You could be forgiven for thinking that the rise of contactless check-in for vacation rentals, which enables guests access without any in-person interaction, is a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

You could also be forgiven for thinking that contactless check-in is only suitable for huge, impersonal hotels or cabins tucked away in the middle of nowhere, or perhaps just for faceless vacation rentals with hosts who can’t be bothered to meet their guests in person.

Hate to break it to you, but you’d be very wrong on all counts.

Contactless check-in is not merely a passing fad or even a lesser-known side-effect of coronavirus: it’s here to stay, and for all the right reasons.


Contactless check-in doesn’t mean cold, clinical, faceless, or overly techy—quite the opposite. It actually enables you to worry less about the logistics of unlocking and locking doors and instead lets you focus on giving your guests a fantastic, friendly, safe, secure, and happy stay. 

How? Read on to find out:

  • Why contactless check-in is more than a passing trend (even after Covid)

  • What makes contactless check-in truly contactless

  • The benefits of contactless check-in for the guest, for you and your staff, and the bottom line

  • How to set up contactless check-in and more (it’s easier and cheaper than you think)

  • And how to install the system, without losing any warmth or friendliness, starting today.

Connect your operations

Streamline your check-in process. Operto allows you to provide a truly contactless experience and guarantee safety for your guests and staff.


Contactless check-in for vacation rentals: Is it here to stay past COVID-19?

As we suggested above, contactless check-in is not just a result of Covid or a passing trend. It was growing rapidly before the pandemic hit. 

In fact, the health crisis has just accelerated what was already a great idea. 

Contactless check-in enables you to alleviate guests’ safety concerns and implement physical distancing rules while optimizing your operations by taking a tech-forward approach to business. 

Contactless check-in, also known as keyless entry for rental properties, means that guests can let themselves in without having to pick up a physical key or interacting with someone face-to-face. 

It means that there’s no waiting for check-in, no confusion around the logistics of meeting up with someone, no problems if there are delays, and fewer limits on early check-in.

This means that they can arrive whenever they like and can arrive and check-in seamlessly. Their check-in is totally digital, with access connected to other smart technology such as thermostats, air conditioning, and in-app concierge services.

Contactless check-in is a major part of a new type of modern, future-thinking hotel-vacation rental hybrid. It has helped rental companies such as Sonder and Locale achieve such rapid success despite unprecedented challenges in the sector in recent months.


03_Contactless check-in for vacation rentals has allowed Locale to thrive. Screenshot of Locale website

Photo: Locale.com

What makes contactless check-in truly contactless?

“Contactless” is more than just doing away with physical keys or insecure lockboxes. 

A system is only truly contactless if it doesn’t require a local manager or host to be on-site “just in case” it doesn’t work. 

A truly contactless system can be controlled remotely via a central platform—such as Operto—and is reliable enough to work all of the time, even when there are no staff around.

It doesn’t ask guests to understand complicated instructions or to be technologically savvy. It’s simple, intuitive, and can be used with a smartphone or a simple keycode. It doesn’t rely on rickety lockboxes or the risks of physical keys.

The keycode is sent to guests in advance and can be changed and checked remotely by a team member or host. 

In addition, truly contactless systems don’t require a smartphone to work, which is perfect if guests’ devices run out of battery, can’t get signal or Wi-Fi, don’t want to download a separate app, or your place is somewhere especially remote.


What are the benefits of contactless check-in for vacation rentals?

Contactless check-in offers advantages for everyone: guests, owners, and property management companies. 


Make guests feel safe

05_Contactless check-in can make your vacation rental guests feel safe during Covid. A hand with sanitizer



In today’s pandemic times, contactless check-in has a distinct advantage: it’s inherently Covid-safe. There’s no need for guests or staff to have needless interaction, and social distancing is upheld at all times.

All surfaces and keypads can be sanitized ahead of time, and guests receive the entry code via email or text without needing to meet up with anyone. Hosts and staff can communicate with guests digitally, and offer just as much hospitality and service, without having to be on-site physically. 

This is significant, as according to a January 2021 Yelp study, consumer interest rose 41% for accommodation options that had Covid-specific updates in their listings.

A June 2020 TripAdvisor survey found that 92% of people said cleanliness was the most important factor in selecting accommodations, and 80% said that cleanliness or sanitization certificates were important when booking.

A report by hospitality website The Points Guy even concluded that “for many people, a hotel's Covid-19 safety policy seems to directly influence whether they make a reservation”.


Improve security


06_Contactless check-in improves your vacation rental security. A woman enters a smart locked door

Photo: https://august.com/


Unlike physical keys, contactless check-in codes cannot be copied, lost, or stolen. And, as any host or property manager knows, lockboxes are operational nightmares, with their rickety, prone-to-breaking openings and “dumb” keypads that aren’t automatically changed after guests leave.

