Last week I reviewed the top airline apps for the iPhone and iPad and thought that many airlines missed the mark when it came to app design. At least most of the airlines try, unlike the hotel industry. I recently completed a review of the various apps available from most of the world’s major hotel brands and overall, I was very displeased with the selection. Some major hotels don’t have apps and those that do seem not to have put much time or thought into the design process.
What many companies seem to be missing is the fact that the app should be about more than just booking a room. It should be an application that the user goes to as a travel resource; something to inspire travel and not just facilitate it. In spite of most of the mediocre apps available, there were a few hotels that truly produced a quality product.
1. Intercontinental Hotels & Resorts Concierge – Without a doubt, the best hotel app on the market is the one produced by InterContinental. The Concierge app, one of the few also for the iPad, is truly a work of art. The user friendly interface allows the visitor to select a hotel and then learn about all the various activities in that city, as delivered by the hotel’s concierge. The video inclusion is seamless and not choppy like some other apps. Each city profile includes everything you need to know before planning a trip from restaurants to daily itineraries. I am so glad I found this app and intend to spend a lot of time playing around on it. InterContinental truly understands that by promoting a vacation destination, they are in turn encouraging people to visit their properties. Well done InterContinental, well done.
2. Mandarin Oriental - While the MO Hotels app isn’t available on iPad, I have to believe it’s in the works given how expertly their iPhone app is executed. The app features simple search by region/country, special offers and local information. Like the InterContinental app, MO also has city guides with area attractions, restaurants and shopping suggestions. Once you find the hotel you like, it’s also easy to book directly from the app. This is a fun, interactive application that goes far beyond the simple search and book apps that seem to be so popular amongst hotel companies.
3. Four Seasons – Not surprisingly, the Four Seasons has an excellent iPhone app in perfect complement to every other aspect of their business. Unlike some other apps, there are fewer options available with Four Seasons, but the information really is well tailored to their audience. You can search and make reservations, check out spa services (with prices) at each location and watch videos made specially for each of their hotels. That’s the feature that really transforms this app from something quotidian to something exciting and fun. I watched several of the 2-3 minute videos, each of which does a fantastic job of relating the experience to the potential guest. This is another fun app to help in vacation research and preparation.
4. Starwood Preferred Guest – Starwood is the parent to many of the world’s best hotels, including the Westin and W Hotels. I was honestly pleasantly surprised when I put the SPG iPhone app through its paces. While some hotels make their app search process either boring or too complicated, SPG has reduced it to a fun Explore feature that allows you to find hotels anywhere in the world and learn more about the property and nearby activities. The app is also a great mobile portal to your SPG loyalty rewards account, making it easy to check your status or book award stays on the go.
5. Omni Hotels – The Omni app proves the maxim that sometimes simpler is better. The first thing I noticed was the intuitive interface allowing the user to search hotels, find offers and make reservations. While it contains a lot of the same information as many other successful hotel apps, it presents the information in a unique way that is instantly engaging and enjoyable to use. Add to that the fact that Omni has one of the best loyalty programs out there and you have a winning hotel experience.