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RFID Serves Up Benefits for Guests and Hosts

Resorts, amusement parks, sports arenas and restaurants are among the hospitality and entertainment organizations using RFID to enhance the customer experience—and improve their bottom line.
By Elizabeth Wasserman
Jan 24, 2011—This winter, skiers eager to hit the 77 trails on the 3,968-foot mountain at Vermont's Jay Peak Resort will have a new tool to speed their way: a plastic card with an RFID chip that will serve as a season pass, lift ticket and lodge room key. "We're trying to make the entire guest experience a little easier," says Craig Russell, information systems manager at Jay Peak. "Our long-term plan is to move away from card media, and to use RFID-enabled wristbands that give guests access to the lifts, their room, the water park and the ice rink. It will be how you pay for your meals in the restaurant, how you pay for soda at the snack bar, and how your kids pay for video games in the arcade."

Jay Peak is just one of a growing number of resorts, hotels, amusement parks, concert halls, sports arenas and health clubs worldwide that are embracing RFID-enabled cards and wristbands. The reason is simple: RFID can help ensure that guests have a good time, and happy customers tend to spend more money.

At Jay Peak Resort, In Vermont, an RFID-enabled card (far left) serves as a skier's season pass, lift ticket and lodge room key. (Photo: Jay Peak Resort)

Great Wolf Lodge, a fast-growing chain featuring indoor water slides, arcades and snack bars, was one of the first companies to discover this. In 2005, Great Wolf introduced RFID wristbands from Precision Dynamics at its new resort in the Pocono Mountains, Pa., and followed by adding the technology in new constructions in Mason, Ohio, and Niagara Falls, Canada.

In 2008, the company retrofitted its Williamsburg, Va., resort, replacing the magnetic-stripe room key cards with RFID wristbands, and found "there was a significant increase in incremental spending," says Rajiv Castellino, the company's CIO. "The RFID band is your wallet on your wrist. It allows you to open the room door, and it is your charge card." Today, adults and kids at seven of the 12 Great Wolf resorts can venture around the water parks in their bathing suits and buy food, play arcade games or pay for spa treatments with the wave of their RFID wristbands—instead of having to return to their rooms to retrieve their wallets.

Companies in the entertainment and hospitality industries that have adopted RFID also say the technology can help solve pain points that erode the bottom line, including counterfeit ticketing, security issues, liquor shrinkage and inefficient marketing. Behind the scenes, RFID is being used to enhance theme-park rides for visitors. But entertainment media isn't faring as well, as steps to use RFID to get CDs, DVDs and video game software into the hands of consumers have stalled.
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