When I was given a wristband during my check-in at the Margaritaville Beach Resort Cap Cana in Punta Cana this summer, I was caught a bit off guard.
My visits to other upscale all-inclusives had been wristband-free, and I was under the impression their use had fallen out of fashion in recent years.
The wristband at this Karisma Hotels & Resorts-owned and -operated Margaritaville, however, was a far cry from the neon-hued plastic band I was expecting. Instead, it was made of a dark brown, cord-like material, with a small oval disk -- featuring some very subtle Margaritaville branding -- at its center. It was lightweight, adjustable and, according to the woman at the front desk, completely waterproof.
The wristband was also my room key -- a handy function that saved me from frantically searching my tote for a key card each day -- and could be used to make purchases on-property. At the end of my stay, I slipped it off and returned it during checkout.
Tech-enabled wristbands have been warmly received not just at the Margaritaville Beach Resorts but also at Karisma's Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts, where guests use similar bands to access both their rooms and professional photographs taken throughout the property, said Frank Maduro, president of Premier Worldwide Marketing, Karisma's global sales and marketing representative.
"We consistently receive positive feedback from guests about how durable, easy to wear and comfortable these wristbands are," he said. "They don't need to carry anything around with them. They can enjoy the beach and pool without a worry of losing or misplacing a key."
A wearable worth taking home
Margaritaville and Nickelodeon all-inclusives aren't the only properties trading up to more aesthetically pleasing wearable tech.
Kristi Mackedanz, a travel advisor and founder of Florida-based KM Travel Design, has noticed a growing number of more elevated wristbands popping up at all-inclusives across the globe.
Hilton's Easy Go Bands are accompanied by a website portal, through which guests can book dinner reservations and view activities calendars. Photo Credit: Hilton
"A lot of resorts use wristbands to signify things like whether or not you're under 18 or part of the Preferred Club, and many resorts in high-traffic areas have them so they know which guests are theirs and which ones are not," Mackedanz said. "But they're now thinking outside the box, so it's not just a regular, plastic wristband. Personally, I like having a wristband that looks more like a nice bracelet, and I think a lot of clients do, as well."
Also revamping its approach to wristbands is Hilton, which has rolled out Easy Go Bands at its Hilton Vallarta Riviera, Hilton Cancun and Hilton Tulum all-inclusives in Mexico. The bands will also debut at the soon-to-open Hilton Cancun Mar Caribe.
Nicole Tilzer, senior director for all-inclusive and resort strategy at Hilton, said the company drew some of its inspiration from the success of other RFID-enabled bracelets in the travel sphere, including Disney's MagicBands.
"We've seen 92% satisfaction from our guests on the understanding, ease of use and the value that they get out of these Easy Go Bands," Tilzer said. "You're not trying to find your key in your beach bag, [and if a key card gets] demagnetized, it can be a long walk back to the front desk. And it just becomes another piece of friction that we can remove for our guests."
Easy Go Bands are accompanied by a website portal, through which guests can book dinner reservations, view activities calendars and research menus.
Tilzer added, however, that much of the bands' appeal is not just in its function, but its form.
"It's essentially a little wood token that has the RFID and the logo of the property," explained Tilzer. "And then [that's on a] very nice, silky thread bracelet."
The Easy Go Bands have proven so attractive, in fact, that some wearers opt not to have the band snipped off at the end of their stay.
"We have a lot of guests that want to take them home with them, and that's great," Tilzer said. "It's more marketing for us."