A Symbiotic Relationship: How Mobile Technology Impacts Both Guest Experience and Hotel Operations

By Bernard Ellis Vice President of Industry Strategy, Infor Hospitality | January 25, 2015

According to a recent study by Deloitte entitled Hospitality 2015: Game changers or spectators?, mobile applications will be a key area for technological development in the industry over the next year. As more consumers than ever before are equipped with smart phones and tablets to aid in booking travel, hoteliers are finding new ways to interact with guests and build brand awareness via mobile devices.

Guest-Facing Technology

Over the past few years, we have witnessed the emergence of the “always on” consumer. This individual craves access to information, products and services with only the touch of a finger, and they are constantly connected via multiple devices throughout the day. While this group of consumers represents a great opportunity for hospitality organizations in regard to marketing and communication methods, it also brings about a significant challenge in meeting service expectations. Hoteliers that wish to remain competitive and relevant must adapt to deliver the level of accessibility these potential guests anticipate through their mobile device.

Because of this shift, many large hospitality organizations have already taken steps to utilize guest-facing mobile technology. Hotel chains have launched applications that allow guests to manage preferences and reservations directly from a mobile device. This resource enables them to check-in and make arrangements for additional activities, such booking a table at the hotel’s restaurant, all before arriving at the property. With a guest that expects instant gratification and craves constant connection, applications such as this help hoteliers to maintain brand relevance by providing them fast, easy admittance to the data and services they seek.

In addition to developing mobile applications, websites must now be mobile friendly in order to meet the needs of guests. If an application provides limited functionality, the consumer will then attempt to access the hotel’s website through the browser on their mobile device in order to complete the actions they desire.

Consider this illustration. A woman in her late twenties and her husband are traveling to stay at a large resort for a long weekend. On the drive there, the woman downloads the hotel’s mobile application in hopes of making an appointment at the spa. This particular app allows them to check-in while on the move, but unfortunately does not provide direct access to the spa’s booking system. The woman then visits the hotel’s website, but finds that it is not mobile-enabled and will still require her to call the spa. Instead of calling to book her appointment for the next day, she elects to wait until they arrive at the property. Keeping in mind that this woman represents the next generation of consumers, she views phone calls and emails as more time consuming than new methods of communication. Upon speaking with the concierge that evening, she is informed that the spa is closed for the day, and she will have to either call or visit the front desk in person the next morning. Frustrated at the length of the process and her inability to achieve direct access to the spa, the woman decides not to book an appointment after all. This means that the hotel missed out on an opportunity for ancillary revenue, simply because of its inability to accommodate the mobile guest.

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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.