Hotel guest walking through a cellphone with luggage

By Roseline Victoria Vijayakumar

Hotels have stepped up their game in the evolving digital landscape by embracing a blend of human and digital innovations to enhance the guest experience. Choice, convenience and control are now pivotal in a guest’s hotel selection process, and hotels are adapting by integrating guest-facing apps. These apps include questionnaire tools, mobile apps and messaging systems, which have enabled hotels to shape guest experiences and assess their services. According to Hilton’s 2024 Trends Report, 76 per cent of travellers appreciate travel apps that reduce the friction and stress of travel.

The Utility Aspect  

Hotels are using guest-facing apps to their maximum potential to serve as a direct medium between the hotel and its guests. Mike Gathright, senior vice-president, Customer Experience, Hilton says, “Within the Hilton Honors app, members can access Digital Key and Digital Key Share, which allows guests to bypass the front desk and unlock their room door directly from their phone, and also has the ability to share keys with fellow travellers in their group. Guests using Digital Key can now automatically connect to and unlock elevators if their Hilton Honors app is open in the background of their iOS device.” 

Additionally, guest-facing apps enhance customer service by offering a seamless booking experience that allows guests to customize their stay by effortlessly selecting rooms and receiving instant confirmations. A user-friendly interface can also be implemented where guest data, if permitted, can be used to suggest personalized recommendations such as room preferences, dining choices or local attractions. 

Communication is another facet that has seen palpable improvement as the apps integrate messaging systems to facilitate real-time communication between guests and hotel staff, enabling quick responses to queries, requests and feedback. 

“In-room technology has furthered guest personalization within Hilton’s Connected Room Experience,” says Gathright. “Enabled hotels welcome guests by name on the TV and allow them to control in-room technology using the Hilton Honors app on their phones, including personalizing their preferences for popular streaming apps. During the past year, demand for personalized in-room technology has increased significantly.”

The Right Choice

Selecting an app that aligns with a hotel’s brand identity is crucial as it needs to reflect the brand aesthetic, values and image. The chosen app must be user-friendly, with an effortless navigational experience for the users and must also be able to integrate seamlessly with the existing hotel-management systems for smooth data synchronization. However, not all apps need integration into the hotel-management system. 

“Tip & Go is completely independent and takes care of everything from start to finish,” says Francis Léonard, CEO of Tip&Go. “Less than 10 per cent of Canadians still have cash on hand and the app makes life easier for guests who want to reward staff who take care of them. Guests don’t need to download an app; they can scan the QR code on the employee’s easel card and in less than five seconds can send a tip. As a result, the hotel has no administration cost and no management to do.” 

Essential Functions

Essential app functions include mobile check-in/out, allowing guests to bypass queues, and in-app concierge services providing extensive information about hotel amenities, local attractions and dining options enabling guests to plan their stay effectively. Incorporating a feedback system encourages guests to share their experiences and suggestions, fostering continuous improvement. 

From the hotel perspective, apps help hoteliers gain insights into guest preferences, inventory tracking and monitoring room availability and “re-imagining the lobby experience by untethering traditional front-desk tasks,” says Gathright. However, it’s important to prioritize guest privacy and data privacy through efficient compliance with industry standards. For Tip&Go, the beneficiaries, mainly hotel employees, have unrestricted access to their customer account which enables them to track in real time how much they’ve received in tips on a daily, weekly and annual basis. 

Léonard adds, “In future features of Tip&Go, we’ll offer several KPI (Key Performance Indicators) to hoteliers such as average tip rate and per cent of guests that tip.”

Looking Ahead

With Artificial Intelligence (AI) making headway in the hospitality industry, hotels can anticipate a transformative shift in guest experiences. Augmented Reality (AR) experiences would allow guests to explore rooms and amenities via virtual tours; AI-driven chat bots and virtual assistants can provide instant responses to guest queries; and contactless technologies, such as mobile key cards and contactless payments, will further streamline the guest experience and minimize physical touchpoints.

Guest-facing apps have revolutionized how hotels interact with their guests, and as innovation moves to the forefront, embracing these technologies will help hotels deliver unparalleled hospitality in this digital age.

“Understanding and addressing travellers’ quickly changing preferences, passions and pain points is crucial to the hospitality industry, especially as people have returned to travel,” says Gathright. 


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