Getting rid of keys and lockboxes eliminates these security concerns overnight.

With truly contactless, digital check-in, only people with the given access code can enter, at the right time. Codes can be changed for different people at different times, so housekeeping or other staff can only enter when appropriate or agreed.

Previous guests cannot enter, as the codes are changed with each new booking, eliminating extra security threats. Codes can be revoked instantly and remotely if needed, for extra peace of mind at all times.



Simplify the check-in process

07_Contactless check-in simplifies the process. A screenshot of the Operto Website



For guests and hosts, contactless makes arrival and check-in a breeze. 

As the system uses smart locks, guests can arrive whenever they like. They aren’t dependent on meeting a staff member or host to “collect the keys”, meaning less stress and waiting around for both guests and staff.

Guests are sent a keycode in advance and don’t even need their smartphone to be on or have an internet connection to check in using the reliable keypad.

This means zero stress in the event of travel delays, changing plans, or phones dying. It also means a seamless, easy arrival process for guests, who get an excellent first impression of your service.


Improve the guest experience

08_Contactless check-in for vacation rentals makes guests happier. A man looks down at his smartphone, smiling


Digitizing the check-in process doesn’t just eliminate waiting on arrival: it improves the entire guest experience from start to finish.

Contactless check-in doesn’t mean you need to lose the personal touch—quite the contrary.

Using platforms such as Operto, and connecting them to your PMS provider, means you can also offer guests personalized messaging, confirmation, and reminder emails, as well as friendly concierge service remotely. You can also give precise check-in instructions by providing a guidebook in the Guest Portal web-app. 

Check-out is just as easy as check-in and guests receive all the information they need for their getaway digitally, in advance, so they can access it whenever, wherever. This way they feel taken care of from the moment they book to the moment they leave you a five-star review.


Transform into a tech-forward business

09_Contactless check-in transforms your rental into a tech-forward business. Operto_s integrated devices


Contactless check-in is just the start when it comes to transforming your business into a future-thinking, modern operation. 

Digitizing the process means you can manage all aspects of your short-term rental remotely, including:

  • Booking
  • Check-in/check-out
  • Concierge
  • Housekeeping
  • Maintenance
  • Reviews
  • And guest feedback.

You can offer guests incredible control of in-room devices, such as thermostats, lights, AC, and heat. You can even offer in-room upsells, and voice-controlled devices if you choose.

Smart devices, and platforms that manage them, such as Operto, are the future when it comes to short-term vacation rentals. (Check out our list of the best locks for vacation rentals here to start your tech-forward transformation today.)


Save costs

10_Contactless check-in for vacation rentals helps you save costs. A laptop with stats on the screen

Contactless self check-in can save your vacation rental business serious cash.

Firstly, this is because it requires far fewer staff to manage the process. There’s no need to pay staff to hang around on-site, or to be present “just in case”. Staff don’t need to drive over to hand over physical keys.

Secondly, there’s no risk of losing any revenue in the event that guests forget to return a key to a lockbox or a staff member, nor any cost on changing locks if keys are lost or stolen. 

No lost revenue and the elimination of these issues mean that hosts can make back the investment in a smart, contactless check-in system such as Operto many times over. Contactless check-in pays for itself.



Appeal to modern travelers

11_Contactless check-in appeals to modern vacation rental travelers. A screenshot of the Sonder website

Photo: Sonder.com

There’s no denying that contactless check-in systems appeal to younger, more tech-savvy travelers. 

Millennials and Generation Z—who, ranging from around age 25-40 and 10-24 respectively, are the vacation rental guests of today and tomorrow—do everything on their smartphones already. 

From streaming music to watching TV to communicating with friends to working online, they are more than used to having everything accessible on their devices instantly, without excess 1-to-1 interaction or hassle. So why should their vacation rental stay be any different?

Guests that grew up with the internet, social media, and Airbnb are prime targets for companies such as Sonder. This means that using contactless appeals to this wider demographic, while future-proofing your property too.



What tools do you need to implement contactless check-in for vacation rentals?


Operto: a platform that connects all your operations

12_Contactless check-in for vacation rentals needs a connected system. A screenshot of Operto on smarphones

Digital automation systems are only as strong as the platforms that connect them. As a team, and property guest communication solution, Operto is specially designed for vacation rental managers to streamline their entire process.

Operto integrates with a range of other software tools including:

  • Top PMS such as Guesty, Hostaway, Hostfully, and many more

  • Housekeeping management systems like VRScheduler

  • Smart devices like Yale smart locks (see below)

  • Noise monitoring from NoiseAware

  • Thermostats such as Ecobee. 

This means that you can manage your operations seamlessly from a single, digital platform and enable a range of functions remotely. Contactless check-in is just one part of a wider, super-connected whole.


