Increasingly, guests want to interact with a hotel before, during, and even after their stays. Many successful hotels have recognized this and implemented strategies to meet and exceed this expectation. One strategy top hotels have taken is to create their own multi-faceted mobile apps.

It's easy to see why hotels have taken this route. More Americans than ever before are using their mobile devices to access the internet to handle their everyday needs. In January, more Americans accessed the internet through their mobile devices than through personal computers, the first time this has happened. According to data from comScore, during this span, mobile devices made up 55 percent of internet usage in the United States, with 47 percent coming from apps.

While there are numerous hotel apps, many share similar features, including giving guests the ability to book and edit reservations, order room service, learn about amenities, and more. Other hotels, however, have added unique features designed to engage and inform their guests. Below are a few of these hotels.

Virgin Hotels

In January, Virgin Hotels opened it's first property in Chicago. Accompanying the opening was the release of the hotel groups' smartphone app, Lucy. This app has multiple features that allow guests to interact with its property. Some of these features include allowing guests to adjust the room temperature, stream personal content to their room's TV, and turn their smartphone into a remote. Other features the apps comes with are providing entertainment recommendations, a chat board where guests can communicate with each other, and the ability to check in and out on their devices through Virgin Hotels' preference program.

"Our mobile app Lucy, will put guests in the captain's chair," said Doug Carrillo, vice president of sales and marketing for Virgin Hotel. "The technology will be smart and intuitive, and light the way to a more immersive experience within the hotel. We can't wait to build upon the platform as the brand and our guests' needs grow."

The James Hotel

Last year, The James Hotels—which has properties in Chicago, Miami, and New York City— released the James Pocket Assistant. The app was created to help its guests discover and access amenities and special offers. The Pocket Assistant has many of the basic features associated with other hotel apps, but includes the ability to order a valet without waiting and a curated selection of the best restaurants, shopping, and top attractions near the hotel.

The James updated its app in March to include beacon technology, which lets guests receive push notifications about special offers and interesting information. One of the ways The James Hotels are using its mobile app and beacon technology is to let guests take a self-guided art tour throughout each of the individual property's art collection.

The Ritz-Carlton App

The Ritz-Carlton app offers several features to engage guests. As other hotels have done, Ritz-Carlton's app includes special offers and location suggestions from each property's concierge. More interesting, however, is that the luxury hotel chain included a social aspect in its app.

The Ritz-Carlton App gives user the ability to transform their travel photos into vintage-inspired posters that they can share on their social channels. This feature, called Sharable Experiences, allows users to modify their pictures with digital stamps, titles, and filters. These modifications are specific to the property and geographic location.

As hotel guests continue to expect greater engagement, hoteliers have the opportunity to experiment with ways to create memorable experiencs that will keep their property at the top of guests' minds. One way to do this is by creating an app in-house or partnering with a app production company. Regardless, apps are becoming more important each year, and smart hoteliers will need to decide whether they want to look and feel just like their competition or if they want to offer something that makes them stand out.

This article originally appeared in Lodging Magazine.

Molly Phillips
Account Executive at Roar Media