Making Size Work For Mobile

By Robert McDowell Senior Vice President, Global Distribution, Choice Hotels International | January 27, 2013

When Choice Hotels became the first major hotel company to launch a global application for iPhones in 2009, it was making a statement that technology is central to the company’s mission. In a competitive arena like hospitality – and with technology transforming the industry at lightning speed –maintaining that model of leadership can be a challenge. However, Choice sees it as an opportunity. And that perspective has enabled the company to remain at the forefront, developing innovative and smart solutions that meet the ever-changing needs of franchisees and their guests.

The fact that the company’s revenue from mobile bookings has been growing at a clip of more than 200 percent annually reflects our ongoing focus on the mobile platform – which involves relentlessly deploying products and updating them. Choice is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the mobile revolution for several reasons:

  • Global Coverage - With 6, 200 properties worldwide, we are located wherever our potential guests are – and mobile makes our nearest property easy to find.
  • Product - Offering brands that appeal to different segments of the market – from economy to midscale, upscale and extended stay – helps ensure that the right accommodations are available.
  • Proprietary Technology - Choice develops its technology in-house. As a result, we maintain control and set priorities to quickly deliver the solutions franchisees and their guests require.

The year 2012 was the inflection point for mobile, when the technology came into its own as a preferred consumer tool for, among many other tasks, planning and booking travel. Today, 600 million consumers around the world are using iPad, iPhone and Android devices. In the first quarter of 2012, 51 percent of smartphone owners used their devices to search for travel-related products. One in five used mobile devices to compare hotel rates and availability – and then to book a room. When I talk about mobile apps, I’m speaking in the broad sense of mobile websites, mobile apps and tablets.

Since the launch of our first mobile app, Choice has been successful in maintaining its leadership position. For example:

  • We marked the one-millionth download of our app in September of 2011. Our mobile apps have been downloaded/updated more than 2 million times since launch.
  • Our iPhone app generates thousands of reservations every month.
  • More than 2, 000 consumers use our apps daily.
  • Last August, Choice launched the Android version of its app.
  • In September 2011, we rolled out a redesign of our mobile website based on extensive feedback from guests and franchisees. Enhancements include more photos, GPS-based search, and one touch calling.
  • We introduced our iPad app last May.
  • Our existing iPhone and Android apps were upgraded this year too, making Choice Hotels instantly accessible to millions of travelers worldwide.

Keeping Up With Consumers

Our guests are constantly changing the way they shop for and book hotels. Choice is right there alongside them, committed to assisting customers who are embracing new mobile platforms as they evolve. We go the great lengths to ensure that no matter what device a consumer is using, the experience is seamless. Although the lines are blurring between the kinds of functions consumers accomplish on their devices, some general trends are apparent.

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Coming up in January 2018...

Mobile Technology: Relentless Innovation

Technology has become a crucial component in attracting and retaining hotel guests, and the need to enhance a guest’s technology experience is driving a relentless pace of innovation. To meet and exceed guest expectations, 54% of hotels will spend more on technology in 2018, and mobile solutions in particular will top the list of capital investments. Many hotels are integrating mobile booking, mobile keys, mobile payments and mobile check-in into their operations. Other hotels are emphasizing the in-room experience, boosting bandwidth and upgrading flat screen TVs to more easily interface with guest mobile devices. And though not yet mainstream, there are many exciting technology developments on the near horizon. The Internet of Things (loT) is taking form in some places, and can be found in guest room control systems, voice activation systems, and in wearable sensors that can be used for access and payment options. Virtual reality headsets are available at some hotels so guests can enjoy virtual trips to exotic locations or if off-property, preview conference facilities and guest rooms. How long will it be before a hotel employs a fleet of robots for room service, or utilizes a hologram as a concierge, or installs gesture-controlled walls that feature interactive digital displays? Some hotels are already using augmented reality for translation services, or interactive wall maps, or even virtual décor. This pace of innovation is challenging property owners and brands to stay on top of the latest technology trends while still addressing current projects. The January Hotel Business Review will explore what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in the mobile technology space.