A smart lock and keypad

13_contactless check-in for vacation rentals is more secure. Screenshot of three locks that integrate with Operto

Contactless check-in starts with a smart lock and a keycode, eliminating the problems of old-fashioned keys and “dumb” lockboxes that we mentioned earlier.

Operto integrates with a whole host of smart locks suitable for short-term rental properties.

These include:

  • Yale | The globally-renowned, super-secure brand. A wide range of styles from chrome to nickel. Designed to handle high-traffic, commercial properties.

  • Salto | A huge array of sleek, robust keypad locks. Specially designed for hospitality.

  • Schlage | affordable Wi-Fi-connected, residential-grade smart locks.

  • August | A modern design that fits over existing hardware. Pairs with a keypad. Great for both homes and apartments, as it doesn’t change the style of the door hardware. The European version of this lock is Yale Linus.

  • Igloohome | Powerful smart locks and lockboxes that don’t require Wi-Fi to work and instead use their own algoPIN™ technology—a major advantage for remote locations.

Voice control devices

14_contactless check-in for vacation rentals can also be connected to smart speakers. A smart speaker next to a phone

To take your contactless check-in to the next level, you can even choose to connect your system to voice-activated smart devices and monitor the entire thing remotely on your device too.

These may include Google Home or Amazon Alexa devices, giving guests even more control of in-room elements such as lighting, heat or AC, for super-modern, home-from-home efficiency.


Contactless check-in for vacation rentals: Impersonal?

01_A cozy bed with a view outside at The Wyman

Credit: TheWyman.com

Contactless doesn’t have to mean soulless or clinical, quite the opposite. 

In fact, offering guests what they want—such as a super-seamless experience from check-in to check-out—builds rapport and relationships like nothing else. 

Modern brands such as Sonder and Locale succeed by their guest brand loyalty, and the simplicity of tech-forward systems means that these businesses can expand with minimal overheads or hassle. They can focus on guest satisfaction and great service instead.

And just because you’re not there in person, doesn’t mean your vacation rental is stripped of personality. You can get this across in your decor, your website, your communication style, and even the treats or in-room amenities that you provide.

In fact, enabling contactless check-in with a service such as Operto and your PMS lets you personalize your communication with guests. This ensures that their welcome is just as warm—if not more so—as it would have been with an awkward or stressful key handover.

As Steve Furhman, co-owner of The Wyman hotel in Colorado, which has switched to fully-smart operations without losing its old-school charm, explains: “Guests that arrive at 10 pm or later intentionally get the same stress-free check-in experience as those that arrive at 1 pm.

“Keys are just antiquated. Having an aspect of a property that requires an in-person interaction with a guest is just unnecessary. 

“I remember when recently we were doing a road trip, and we had a reservation at a hotel but were running late and they were like, ‘Hey, if you don't get here by 10 o'clock, there's not going to be anyone to let you in your room’.

“We ended up having to cancel and find a different hotel, even though we got in at 10:30 pm. That just seems like a total unnecessary hassle. I don’t want to stress guests out.”


Frequently asked questions about contactless check-in for vacation rentals

What is contactless check-in?

Contactless check-in means that guests can let themselves in without having to pick up a physical key or interacting with someone physically. There’s no waiting for check-in, no confusion or logistics of meeting up with someone, no problems if there are delays, and no limits on when guests can arrive or leave.

Truly contactless check-in systems don’t rely on face-to-face interaction, staff members being on-site, or require smartphones to work.

Do guests prefer contactless check-in to in-person check-in?

Overall, yes, especially if it’s coupled with improved hospitality too. 

Contactless means there is less waiting around, no need to arrive at a set time, no worries if guests are delayed, no keys to lose or be stolen, and no rickety and insecure lockboxes. 

This means less stress and a better guest and host experience from start to finish. Not only is it preferred by guests, it’s also recommended by OTAs such as Airbnb, VRBO, and Booking.com.

In fact, according to our survey of 1000 guests, 81% said they “like” self check in. 

Further research bears this out. Almost half (48.2%) of hospitality professionals said guests currently expect contactless check-in, and a significant 35.3% said it was “expected”.

Close to one in five (17.6%) even said that their guests believe keyless technology and automation are “completely essential”.

How can property managers convince owners to install smart locks?

Smart locks are a central part of a contactless, tech-forward vacation rental property business. From improving security to streamlining the guest experience, coordinating housekeeping and maintenance—smart locks save you time, stress, and money across your entire operation. 

Implementing such modern systems means you can join programs that allow you to charge more too, such as Airbnb Plus.

Eliminating the stress of keys and lockboxes means your staff can focus on offering a better stay, ensuring happier guests, wider appeal, more bookings, and increased revenue.

Contactless check-in is not just a travel industry passing trend: it’s the way of the future. Vacation rental owners that want to survive and thrive literally can’t afford to miss out.


Connect your operations

Streamline your check-in process. Operto allows you to provide a truly contactless experience and guarantee safety for your guests and staff.