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Hotel, motel and resort owners across the globe are faced with numerous unique challenges when it comes to supporting the millions of guests traveling through their doors each year. From marketing and design to staffing and maintenance, most establishments in the hospitality industry operate on a 24/7 basis. 

To provide a safe and secure environment for guests, hotel owners must take the time to carefully plan and develop reliable site-wide security, with efforts to balance convenience and safety through the use of versatile and proactive technologies. 

The backbone of an effective hotel security system will often be the locks and credentials that serve as the first line of defense against theft, intrusions and other related physical security risks. This guide will help motel, resort and inn owners choose a reliable and effective hotel door lock system that’s able to meet the unique needs and requirements of their businesses.

What are hotel door lock systems?

A hotel door lock system is a customized array of locks, keys and user credentials used to secure both private and communal hotel facilities. Traditionally, these systems include mechanical door locks and corresponding physical keys, although it’s becoming increasingly common to use electronic locks for hotels for improved convenience and overall physical security strategy.

Motel, resort and hotel electronic locks are available in a variety of styles intended to suit a range of needs. The most common commercial door locks for hotels in use today will generally utilize magnetic key cards, Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) fobs, mobile credentials or biometric indicators.

PIN and passcode locks are also a popular choice in smaller bed and breakfast establishments or short-term homestays. Some hospitality spaces may choose to implement multi-factor authentication that makes use of a combination of technologies for additional layers of security. This layered authentication option is generally used for staff to access the hotel door lock system on offices, storage rooms or maintenance facilities.

How do electronic commercial hotel door locks work?

As a method of security, hotel room locks and hotel door lock systems work by requiring each user or visitor to have a unique credential in order to unlock secured doors within a resort or inn. In a hotel key fob system, for example, a staff member will scan their fob at a reader installed by the door, and their identity will be verified in a database of authorized users. Once approved, the system triggers the hotel electronic door lock to let the staff member enter. 

While you may still find traditional motel key locks that use mechanical keys, they aren’t as secure as an electronic locking system in hotels or resorts. 

There are a few benefits to using an electronic locking system in hotels, contributing to the popularity of this type of hotel door lock system. Primarily, hotel staff can easily monitor, adjust and revoke access permissions with electronic hotel locks by logging into a site-wide digital portal, removing the need for teams to manually track active keys. 

The main challenge with hotel key lock systems is that visitors usually stay for only a short time, so their credentials are temporary. Because of this, many properties choose to install a hotel room lock system that uses wireless locks and easily managed credentials like key cards.

Regardless of the system in operation, the purpose of hotel door lock systems is to ensure that guest rooms, private areas, access to on-site amenities and main entry points are secured, with security teams actively monitoring who has permission to enter each area.

Types of hotel door locks

There is a wide variety of commercial hotel door locks, and choosing the right system will depend on a hotel’s needs and budget. Older options like traditional keys and magnetic cards will typically be cheaper to install. However, these systems are harder to monitor and adjust, and more expensive to replace if keys are lost. 

Smart hotel door locks featuring digital credentials are well-suited to large installations, as staff can easily track active keys using a digital management platform and revoke permissions if a credential is stolen or misplaced. The downside to this type of credential is the cost, as installing these systems can be expensive. 

The most common types of hotel door locks systems available to hospitality businesses include: 

Hotel key locks 

Hotel key lock systems are the simplest and cheapest form of access control available to hospitality business owners. These lock systems feature cylinder mechanisms fitted to individual doors and a set of corresponding physical keys. Because keys must be physically issued and manually monitored by employees, this type of hotel locking system is best-suited to staff only, with a different method for guests’ hotel room locks. 


