Virgin Hotels Offers Contactless Experience Via Mobile App

MIAMI—With social distancing on everyone’s mind, Virgin Hotels is making sure its guests can bypass the front desk and check in with the brand’s latest mobile app enhancement.

Lucy, Virgin Hotels’ mobile app, has gotten an update, offering even more contactless features for guests. Originally launched in 2015 as a “personal comfort assistant,” the app offered features like the ability to book stays, provide local recommendations, order room service, initiate service requests and provide an up-to-date look at individual hotel happenings, news and programming.

The newest version of Lucy, which debuted with the reopening of Virgin Hotels Dallas and the opening of Virgin Hotels Nashville last month, does all of that, along with a few additional features.

“Lucy allows travelers to bypass the front desk and check in via the app, access mobile keys and control the TV, lights and thermostat directly from their phone,” CMO Doug Carillo said. “This helps our guests and staff not only continue to effectively social distance, but also cut back on handling objects such as plastic room keys and remotes.”

Users of the Lucy app can also access Apple Music, exercise in the hotel fitness center with custom routines powered by Fitbod and purchase hotel gift cards.

Denise Walker, VP of IT technology, added, “As the hospitality industry and guest needs are constantly changing, so will Lucy. The recent upgrade dramatically improves the experience for both guests and operations, and allows guests to directly control their experience from the moment they book—whether they’re selecting their room during pre-arrival or obtaining a mobile key to settle into their stay. Then, once they are in their hotel room, the latest version of Lucy extends the ability for guests to directly make service requests through the app, allowing a highly personalized experience through real-time communications. Ultimately, the overall effect on operations is that more time is spent providing great service and less time is spent on recovery. Thanks to Lucy, operations can meet guest needs accurately and efficiently where a high-touch personal response is necessary. Moving forward, particularly in the age of COVID, the features in Lucy will continue to evolve and change to meet the moment and the guest’s needs as effectively as possible.”

But, Carillo noted, it’s not all about COVID-19; Virgin Hotels was also thinking about the bigger picture.

“While some features are particularly helpful right now as people look to escape while still social distancing, the ultimate goal with this updated version was to improve the guest experience,” he said. “Having the option to check in from your phone and know you’re never going to lose your key because it’s mobile are features we want our guests to have so they can worry less about the little things and more about enjoying their time with us. Plus, on our end, one of my favorite features is that guests can provide feedback on their stay in real time, allowing us to work to improve the guest experience almost immediately.”

Walker added, “Virgin Hotels’ DNA is born out of a desire to create an experience that is disruptive, richer and one that eliminates the issues and annoyances that long permeated guest travel experiences.  Whether it is offering minibar items at street prices or allowing guests to control the TV and lighting from their own mobile device, we view each challenge or obstacle as an opportunity to provide a disruptive, frictionless and unique experience for our guests. These innovations are oftentimes enabled by Lucy, but at its core is the soul and culture of the brand and can be seen throughout the entire customer journey.”

Looking toward the future, Walker sees technology helping to enhance personalized experiences even more.

“For Virgin Hotels, personalization is everything. It sits at the core of our ‘Membership Without Dues’ philosophy. Technology is already playing a tremendous role in creating that highly personalized guest experience that our Virgin Hotels guests expect,” Walker said. “Even during the initial planning stages, Virgin Hotels encourages potential guests to sign up for The Know Program, as a membership allows for a hyper-personalized stay based on their preferences. If guests choose to enable location services, the personalization for Know Members will be extended even further as offers will be provided in real time based on a guest’s current or planned location. This personalization carries over into email communications, which are carefully crafted and curated to match not only their location but preferences that they have indicated in their member profile. When guests finally do arrive on property, this information gathered allows operating teams to ensure that guests experience thoughtful touches at every turn, whether it’s ensuring the minibar is stocked with their favorite snacks or that they know every time a happy hour special is being offered.

“Moving forward, we anticipate stays will continue to become even more personalized, and technology will continue to be at the forefront of making this possible,” Walker concluded.