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Do Hotels Run Background Checks on Guests? A Guide for Hosts

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As a short-term rental host or property manager, you want to provide an excellent, modern experience to your guests while also keeping your property and business safe and secure, with reliable hotel background checks.

You want to outperform the stay they’d get with a faceless, old-fashioned hotel, give them easy and high-tech access, and remove the boring admin that causes lines at the front desk and forces them to hang around in the lobby instead of going straight to their room.

But how can you do that and also ensure safety and security on your property? Hotels often keep guests waiting because they’re checking IDs and credit card details on arrival, after all.

And, while hotels do run guest screening, they’re often less-than-comprehensive, fail to check important financial or criminal history, are ineffective against fraud, and provide a terrible guest experience on arrival.

So what’s the answer? Is it possible for the hotel industry to combine the security of a background check with a modern, streamlined check-in and good guest experience?

Yes. In fact, it’s actually recommended to go beyond the surface-level checks of hotels and use technology to improve your guest screening and give them a great experience from the start.

In this post, we explain:

  • What level of background checks hotels perform 
  • Why hospitality background checks (just like Airbnb ID verification) are often not good enough
  • How you can actually do better than hotels and perform comprehensive, effective checks
  • And how to do all of this while still offering guests a streamlined, modern, easy, five-star stay

We’ve also explained how specially-designed software can help automate and improve your background checks if you decide you need more to ensure the safety of your business.

Want to perform in-depth verifications on your bookings?
Autohost performs advanced guest vetting processes to minimize risk
Request a demo

What does a background check mean for hotels?

A hotel background check usually means that hotel employees check the photo ID and credit card details of each guest. Traditional hotels usually do this on guests’ arrival, which keeps guests waiting in the lobby rather than letting them go straight to their room. 

More tech-forward, digitally-connected hotels are likely to do background checks in advance. They use modern technology to detect more complex, easy-to-miss issues, as well as to connect their checks to smart locks to streamline and secure the check-in experience.

Background checks are intended to help prevent fraud, improve security, reduce risk of damage and avoid crime. Some hotels also need to collect ID details of their guests to comply with local laws or regulations.

Do hotels run background checks on guests?

Yes, most reputable hotels do run surface-level checks on guests, using a photo ID or credit card to verify their identity. But this type of ID verification is nowhere near as thorough as a traditional background check.

In contrast to tech-first Airbnb background checks, most hotels are unlikely to have software that goes as far as checking financial history or sex offender records. Or linking digital check-in to a successful background check.

Where do hotels’ background checks fall short? 

Traditional hotel background checks fall short in several key areas; from damaging the guest experience by keeping people waiting around to risking major security issues and possibly even serious crime.

They damage the guest experience

When guests arrive after a long journey, the last thing they want to do is hang around in the lobby waiting for the front desk to check their details. Manual or on-arrival background checks don’t give a great first impression.

They’re not done in advance

When the guest isn’t checked until arrival, this opens the hotel up to issues. If problems are found, the guest is there already, leading to possible confrontation between guests and staff. 

This presents a security threat, risks upsetting genuine customers, and could cause reputational damage.

They’re not comprehensive

Much hotel background screening fails to verify details such as financial history or criminal background checks, and won’t pick up on the risk of credit card chargebacks or other problems. 

This opens the hotel up to issues like financial loss, reputational damage, and even legal action.

They’re not linked to secure check-in

Not using modern technology to link background checks to smart locks or online check-in leaves room for significant problems. Not only do guests need to wait to check in, but anyone using a false ID may be granted access.

They don’t catch fake IDs or other signs of crime

Simply checking an ID or credit card may pass initial checks, but offers no real confidence in whether the guest is possibly posing as someone else, has a history of crime, or using a fake ID. This opens the hotel up to a serious risk of crime, fraud, and security problems. 

For hotels that are required to submit guest IDs to local authorities and police, it can also put the hotel at risk of becoming an unintentional accomplice or being on the hook for negligence in failing to properly vet guests and validate their identity.

A table showing the positive impact of a hotel background check system before using Autohost, and then after using Autohost. Shows negatives in red, and positives in green, with icons for each category.