  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to install 
  • Simple to use 


  • Keys may be lost or copied 
  • Credentials can’t be tracked 
  • Replacements can be expensive 

RFID hotel door lock system

Commercial hotel door locks with key card access will often make use of RFID technology where digital credentials are stored in physical cards. When an RFID card is held in proximity to a door-mounted reader, credentials will be communicated via radio waves. If the data sent matches a specific code stored in a connected database, the lock will open to grant access. RFID door entry systems are one of the most common types of hotel door lock system, since key cards are fairly inexpensive to purchase and can be remotely deactivated if a guest loses their card or checks out without turning it in.


  • Cards can be reprogrammed 
  • Contactless access
  • Credentials can be digitally tracked 


  • Doors will remain locked during power outages 
  • Replacement cards can be expensive 
  • Data can be copied using accessible tools 

Magnetic key card systems

It’s common for older hotel door locks with key card access to utilize magnetic swipe technology. The magnetic lock strips attached to each card will be encoded with unique credential data, and users must swipe the card through a door-mounted reader to gain access to corresponding doors. These systems are generally cheaper than RFID devices, although magnetic cards can become demagnetized over time and the readers experience more wear-and-tear than keyless hotel lock systems. 


  • Convenient to program and use 
  • Can be used to create audit trails 
  • Cards can be reprogrammed 


  • Demagnetization can lead to data loss 
  • Credential data can be copied or hacked 
  • Must be physically swiped to grant access 

Hotel smart lock keypads 

Smart lock keypad readers can be effective when deployed to secure hotel, motel door locks, bed and breakfasts or short-term homestays in smaller installations. Doors will be equipped with a digital keypad interface used to manage access, and users are issued a unique PIN code, which will unlock the door when entered to the keypad reader. Staff can issue and monitor user credentials remotely, as well as revoke PINs instantly in response to a potential security threat. Hotel smart lock keypads are commonly used for guest amenity spaces like resort pools and gyms, or for front door locks on vacation rentals.


  • Credentials can be managed remotely 
  • Access events can be monitored 
  • Readers can be easily reprogrammed 


  • Difficult to track PIN codes in large deployments 
  • Can be hacked if wireless network isn’t secure 
  • Guests must memorize PIN codes 

Smart hotel door locks

Smart keyless hotel door locks utilizing mobile credentials can be incredibly convenient and versatile. Users are sent unique credentials directly to their smartphones, which when held in proximity to a door-mounted reader, will grant access via Wi-Fi, Near Field Communication (NFC) or Bluetooth technology. This system permits touchless access throughout the property, with extra benefits like mobile check-ins and visitor management. 


  • Contactless delivery and access 
  • Credentials can be upgraded in-app (e.g. purchasing access to amenities) 
  • Credentials can be viewed, adjusted and revoked remotely 


  • Requires a smartphone 
  • May be confusing for older guests who are accustomed to physical credentials

The importance of secure hotel door lock systems

Choosing the right hotel locking system has become essential for modern hospitality business owners. With hotel occupancy rates checking in above 60%, hospitality staff and security teams are often tasked with ensuring the safety of numerous guests at any given time. 

If a fire, intrusion event or other physical threat should occur, staff must be able to quickly and reliably account for all guests and ensure that all exits are accessible. Private spaces and potentially dangerous locations like server rooms and maintenance areas must also be reliably secured. 

A hotel locking system should allow staff to set versatile permissions for different areas of the property. For example, credentials available to guests must only be capable of unlocking guests’ private rooms, as well as a pre-approved selection of communal areas and on-site amenities. 

Additionally, efforts must be made to ensure that credentials cannot be copied, stolen or hacked to reduce the likelihood of theft, minimize the expense associated with replacement keys and ensure that guests and their belongings are afforded a reasonable degree of personal security. 

Larger businesses may wish to implement electronic locks for hotels, such as a lock system that utilizes mobile credentials. With this type of commercial hotel door locking system, permissions can be viewed and adjusted remotely, and guests can access additional in-app resources like remote check-ins, amenity booking services and customer support. Smaller bed and breakfasts or motels, however, may find these solutions costly, so PIN locks or a smart hotel key fob lock system may be better suited when used alongside strong visitor management policies.

