It’s no secret that the introduction of iPads into the market, just over a year ago, has resulted in the reshaping of how just about every industry imaginable does business. And as I’ve reported before, hotels are no exception to this.
A relatively new trend that I’m seeing on the rise is the use of iPads as personal, portable concierges.
The app opens to a rotatable map of the world, with every destination plotted. (Don’t worry; if geography isn’t your strongest suit, there’s a menu of destinations you can pull up too.) Once you’ve selected your destination, you’re welcome by a five minute video tour of the city. There’s also a write-up of the perfect day, as seen by the hotel’s concierge, along with suggestions for places to eat, shop, and visit, plus a series of insider tips to make sure you show up prepared.
There is one downfall to the app: while plotting all of the venues on a map might seem like a good idea, InterContinental should have double-checked each for accuracy. One NYC restaurant just off Lexington Ave. was plotted in Lexington, KY; another off Houston St. was plotted in Houston, TX. (And that was after just a quick spot checking.)
Though not a part of this app, I think it's still worth mentioning: the hotel chain also lets you book a virtual appointment with one of their concierges through its website, to chat about your upcoming trip via iPad 2’s FaceTime. While this is not something for me (I don’t even like video chatting with my friends, never mind someone I don’t know), I’m sure there are plenty of people who like to put a face to a name/voice.
Another company, Intelity, has developed an app template to license to any interested hotel. The app is customized to the hotel and can be used for just about anything you could possibly need, without ever having to pick up the phone. You can book dinner reservations, order room service, request a wake-up call, make a housekeeping request, and a ton more. It’s a fairly new program, so it’s at just a handful of hotels (Plaza Hotel; Hotel Beaux Arts; The Kimberly; and Rancho Bernardo Inn, to name a few), but it’s without a doubt going to continue expanding to many more properties around the world.
For better or for worse, technologies like these are without a doubt going to continue taking the travel industry by storm. But as convenient (and cool) as they are, let’s just hope that extra human touch doesn’t get lost!
(And stay tuned for more: there's bound to be much more as this whole digital hotel movement continues to evolve!)
Joshua Pramis is an online associate editor at Travel + Leisure and eagerly awaiting the day robots take over the world. Follow him on Twitter: @joshuapramis