Mobile guest relations platforms like GuestDriven (James Hotel) gaining traction

The first generation of hotel smartphone applications 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, operating in Chicago, Miami and New York, will offer a new app feature in November that sends push notifications of in-hotel deals such as, when a guest walks by a spa, 10 percent off spa services, or a two-for-one appetizer 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 percent discount on breakfast at the Moana Surfrider and $35 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 travelers to make car reservations using the hotel as their default pickup locale.

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

As apps become more robust, travelers can expect more deals from them. Forrester Research recently found that app spending represented 5 percent of United States online travel sales in 2013 and forecast that to rise to 9.5 percent by 2017, noting the advantage of mobile apps to reach users when they’re most receptive: while traveling.

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 percent.


Hotel Apps Tailored to What a Guest Wants

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