How can hosts tackle the limitations of hotels’ background checks?

Short-term rental hosts can improve considerably on background checks by harnessing technology that’s designed for this purpose, such as Autohost.ai. 

[space for Autohost.ai internal screenshot or Autohost image showing how the process works]

Authost.ai uses AI technology to perform an in-depth, robust, and scalable background screening process that goes far beyond the limitations of hotels’ traditional checks. 

This means that:

The checks are completed before arrival

This not only ensures security ahead of time but also massively improves the guest experience. No more waiting on arrival; guests can just go straight in, creating a seamless, strong first impression immediately.

It appeals to tech-savvy, Millennial guests

The so-called “Uber Generation” (Millennials and younger) are used to doing everything on their phones, from ordering groceries to booking flights to streaming music and TV. 

They expect to have their stay details on their phone too and will expect and welcome this tech-first, easy approach. 

Checks are completed after booking request

Not only does this streamline the entire booking process, it also means that if the guest fails the thorough background checks, they can cancel. However, if your guest passes the background check, their booking request will be confirmed. This removes the risk to your property and avoids problems before they start.

[space for Autohost.ai internal screenshot (of guest screening confirmation? Or check-in?)]

It’s automated and scalable

In contrast to manual front desk checks at hotel chains, using connected technology is automatic, and doesn’t rely on having front desk staff present or requiring them to perform background checks while the guests wait. 

This means your property can operate without a front desk, requires less on-site staff, and is scalable as your business grows.

It’s comprehensive and secure

Autohost not only verifies ID but also checks financial history and criminal records, to detect possible risks of fraud and chargebacks, and even serious crime.

It requires digital verification and online check-in

This will deter guests who are looking to slip through security checks and means that problematic guests are likely to cancel and remove the risk to your property. 

[space for Autohost.ai internal screenshot (of check-in screens?)]

It’s linked to secure check-in and syncs with bookings

Guests book and sync with your reservation system. Guests are analyzed for risk and are only sent the check-in details once they pass verification. 

This creates a paper trail to the reservation and increases guest accountability, reducing the risk of fraud, damage, or disrespectful guests.

Want to perform in-depth verifications on your bookings?
Autohost performs advanced guest vetting processes to minimize risk

Request a demo

Do hotels run background checks on guests? The need-to-know

Of course, hotels run some level of check on guests, but they’re more to verify the guest’s identity and are often limited. Hotel ID checks keep guests waiting, cause obstacles to checking in, and generally put off Millennial travelers, who expect to do everything on their phones. 

They’re also manual, requiring hotel employees to be at a front desk, and are far from comprehensive. Without the extra screening that dedicated platforms such as Autohost.ai provide, there is more risk of brand reputation loss, fraud, chargebacks, violence, drug use, and even sex trafficking.

By harnessing the power of hyper-connected technology, modern hotels can connect their business to online check-in and secure smart locks, and perform robust security checks, creating a remote, easy workflow that increases security without compromising on the positive guest experience.

Frequently asked questions about hotel background checks for guests

Are hotels allowed to give out ID information?

Hotels are not allowed to give out ID information for any reason, whether for marketing or to sell data. Hotels can only use guest data for identity checks that are required to ensure security.

Why do hotels ask for ID?

Hotels ask for ID because they have a legal requirement to check the guest’s identity and keep IDs on file. Generally, hotels don’t use these documents to carry out in-depth, robust background checks using automated software like Autohost.

How long does the background check take in a hotel?

Background checks in hotels are usually done on arrival when the guest is checking in. However, because they are done manually, they often take a while and can keep the guests waiting around in the lobby, or in line, while the front desk staff carry out the screening. This creates a poor first impression, and will not appeal to Millennial guests who prefer to do everything quickly and on-demand, on their phones. 

Can hotels do background checks by law?

By law, hotels can ask for a legal photo ID or a credit card and keep this data for security purposes. However, their checks are often not comprehensive enough to ensure real security. On the other hand, a dedicated verification software like Autohost focuses on comprehensive risk mitigation using all the necessary matching data points.


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