and we’re just starting to talk about 2020. During the recession, the booking window got much shorter.”
New and improved sports fields throughout Stanislaus County including the Mary Grogan Soccer Complex in Modesto which features all-weather turf also attract youth and adult sports tournaments to the area.