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Multilingual app lets visitors bypass concierge

Hotels offer help on iPads; there’s a mobile version, too

The iKnow Concierge app can recommend restaurants and tourism destinations.

IKNOW BOSTON

The iKnow Concierge app can recommend restaurants and tourism destinations.

For some tourists visiting Boston, the all-knowing concierge now has a backup: an online adviser who can recommend the best restaurants, nightclubs, and shopping spots within a short walk of the hotel.

The iKnow Concierge app, developed by entrepreneur and restaurant owner Timoleon Panagopoulos, is installed in six hotels in downtown Boston on wall-mounted iPads near their front desks, and it can be download onto iPhones. He is working to add hotels in Philadelphia, Miami, Dallas, Houston, and Washington, D.C.

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Guests can tap away for dining and shopping suggestions tailored to the hotel’s location, and get easy access to maps and travel information and other services.

Most important, the app can be surfed in six languages: English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, and Arabic.

“The main thing is the translation,” said Revere Hotel concierge John Hallett. “There are a lot of people who can’t speak English, and unfortunately I can’t speak Spanish,” or any other language.

Panagopoulos said that in addition including obvious tourist information, he tried to anticipate the types of questions travelers would have when they visit new places, such as where to get a broken computer or a ripped suit fixed. He also had in mind a younger generation of tourists who are much more comfortable getting information from the Internet.

“Some people in their 20s don’t want to talk to anybody,” Panagopoulos said. “They want to feel self-sufficient on their own little device.”

The first impression of several guests at the Revere was positive.

Paul Camara, 52, of Warwick, R.I., said he would much prefer an app over speaking to a concierge or front desk.

“It’s more convenient and easier,” Camara said. “You don’t have to wait on the phone. You can just pull it up in your room.”

While waiting to ask the Revere concierge for a dinner recommendation, German tourist Claus Thomas tested iKnow for its suggestion.

“It’s good,” Thomas said. “It seems to funnel you into a certain area around your hotel. It’s quite convenient.”

Understandably, concierges are a bit pickier about apps. It costs businesses up to $125 a month to be included in iKnow listings, and each category has a limited number of options.

Hallett, the Revere concierge, said the restaurant selection around his hotel is too small, and includes some he would normally send guests to.

He suggested Panagopoulos get more input from concierges to improve the selections.

Hallett also said he is not worried about iKnow putting him out of a job anytime soon.

“I don’t think there’s ever going to be an electronic concierge, because most people, they actually want to interact with people,” Hallett said.

“Everybody can use this, they can get all the information I can give them from the app, but they can’t get feedback from the app.”

Emily Overholt can be reached at emily.overholt@globe.com. To find her on Twitter follow @emilyoverholt
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