Oct 15, 2014

    New hotel apps offer walking tours and room service

    THE first generation of hotel smartphone apps was about as useful as a flimsy shower cap: Nice idea, poor execution.

    Now, the next iteration is proving more powerful, giving guests incentives to download them, if only for the length of their trips.

    Among those offering financial incentives, James Hotels - in Chicago, Miami and New York - will offer a new app feature next month that sends push notifications of in-hotel deals, such as when a guest walks by a spa, 10 per cent off spa services, or a two-for-one appetiser deal in the hotels' restaurants.

    The new Aloha Guide from Starwood Hotels and Resorts Hawaii covers 11 Starwood properties on the islands and offers a range of rotating specials, like a 20 per cent discount on breakfast at the Moana Surfrider and US$35 (S$45) off a facial at the Westin Maui.

    Others apps tout convenience. In August, Hyatt Hotels' mobile app added an Uber button that will appear for the duration of a stay, allowing travellers to make car reservations using the hotel as their default pick-up location.

    Instead of a guidebook, a new concierge app called Keys2TheCity from the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago features city walking tours, recommended restaurants and attractions, and transport information.

    The Nines in Portland, Oregon, directs room-service orders through its app and updates information on events happening throughout the city.

    As apps become more robust, travellers can expect more deals from them.

    Forrester Research recently found that app spending represented 5 per cent of United States online travel sales last year and forecast that to rise to 9.5 per cent by 2017, noting the advantage of mobile apps in reaching users when they are most receptive - while travelling.

    In Mexico, Rosewood Mayakoba's new app, which allows guests to request a spa appointment or restaurant reservation without leaving their pool chairs, embodies the trend: Since starting the app in May, spa bookings have increased by 25 per cent.