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HK hotels woo guests with apps

Teresa Leung | Nov. 15, 2012
Two hotels in Hong Kong are leveraging mobile apps to give guests a new experience during their stay.

According to Chiu, there's also an e-kiosk--a touch screen TV--in the lobby to provide guests with shopping, sightseeing, and restaurants information. She added that the hotel plans to display a QR code on the TV-- guests can scan the code and carry the information on their smartphones before leaving the hotel to explore Hong Kong.

Hotel ICON cleaves to BYOD

Hotel ICON--run by Hong Kong PolyU as a hospitality and tourism education/research hotel--uses a different model: allowing guests to use their own devices to access services on an app. Their i-Guest smartphone app was launched in early October with 2,000 downloads as of October 22, said Jason Pang, director of technology & innovation at the hotel.

The app--developed by FCS Computer Systems, which focuses on hospitality IT--is only available for Hotel ICON guests using iOS devices, but an Android version will be available in Q1 of 2013, said Pang. He added that both traditional and simplified Chinese versions of the app will be available next quarter. According to FCS, the hotel is the first in Asia to have deployed the app.

Pang said that the app is integrated with various hotel systems such as job dispatching, the e-concierge, e-engineering, and the voice system. This allows guests to do a variety of things on their iOS devices: house-keeping services requests, hotel souvenir shopping, text- and voice-message retrieval, Google Maps- integrated search for local attractions, wake-up calls and do-not-disturb message set-up, as well as express check-out.

"For us and our guests, the app is like a storefront," said Pang. "It's an innovative and fun way for guests to request services anytime, anywhere."

As free Wi-Fi service isn't still common in Hong Kong, the hotel provides it free of charge on premise and on its shuttle buses. "We had concerns about the lack of free [Wi-Fi] services throughout the city before the app deployment," said Pang. "But as most information is available offline after download, there shouldn't be any serious issues."

The hotel has already planned to add in-room dining order service to the app in Q1 of 2013. Plans to allow guests to make reservations at restaurants inside the hotel, and open guest room doors via the existing app are on the drawing board.

According to Pang, response to the app is positive. He quoted guest-comments indicating the app is innovative and allows them to easily order services with their own devices.

App management and maintenance

While both hotels have small IT teams--three tech staffers at Hotel ICON and two at L'hotel élan--neither needs to spend much time on app maintenance.

According to L'hotel élan's Chiu, IBM provides project management, consultancy and maintenance services. At Hotel ICON, there's a content management system behind the app that allows tech staff to add new services while most of the maintenance tasks are done by FCS.


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