The big iPad idea

Posted on June 7, 2010

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iPadThe iPad has become the best PR tool for the travel industry since the introduction of telephone handsets in hotel rooms or plane business class seats.
I cannot remember how many press releases or articles I read about a hotel or airline introducing the iPad for their guests to use. You can hear the “Wow”, “Hah”, “that’s great”, “Wonderful”. Eyes opening like two big marbles.

But if you read a bit more carefully and consider what it actually means you will fast realize that it is the most empty brand promise possible. Or at least misleading..

At a glance:

Jetstar (Qantas low-cost airline) “will offer the iPad for $10 to rent while in flight, and it will be stocked with games from the iTunes App Store, magazines for the iPad, eBooks and hundreds of thousands (sic) of your favorite third-party apps and custom apps from the airline. ” Note: Announcement failed to address the mains concerns, will these iPad-equipped flights will also have in-flight WiFi? As we know, the iPad is the best way to surf the web and a almost meaningless device without internet connection. Plus, one newspaper app is costing in average about USD1.00 a day per device. Economically viable on the basis of multiple newspaper and magazines available?

The Charles hotel (Cambridge USA) offering free iPad for guests to use.
Good that they don’t do the same with hot water.

GEM Hotels New York has an iPad (singular) in the lobby.
“As of now, there’s no time limit but the hotel may implement a borrowing time later in the future”.
Of course, after John Doo has spent 2 hours surfing Facebook while his wife was having a spa treatment, the hotel management may have come to realize that it did disappoint some other guests…

Hotel Indigo San Diego “adapted the tablets to serve as digital guest books. Guests also can use one to ask the hotel’s Twitter followers and Facebook fans for recommendations about what to do and see in the Gaslamp Quarter, albeit under the supervision of hotel staff”.
No comment

Examples are endless and would make this article way too long and repetitive.
My point is that the “big iPad idea” is only a way for hotels to link their brand with the Apple philosophy and its great products. In other words, by staying at GEM Hotels I will get an Apple experience…
Apple = innovation, creativity, professionalism, design, integration = GEM hotels.
Public Relation 101

It is a PR trick that gets your name out there in the media very quickly but that has no brand promise foundation and will actually at one point back fire at all of them. Or just die because all PR opportunities will have been exhausted. It is like everything, either you do it well. Or you don’t. Think it through before writing your press release. Yes, the tablets are opening the door too numerous innovation opportunities. But what we have seen so far is nothing but smoke and mirrors.

A 200 rooms hotels claiming to provide an iPad for guests to enjoy must stock-up at least 20 of them. That’s what it takes. But is it enough? iPod docks are available in all rooms these days when part of guest amenities. Not on demand like a vulgar plug adaptor.

All of the above is not talking about the numerous times I’ve heard hotels clever Dick saying in strategy meetings: ” We will completely re-think our high-end service offering to guests; from now on maybe they should get an iPad”.

Having said that, the iPad is a wonderful product and I enjoy it everyday more and more.

Fabrice Burtin – June 2010

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