Monday, 26 May 2014

One Hotel Smartphone App to Rule Them All

For 3 years I lived and traveled around Asia, and I often think back to how ‘one hotel smartphone app’ could have improved my travel experience. But what would you put in that ‘one hotel smartphone app’, and how would it make everything better?

One Hotel App to rule them all?

Let’s start with check-in – a smartphone app to self check-in, and to receive your time-sensitive digital key, so you can bypass the reception desk and go straight to your room is going to save you time. Isn't our time one of the most valuable things when we’re travelling? There is always so much to see and do, and there is never enough time to do it all.  

But how much time are we really going to save? Take traveling in Japan for example. Anyone that has been to Japan knows it is such a majestic country to visit with so much to see and do. I’ve stayed in hundreds of different hotels in Japan, and I always love getting back there to visit my in-laws. But one really frustrating thing about traveling in Japan for a foreigner is the ‘check-in experience’. The Japanese do many things very well, such as service. They’re meticulous about service, and the hotel check-in is no exception. But the problem with offering a great service, and being consistent about it, is that it takes time - our precious travel time. On average in Japan the check-in process takes around eight to ten minutes. Now if there was no queue, then eight to ten minutes cut out of your day to check-in to a Japanese hotel, when you could have been out exploring temples or getting into a relaxing Onsen, is not such a big deal.

Smartphone room check-in and digital keys

But some other things the Japanese are really good at is ‘following the rules’, and ‘being patient’, and ‘being punctual’. So when it says that a hotel Check-in desk opens at 2pm, then the Japanese will get there just before 2pm, and the desk will open at precisely 2pm. So if you wanted to check-in to your hotel at 2pm, then there was usually a queue. If there were 6 groups in front of you, all getting that ‘eight to ten minute check-in service’, then that’s an hour wait to check-in right there. So you've just lost one hour of your day.  Of course check-in queues are not isolated to Japan, but everywhere around the world. Smartphone self check-in will also streamline hotels operation, and make staffs responses quicker. Have you ever tried to call the reception desk at 2:30pm to get more towels sent up to your room?

The Hotel stay experience anywhere in the world hasn’t changed that much in the last, well, since hotels were first born a couple of thousand years ago. But in the last few years, we’re finally starting to see hotels improving service with various smartphone apps, including offering smartphone self check-in with digital keys. Here is a recent Huffington Post article talking smartphone self check-in at hotels such as the Marriott and how technology is changing your hotel stay.

The Hotel stay experience hasn't changed much since hotels were born

So as we see hotels start to roll out smartphone self check-in app to save you time and frustration, and streamline hotel operations, then what else can hotels put on that app too? Here is a great list of hotels trialing smartphone apps for things like; getting good local restaurant advice; ordering room service, or getting a self guided tour of the art in the hotel building.

But there doesn’t seem to be any hotels offering that app with everything.

Below is a list below of technology and apps that exist now; some that have been around for a while; and some which are under development. All of these apps could put together on that ‘one hotel smartphone app to rule them all’.

Temperature control – A lot of older hotels have dials for the thermostat, and you can never seem to find the right temperature with them. Also if you might forget to turn the temperature off when you go out, this Nest app and device does that for you 

Remote control for TV – This articles starts with ‘Fact; Hotel Remote Controls are gross’. Often Hotel remotes are not that user friendly.  

Light switches – waking up in the middle of the night and trying to find a light switch to go the bathroom is not much fun, this app will solve that  

Ordering room service – no mistakes with the reception desk not understanding your order, this app shows you what what you’re going to get with high res images, and you can order when you are not in your room, but on the way there. 

Paying for hotel restaurant/drinks - This app means no awkward arguments about your breakfast entitlements, or having to wait around at check-out while your bill is being totaled.  

Contacting the reception desk for something you need or want, getting location of nearest convenience stores/supermarkets, that is getting a concierge service, see a concierge app here

Getting local tours advice here is a good 'local walking tour app'.

Buying day tours (especially at the last minute on special) here is a good app for that. 

Paying for mini-bar here is an article talking about how mini-bars are being phased out but perhaps to avoid the ‘stealing’ problem, hotels should consider mini-bar vending machines like in Japan – e.g see here  Pay as you go with the app, or as what happens in some Japanese hotels, when you open the little door, a sensor detects this, and charges to your account.

What would you put on the 'one hotel app to rule them all'?

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