I find that a lot of hotel and travel apps are not all that compelling and not very useful, but the Small Luxury Hotels of the World iPhone app makes a good case for using an app instead of the website.
When searching the web I continually get notifications on my iPhone telling me that the website I’m visiting has an iPhone application that provides a better experience. Most times they are wrong. But the Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH) app has a couple of features that make it work better on my iPhone than on the website.
The interface is clean, with just six menu items to choose from: Find & Book, Search Hotel Types, Special Offers, Hotels Near Me, Explore, and Join The Club.
Find & Book is very straightforward, taking you to a map with geographical areas as buttons. I always find it fascinating to see how organizations like SLH have penetrated different markets so I was surprised to see that Australia (where I am today) only has seven properties listed, whereas Thailand (where I’m heading tomorrow) has twenty.
Once you reach a property from Find & Book, there are photo galleries, an overview of the property, and a guide to the different room types. You can book from here, although it does appear to go back to the full website within the application, which is not ideal.
I love the Hotels Near Me part of the app where the application uses my current location to find the nearest SLH properties. I actually found a couple of hotels I didn’t even know existed! Very handy for travel writers as much as travellers!
Searching for hotel types is great too. It’s always fun to daydream about checking into all the ski resorts listed around the world or perhaps a resort in a game reserve in Africa. Sigh…
One other fun feature is the ‘augmented reality’ feature where you use the iPhone’s camera to locate attractions nearby. For instance, as I’m in Sydney, I found Taronga Zoo a few kilometres away and the application used Google Maps to give me directions to the zoo from my current location. A terrific idea for travelers who are in a new city they’re not familiar with.
While the app looks very SLH, with its sleek black design, the attention to detail in the app wasn’t as polished as it should be for an SLH app. Several of the buttons and text looked a little low-res and the app crashed a couple of times.
Overall though, it’s a fantastic little product. If I was looking for an SLH hotel in a destination, I’d use my iPhone and go to the app before I’d use the normal website. It’s easier to navigate and fun to explore, and with the ‘augmented reality’ feature is also a great travel tool.
Have you used the SLH iPhone app? How did you find it? Do you have a favourite app you use for booking accommodation? Do you prefers apps to sites, or vice versa? We’re currently developing an app ourselves so I’d love to hear your thoughts.