Friday, Jan. 8, 2010 | 7 a.m.
Las Vegas hotels are flooding the Internet and e-mail inboxes with discounts, promotions and events aimed at luring customers to their properties.
Now, casino giant Harrah’s Entertainment is taking virtual marketing a step further with an industry first: An iPhone application with a GPS locator will follow consumers as they walk through any of the company’s Las Vegas properties, sending text messages to their phones with offers that coincide with nearby restaurants, showrooms and other attractions.
“If you’re at Paris, we could send you two free admissions to the Eiffel Tower ride or if you’re at Caesars Palace after 6 p.m., we could send you an offer for the Bette Midler show,” said Neal Narayani, director of e-mail and mobile marketing for Harrah’s. “We might have some additional show tickets left over, so knowing where the customer is is a great way to get those tickets pushed.”
Separately, the company has launched another industry first at its Caesars Palace resort that incorporates text messaging. An automatic check-in program called “Texpress” allows customers to bypass the front desk altogether – much like hotels have already done with the check-out process.
When booking a room through the Caesars Palace Web site, customers may choose a check-in feature prompting them to confirm their arrival a day in advance by texting the property.
When customers arrive at the resort, they can avoid lines at check-in by presenting a photo ID at the bell desk to obtain their room key. By using the service, customers also may elect to receive texts with special offers during their stay and long after they have left Las Vegas – a feature that can be shut off at any time.
Text messages updated in real time offer a more relevant way to communicate with the masses, as most people’s cell phones can send and receive text messages, although fewer can surf the Internet on their phones, Narayani said.
The GPS technology is part of the company’s iPhone application for Caesars Palace, which launches this month with a map of the resort, contact numbers for various attractions and access to the hotel’s Twitter feed, among other features. The GPS feature is a first in the hotel industry, while the iPhone application is a first for the Strip, the company says.
The programs are an obvious next step after last year’s debut of a Harrah’s Web site specially formatted for mobile devices, Narayani said. Half of the site’s visitor traffic originated from users of Apple-manufactured iPhone or iTouch devices in spite of the fact that they account for roughly 10 percent of the mobile device market, he said.
The company joins a handful of major hotel chains with iPhone applications allowing visitors to find nearby hotels based on their location and learn more about properties and amenities.
The high-tech contrivances are the latest of many from Harrah’s, which has been recognized by peers for leading the casino industry in its efforts to track the spending habits of its gambling customers and send custom offers to them.