Hospitality is on the Move - How Mobile Apps are Empowering Guests and Boosting Hotels’ Bottom Lines

By Cris Davidson Sr. Director of the Americas, FCS | January 13, 2013

As consumers are now spending more time on their mobile phones than ever before, travelers are expressing a growing preference to engage in business transactions from their own mobile devices. This has given rise to a whole new world of marketing opportunities, consisting of terms such as smartphone, mobile tagging, mobile sites, geo-location, and social media marketing. Today, approximately one half of local searches are performed on mobile devices, and it is estimated that by 2014, mobile Internet access will overtake desktop Internet usage.
With those statistics in mind, all major hotel groups worldwide are now focusing on mobile strategies in order to enhance the guest experience, offering fully customizable mobile apps that make all types of digital transactions simple for hotel guests —before, during and after their stays. As guests’ mobile apps are changing the way travelers interact with hotel staff and vice versa, staff mobile apps are also changing the way owners, managers, franchises and hotels groups are operating their properties. Mobile technologies have the unique potential to streamline hotel operations on the backend, and digital solutions for staff allow instant communication for enhanced employee efficiency and accountability.

Self-service is superior service

While superior guest service in the hospitality industry has traditionally meant attentive personal interaction with property staff, it is now very important to allow guests to make the ultimate determination of how they would like to interact. This is especially true, given the multiple generations that hotels are now required to accommodate. For instance, today’s hoteliers need to offer guests the choice of bypassing the front desk in order to access their rooms faster. In particular, Generation Y, for whom self-service has become the overwhelming preference — finds it far easier and more convenient to leverage automated self-service than to stand in line waiting to interact with hotel staff or to engage in transactions over the phone. Moreover, guests realize the tertiary advantages of making service requests digitally, including minimizing miscommunications from voice interaction and the ability to multitask at one’s own pace, just to name a few. Just as so many consumers prefer to book rooms online rather than over the phone, they likewise appreciate the opportunity to execute similar self-service transactions during their hotel stay.

Technology vendors are raising the bar

To meet the growing demand for self-service offerings, hotel companies and technology vendors have developed numerous mobile applications that automate and simplify requests for both on- and off-property services. Properties that deploy self-service mobile apps, whether independent hotels or as part of a chain, almost invariably report improved guest satisfaction scores, increased use of amenities and higher booking rates at onsite outlets. Digital interaction with the guest is possible prior to the guest’s arrival, throughout the duration of his or her stay, and continues even after departure, providing ample opportunity to reinforce the hotel’s branding messages and gain enhanced long-term guest loyalty. Besides making the service experience more satisfying for the guest, these apps have significant bonuses of streamlining efficiency and boosting revenue opportunities for the hotels. Because mobile apps have a direct line to the guest at all times, wherever they are and at all stages of their stay, they provide a unique platform for offering promotions, such as upselling rooms, offering discounts at the hotel restaurant or cross-selling add-on services or amenities at the property.

Some other examples of potential revenue opportunities that can be realized include filling unused spa and golf time slots, dynamic video upselling for specials of the day, creating clearly defined differentiators between a hotel’s offerings verses all nearby competitors to the wedding party that is trying to choose which hotel to utilize for their out of town guests, and even preventing the wasting of food prior to expiration by running specials. Today, hoteliers truly have the ability to communicate that “WOW” factor to their guests that will keep them returning for many future visits and creating continuous revenue streams.

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Coming up in February 2018...

Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.