Where Are All The Great Hotel Apps?
Your App Is Boring
Your hotel app is boring.
Yup, I said it... and yes, I'm talking to all of you major hotel corporations with apps on the iPhone, iPad and on Android. The good news is only a small amount of innovative thinking can make all of them much better.
Ok, maybe boring is the wrong word but there's a distinct lack of utility in the current crop of mobile apps from the various hotels on the Las Vegas Strip.
The hotel apps we're getting today remind me of the early days of the Web when most sites were basically glorified brochures, transmogrified from their original printed counterparts. These types of apps typically feature photos, basic details on rooms and amenities along with restaurant information and if you're lucky, some kind of map.
Now, some of today's apps are better than others. I don't want to name names but on the iPhone, if your app doesn't support iOS 4.0, include upgraded graphics for the iPhone 4 Retina Display or lacks even basic support for the things that make a smartphone smart, well then, you're doing it wrong.
These current apps are a marketing tool and little more. Reference aids have their place of course but I can't help but feel like these hotel mega-corps are under-achieving here. Where is all the real innovation?
But Hunter you ask, what kind of innovation are you looking for? Well, there's the obvious stuff like booking hotel rooms but in my ideal future, I want much more. Consider being able to do any of the following:
- Make dinner reservations without all the hassle of multiple phone calls. Popular Web site OpenTable.com has made some inroads here but their penetration in Las Vegas is relatively low (My app Vegas Mate integrates with Open Table when it can).
- The Cirque show you are attending has wrapped up and you're planning to head back to your hotel but your car is buried deep in the valet. How about the ability to punch in your ticket number into an app and alert the valet folks that you're on your way so they can bring up your car.
- The hotel has extra tickets for tonight's show. You were kinda interested when you checked in but at a hundred bucks a pop, you passed at the time. Should those seats stay empty or is it better for everyone if a buyer and seller are connected? Do this through a smart app that knows your preferences.
- View your complete room folio, win/loss record and other stats from your account without having to pick up a phone or wait on hold for the over-worked front desk staff. Take that to the next step - let me check out of my room via an app as I'm speeding away in my taxi to the airport.
- Book an appointment at the spa or salon right from your smartphone.
- Create a compete itinerary of activities for your weekend, privately share with your trip mates and optionally save as a PDF for reference.
- Query table game mix, limits and location. Looking for your favorite Wheel of Fortune slot? Can't find a certain denomination? Take Harrah's web based Slot Finder and Table Game Finder and put it in your pocket - imagine being able to locate a $10 craps table without having to lap the pit a few times, looking at every single game.
Now, all of the above are predicated on the ability of the hotel to integrate these capabilities into their existing systems and infrastructure, something that in some cases is simply not possible with the often antiquated technology that runs our favorite hotels. The hotel industry, specifically casino resorts, are typically very slow to jump into new technology. Anyone that's been visiting Las Vegas for more than ten years remembers slot club cards that had actual punch holes in them before the move to magnetic strips. As recently as the opening of Bellagio, most Strip resorts didn't even have unified rewards programs. It's still common to see AS/400 mini-computers running some back of house operations, even at some of the most profitable places on the Blvd.