An In-Room Amenity That Comes in Handy

HONG KONG—Terence Kwok, founder and CEO of start-up Tink Labs, is ready to shake up the slate of in-room amenities available in hotels around the world. Housed inside a smartphone, Handy provides guests with free texting and long distance calling, unlimited WiFi, a customized city guide, exclusive hotel promotions and constant connection to the hotel for any need.

“You can take it anywhere in the city and dial zero to reach the hotel operator and they will know its Terence from room 317 calling, and it also works for a family in two separate rooms,” said Kwok. “From a technology perspective, we’re extending that room phone concept to the entire city and, because it’s customized, the hotel is able to do a lot in terms of increasing revenue, guest engagement and online satisfaction.”

Designed to be a mobile companion for the modern traveler, hotels using Handy as an in-room amenity are helping to solve some of the pain points of travel and fostering a seamless connection between the guest and the hotel. It also serves as key point of differentiation for hoteliers seeking to provide personalized attention and compete with Airbnb, noted Kwok.

“For people traveling internationally, connectivity and roaming charges are an issue. This call is going to cost me $3 a minute, which can be expensive and prohibitive for many,” said Kwok. “Travel is an infrequent activity and finding up-to-date information is quite difficult for travelers, so having a content team that provides that information is very useful for most people. Beyond that, the device helps guests stay engaged with the hotel, reach for services or help whenever they need and that is also useful.”

Kwok explained the benefits for hotels are both quantitative and qualitative, with properties using the device seeing an increase in revenue by improving the guest experience, and receiving more feedback on travel sites such as TripAdvisor where the positive ratings have increased 0.3% on average.

“We provide a content management system for the hotel to push out a message and say ‘Come back to the hotel and get a beer.’ Or if there’s downtime at the spa, the hotel can send out a message to guests with spa packages,” he said. “It closes the loop and we’re able to prove significant and incremental revenue for hoteliers and generate better feedback from the guest.”

While still a young company, Tink Labs has secured $125 million in funding and brought on board major hotel clients including Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Marriott International, Holiday Inn and Sofitel, to name a few. The company also works with independent boutique hotels.

In terms of global growth, Kwok is ambitious and said the team is working to gain significant penetration in one major city before moving on to the next. Tink Labs has introduced Handy in Hong Kong, Singapore and London, and plans to launch in the U.S. in the next few months.

“We’re unknown in North America, but in Hong Kong and Singapore we’re in 70% of hotel rooms. By the end of the month, we’ll be in 25,000 rooms in London alone,” he said. “We are signing up a bunch of hotels and we’ll be launching in the U.S. soon. We have ambitious plans for North America, mostly major cities in the U.S. and some smaller cities.”

Tink Labs is continuing to innovate the product, using new investments to work closely with Foxconn Technology Group, a Taiwanese electronics contract manufacturing company, to launch a custom device to enable Handy to offer next-level services.

“Our next product will offer things a smartphone won’t have and will allow us to integrate with different smartphones to work as a remote for lighting, air conditioning, a room key and more,” he said. “We see Handy’s value proposition for hotels is having that service and all the stuff you want to push out in a device that is there for guests to use. It’s the easiest way to engage with the guest.”