A certain amount of unease arises between the airport and hotel. Did they get the reservation right? Will check-in be torture? Where can I quickly pick up that toothbrush I forgot? Or get a quick shoe shine before a meeting?
It's possible to call ahead from the cab (if there's coverage and no navigation problems) or make requests at the front desk upon arrival, but depending on the length of the queue and available staff, it might take more time than it's worth.
Many hotels offer smartphone apps to alleviate the issue, with major brands like Ritz-Carlton launching free, downloadable apps that give guests digital access to services. For the traveler, however, the current system is a patchwork, requiring different downloads for each hotel app and quick adaptation to varying designs and navigation systems.
The founders of MobileSuites, a new iPhone app, intend to bring order to the chaos.
Basel Fakhoury, Dennis Meng and Bob Saris, two former tech consultants and a software engineer, respectively, noticed the gap in the industry while traveling for work.
"We stayed in a lot of hotels," Fakhoury said. "And we thought it was weird that we could use apps to check in to our airplane, book the hotel, Seamless, Uber, etc., but once you got into the hotel, the whole guest-services aspect didn't really have this functionality."
Meng and Seris quit their jobs and directed their energies and technical skills to developing a bare-bones beta version in two months. It was tested at the Hilton Garden Inn in Durham, N.C., during Duke University's alumni weekend, which Fakhoury was attending.
"Guests really liked the taxi feature, express checkout was used a lot and the staff liked our back end," Fakhoury said.
Once the app is launched, a geo locator links the user's position to the correct hotel. When tapped, it opens up a new page that lists available hotel services and information, which in turn leads to further pages depicting individual items, ordering information and a text box to input special instructions. Once completed, a confirmation email is returned within minutes.
MobileSuites' network now includes approximately 500 hotel brands, among them Hyatt, Le Meridien, St. Regis, W and Westin. The list is further divided into partner and non-partner hotels, the difference being the location of the back end. In partner hotels, app requests are fed to a monitored computer at the front desk, running cloud-based software for managing and processing requests.
For nonpartner brands, requests go to MobileSuites' own back end, which relays the order to the hotel. From the guest perspective, however, there is no difference in service.
"For a lot of hotels, this is an improvement over what they currently have," Fakhoury said.
Thomas Botsford, guest services manager at Boston's Westin Copley Place, a partner hotel, is inclined to agree: "Our focus is to make life easier for both our guests and our associates, and we see this app as a bridge between the two."
Another plus for partner hotels is the ability to monitor the efficiency and quality of service via a guest comments section that, unlike Yelp or Trip-
Advisor, is not visible to the public.
Both Fakhoury and Botsford see a revenue bonus for participating hotels.
"If you look at ancillary revenue for hotels, it's been declining," Fakhoury said. "We think part of the reason is it's easier to go outside the hotel than inside for services."
If anything, MobileSuites syncs hotel life more closely with the digital integration of everyday life.
"When was the last time you opened your hotel directory and had a good time flipping through that?" Fakhoury asked.