Want to make sure your room is just the right temperature when you check into a hotel?
Want your mobile phone to double as your TV remote control?
Want to pre-order your dinner at the hotel restaurant?
All of that and more could be possible with new apps hotels are starting to adopt for guests' smartphones and tablets. A number of companies — including HandHeld Hospitality, iRiS Software Systems and Cardola — have developed apps that facilitate constant interaction between hotels and their guests before, during and after their stay.
The apps can be customized for each hotel. But they typically work like this: When guests book their rooms, hotels send them e-mails letting them know about the app. They can then download the app and start planning their trips. The apps act as virtual concierges with information about local restaurants and attractions.
For those guests who want to spend time inside the hotel, they can use the apps to order room service, book spa appointments and golf tee times, and learn about in-house events or happy hour specials.
In other words, the apps eliminate the need for an in-room directory or a concierge
"Apps, like 16 different types of pillow, are seen as a must-have for hotels, particularly at the top end of the market," says Katherine Doggrell, editor of Hotel Analyst Distribution & Technology.
But, she says, hotels run the risk of overloading the apps with too much information and too many functions.
"What the customer often wants is the chance to cut down the time spent in queues trying to check in and out and pay, and that's what apps can help do," she says. "Apps should be functional, first and foremost."
Some examples of apps that were on display at this week's HITEC hotel technology conference:
• Chevy Chase, Md.-based HandHeld Hospitality debuted At Your Service, which has an A-to-Z directory, a daily "Things to Do" section, and a daily custom welcome letter. Guests can order room service, book a spa treatment, find nearby restaurants and make reservations, use the GPS tool to get around town and then share their activities on their social media accounts.