More Hotels Distribute iPads to Guests

USA Today: Hotel guests can now play Angry Birds and order room service without looking up from their iPad.

Hoping to generate more food and beverage sales and reduce the need for staffers, a growing number of hotels are providing the popular tablet computer to guests in their rooms. An app, developed by Orlando-based Intelity and downloaded on the device, allows guests to order food, browse hotel amenities and local attractions, request wake-up calls, schedule housekeeping, message hotel staffers or other guests, and arrange car service. Flight information and 5-day weather are also shown, as are targeted ads based on guests' rates and preferences information.

The hotels that are providing iPads are usually upscale properties that have high-spending guests, including The Plaza in New York, Mondrian SoHo in New York, The Hilton Inn at Penn in Philadelphia and Royalton Hotel in New York.

Guests are charged for the device if they forget to return it. Some hotels have affixed the device to a desk surface to prevent theft.

Intelity has been selling the software for about two years and until now, it has been mostly delivered to smartphones (iPhone, Blackberry, Android phones) as a customized app for each hotel client. Some hotels, such as Wyndham Hotels, have installed the PC-version as the welcome page of their Wi-Fi service.

About 380 hotels nationwide currently use the software and more are coming, says David Adelson, CEO of Intelity. Wyndham has made it a brand standard, meaning all hotels are required to provide it for guests in the coming months. It's in 90% of all Wingate hotels, a Wyndham brand.

"It's a self-service vehicle," Adelson says. "Most travelers are used to self-service solutions in their daily lives and would rather prefer it."

Automating guest service transactions is driven partly by the rebounding but still sluggish economy, with hoteliers welcoming a nascent demand recovery but still reluctant to add staffing. "Hoteliers are making fundamental decisions coming out of the bad economy," Adelson says.

Instead of staffers answering guests' calls and rerouting requests to the point of sales - say, a room service order to the kitchen or a request for toothpaste to housekeeping - orders placed in the software are sent directly to the department handling the service.

With guests free to click through the menus on their iPad or Blackberry, the hotels that use the software are reporting an 18% increase in in-room dining orders, Adelson says.

In the next few weeks, Intelity is also introducing a tablet computer application for hotel restaurant menus. Customers will be handed an iPad or a device running the Android operating system as they walk in the door. They can browse the menu and use the device while eating. It's also working on a hotel conference software product that will allow guests to see meeting events and exhibitor halls, chat with other attendees and read the bios of speakers.


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