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When travellers go on safari in the Masai Mara, Kenyan tribesmen often meet them wielding an electronic tablet – not a spear. The out of place item is used by guides for sharing maps and photos with guests, sending updates of wildlife movements and even to identify interesting plants and birdsong.

Around the world, tablet computers are revolutionising the travel industry. Board a flight to the Faroe Islands on Atlantic Airways and the captain is trialling iPads alongside written log books. Business class passengers on El Al Israel Airlines and French carrier Open Skies are given an iPad to watch movies or listen to music, and Swiss regional carrier Skywork uses them for its in-flight customer satisfaction survey.

British Airways started rolling out iPads to 2,000 senior cabin crew in late 2011 and are now using them across their entire fleet to tap into customer data, check member status and record meal and beverage preferences, as well as keep track of transfer and final destination details.

Every flight attendant at American Airlines wields a Samsung Galaxy tablet to access customer information, and the on-ground Qatar Airways concierge crew in Doha is using tablets to identify VIPs or travellers in need of special meals. And it’s not just airlines that are getting in on the act.

Check in at the ITC Grand Chola hotel in Chennai, India and you are given a tablet on which you can view your bill, alter the air conditioning, switch on the lights, order room service and even see who’s at your door via a camera.  

“These devices are very intuitive and easy to use,” explained Arijit Bhattacharjee, a manager of information systems at ITC Hotels. “[Plus], we are now applying intelligence to these devices to track guest behaviour, and we will customise individual preferences so they can be offered every time the same guest checks in.”

The concierge desk at the InterContinental Dubai Festival City has even had guests use translation programs on the tablet, which helps bridge communication gaps, said chief concierge, Nick Zilber.  

Tablets are being used in more unusual places as well. Take a seat at La Terrasse restaurant at the Bellevue Palace in Bern, Switzerland and the waiter will hand you an iPad to watch head chef Gregor Zimmermann at work – live -- as he prepares your meal.

A chat function is available on the tablet too, and messages can be sent directly to a large screen in the kitchen for the chefs to view. One of the top comments was “Please don't lick your fingers clean!”

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