Operators of La Costa Resort and Spa decided to start off 2012 by adding some high-tech accessories to a $50 million makeover completed at the Carlsbad property in November.
The 610-room resort, spanning 400 acres, recently debuted a “way-finding” mobile application, also available on newly installed interactive touch-screen kiosks, letting guests attending large group meetings find venues on the resort campus and track event schedules.
There is also a golf course app with animated flyovers of La Costa’s two courses, and the resort’s coffee shop and sports lounge now have iPad stations where guests can catch up with news and social media.
The resort has also updated its website video offerings geared to comparing travel packages, viewing amenities and letting meeting planners configure event spaces. Those changes follow tech upgrades of the past year, such as installing Wi-Fi service and high-def TVs in the resort’s guest rooms, and beefing up the audio and video presentation gear in its conference rooms.
“We wanted to take this iconic property and drag it kicking and screaming into the 21st century — to make sure these rooms and spaces were updated but also to put in this latest technology to enhance the experience,” said Paul McCormick, the resort’s vice president and general manager.
A $5M Investment
He noted that the latest tech upgrades alone represent an investment of about $5 million by operator KSL Resorts.
McCormick said the Web and mobile technology changes were timed to follow up on the larger makeover and orient visitors to changes made at the property’s guest rooms, restaurants, gathering spaces, spa and pool areas, as well as the golf courses.
Versions of the golf course app, for instance, are available on the resort’s website, LaCosta.com, as well as for downloading to most types of mobile devices.
CourseApp, created by the software firm Best Approach, features animated flyovers, a GPS range finder with a yardage guide, and an option to book tee times.
“You can see every hole on the courses, and it helps you figure out on each hole where you need to make your first shot, then your second one,” McCormick said.
Key to the changes was serving the resort’s crucial group-meeting clientele, who make up around 58 percent of La Costa’s overall business in the current rebounding economy, and in more robust times have represented well over 60 percent.
The kiosks and way-finding apps, developed by PSAV Presentation Services, give meeting attendees real-time access to information including property maps, conference schedules and itineraries, as well as flight information. At the kiosks, for instance, users can enter an e-mail address and have a link sent to their mobile phone, letting them download the free way-finding application in the appropriate software format.
“There’s a green element in it also, because it means people aren’t constantly having to print out and distribute maps and schedules,” McCormick said.
Testing the Waters
He added La Costa is the first of KSL’s resorts to adopt the high-tech offerings on this scale, and the hospitality company is looking to gauge consumer acceptance and install similar technology at other properties.
Jan Freitag, vice president of global development for Tennessee-based Smith Travel Research Inc., noted that the hotel industry generally has not seen wide scale adoption of mobile technology in daily customer service.
He noted that several national chains and high-end hotels have begun using touch-screen kiosks and iPads to speed check-ins and check-outs, and in some cases eliminate the traditional functions of a registration desk. Beyond that, many hoteliers still view mobile devices mainly as a way to boost their “cool” quotient with visitors.
But the online tools, if they prove useful to consumers, can be potent for marketing hotels and helping potential customers choose from among several sites in the same city.
“It’s more interesting than just reading something from a brochure,” Freitag said.
More hotel companies are likely to follow suit in deploying mobile tech. The Atlanta-based industry research firm Travelport LP found in a 2011 study that more than half of corporate customers surveyed now rely on mobile technology to plan business travel.
Nearly three-quarters of more than 600 corporate travel professionals polled said Wi-Fi was an important requirement in hotels, and 82 percent said they expect it to be in all rooms within five years.