Hotel lock system use cases and guidelines

In addition to site-specific requirements and budget, hotels, motels and inns must abide by a set of building codes and industry regulations when designing and implementing any form of hotel locking system. This section will outline some common use cases of modern hotel and motel locks, as well as the general guidelines that staff must follow when utilizing locks to secure certain areas. 

Lodgings and guest rooms

Guest rooms and private lodgings must be equipped with doors that can close and be locked reliably, as well as capable of locking out any key or digital credential other than the one issued to the guest, with the exception of emergency keys. Rooms with an occupancy limit of below 10 people will be permitted to use a deadbolt as an additional lock in most states, provided the mechanism doesn’t require a tool to unlock. 

If you choose a wireless and keyless hotel room lock system, it’s important to make sure locks have backup power, and that battery levels are frequently checked to avoid lockouts. In addition, it’s a good idea to use a system that automatically revokes guest access upon checkout.

Entrances and exits

To ensure that all residents can swiftly and safely vacate the property in the event of an emergency, exterior entrances and exits must be designed to unlatch in a single motion. Any installed lock interface must be positioned at a reasonable height when in operation. If using a key card, fob or smartphone electronic lock system for hotels, it’s advised to combine entrance, exit and room access credentials into one for convenience. 

When it comes to controlling access in a hotel lobby, it is important to consider the hotel operating hours and front desk availability. For example, a hotel that operates on a 24/7 basis with receptionists available round-the-clock requires a commercial hotel door lock system that works with an access control system to allow guests to freely move in and out of a lobby, while a hotel lock system and access control system that enable operators to set schedules might be preferable for an establishment with limited availability. 

Leisure resort facilities

Hotels with on-site amenities like pools and spas can integrate booking services with some types of lock systems. For example, mobile credentials may be stored in an app with users able to upgrade access via the same platform. Self-latching locks should also be installed in these areas to prevent unsupervised children from wandering in, and exits should be equipped with panic devices to aid in evacuation protocols. 

Hotel door lock systems can also help strengthen round-the-clock security of resort facilities. Resort door locks and access can be programmed to keep doors locked when the facility is closed and ensure that only authorized guests can access them during operating hours. 

Stairwell access

Stairwell doors must be fitted with locks capable of closing and latching automatically to ensure that escape routes remain accessible in the event of a fire. If property owners choose to install locks capable of securing access from stairwells, doors must be designed to unlock automatically during fires or other emergencies to provide guests with an escape route. 

Service and maintenance areas

Service and maintenance areas must be made inaccessible to anyone other than authorized staff to prevent guests from being injured or otherwise harmed. Rooms containing mechanical equipment, electrical systems and utility controls must be secured behind locks that cannot be accessed using publicly available credentials, meaning guest keys must never be programmed to open these doors.

Key takeaways for hotel lock systems

A well-planned and executed hotel locking system is essential for all hospitality and leisure businesses to ensure that employees, residents and guests remain protected from outside threats and are afforded a reasonable level of privacy while on the premises. Credentials must be carefully managed and monitored to prevent theft and intrusions, with locking systems designed to allow for swift and safe evacuations during dangerous events like fires, disturbances or other emergencies.

The specific style of hotel locking system most appropriate for any given property will depend on a few needs and requirements, including the size of the deployment, whether the hotel door lock system price is within the business’s budget and the level of wider integrations desired. For larger installations, an RFID commercial hotel door lock system or mobile access system may be better suited as user credentials can be managed remotely and reprogrammed with ease, although smaller sites may prefer a less expensive PIN or key fob system. 

When designing, replacing or updating hotel door lock systems, business owners must consider how convenient access should be for users, how much control employees will need regarding the management of credentials and whether the system is in line with state-specific rules and regulations. It’s advised that business owners consult a range of commercial hotel door lock system suppliers and security integrators to develop a customized, secure solution that fits their unique needs.

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