Why do hotel key cards stop working?

Ever wonder why your hotel key card stops working? (Fotolia)

Ever wonder why your hotel key card stops working? (Fotolia)

DIANE SLAWYCH, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:39 PM ET

Ever wonder why your hotel key card stops working?

Hotel key cards are not created equal. Just ask Richard Portuguese of Onity, a firm that specializes in electronic locking systems.

A key card with a brown stripe on the back -- the kind used by most hotels -- is the one most likely to give guests trouble, and prompt a return to the lobby to have it re-encoded, Portuguese says. These are the cheapest cards to make, and easily become de-activated if they're placed too close to anything magnetic.

A card with a black stripe on the back is better. These cost hotels a bit more, and use a different type of magnetic technology. But the data contained on them won't be erased by your cell phone or other devices, so travellers encounter fewer problems.

A third type -- still relatively new in the hotel industry and used mainly by higher end properties -- is what is commonly known as a swipe card (or a "proximity based card" in industry lingo). Guests simply tap this type of key card to a card reader on the door, much like you would use a PayPass at a gas station.

The newest technology -- still being developed -- will allow hotel guests to bypass the front desk altogether and unlock their hotel door with their cell phone, using Near Field Communication.

Key cards will still be around for a while but many travellers -- citing security reasons -- choose not to return them to the hotel on departure, believing their personal information is stored on them. Could that be true?

"That's an urban myth," Portuguese says. "The only thing that goes on the key cards in any of our systems is the room number, the number of nights and the expiration date."

GLOBAL TRAVEL ON UPSWING

Times may be tough, but people continue to travel, said Helen Marano of the World Travel & Tourism Council in her keynote speech to the Hotel Association of Canada convention in Toronto earlier this month.

"Rarely over the past 20 years has the travel and tourism industry been challenged by such economic and political uncertainty as we are seeing now," Marano said. Yet despite slowing growth in emerging markets in the Asia Pacific region including in China and India, and negative GDP growth in the Eurozone for the third quarter, global travel and tourism performance -- especially international demand -- "remained impressively resilient," she said.

"WTTC expects global direct Travel & Tourism GDP to have grown by 2.7% in 2012, which is higher than the rate of overall global GDP. International air passenger traffic grew by 6%. Hotel occupancy rates were higher in most regions for the first 10 months of 2012 against the same period in 2011."

And according to the WTTC's latest estimates, global travel and tourism investment will rise by nearly 6% per year over the next 10 years.

HAC marks its 100th anniversary this year. Other topics discussed at the conference:

MORE NEW HOTELS

-- Growth in Canada's hotel sector was reflected by the addition of 37 new properties last year, which added 4,324 rooms, most of them in the upper mid-scale range. Among the new additions are the Coast Coal Harbour and Shangri-la hotels in Vancouver, and Four Seasons, Trump and Shangri-La in Toronto. Hotel growth will continue, with 55 properties expected to open in 2013.

-- Travel and tourism accounted for 5.4% of total employment in 2011, a figure that rose by 0.3% in 2012 and is projected to increase over the next 10 years by 0.7% per year to 2022.

-- Visitor exports (money spent by foreign visitors on Canadian-produced tourism goods and services) generated $15.7 billion Canadian in 2011. This was almost 2.9% of all exports including goods and services. That figure is expected to grow by 0.3% when figures are tallied for 2012, and by a further 2% per annum over the next 10 years.

-- Travel & Tourism contributed 4.4% of Canada's total of GDP in 2011. The world average for relative contribution in 2011 was 5.5%.

CROSS-BORDER FLIGHT SHOPPING

An increasing number of Canadians travelled to the U.S. for cheaper airline tickets last year.

According to the 2013 Canadian Travel Intentions Survey, 18% of survey respondents said they travelled to the U.S. for bargain plane tickets in 2012 (up 3% over the previous year's survey), and 32% said they plan to do so in 2013.

The highest numbers of cross-border airline ticket shoppers come from Ontario and British Columbia (23%, up 4%), and in the 18-24 year old age category (32%). High Canadian airfares, says Anthony Pollard, president of HAC, are "the result of high airport rents, Air Traveller Security charges, NAV CANADA fees and airport improvement fees and amounts to millions of Canadian travellers finding the price of Canadian tickets more expensive than the cost of driving to the U.S. and flying from airports like Buffalo, Detroit, Plattsburg, Bellingham, Bangor, Seattle, Syracuse or Grand Forks."

HAC says a comprehensive federal review of Canada's aviation cost structure is needed for the country to compete on a level playing field.

The survey was conducted by Opinion Search and defines a traveller as someone who will stay at least one night in a hotel, motel or resort.

writer@interlog.com


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