Is a Mobile App Right for My Hotel?

By Tom O'Rourke President & CEO, O'Rourke Hospitality | December 25, 2011

By now, most hoteliers are aware of the fact that a large percentage of their guests are shifting from their desktop PC's and using their mobile devices to make travel plans. This percentage continues to grow at a rapid rate. Some larger hotel chains recognized this years ago, for example Choice Hotels, who created its hotel app as far back as April 2009. In the past year, many global hotel chains, luxury resorts, and five star hotels rushed to catch up, and created hotel apps and mobile websites for their own properties. Larger hotel brands are often quicker to embrace new technology given their higher marketing budgets and resources. Smaller independent hotels, however, tend to think that a mobile app is only useful for larger brands, and they often ask a common question, "I have under 150 rooms, why would my hotel need an app?"

From a marketing standpoint, my belief is that no matter what size your hotel is, no matter how many rooms you have, and regardless of your star rating, you as a hotel marketer should say 'yes' to any new technology that will help generate revenue, extend your brand into a new channel, and add convenience for your guests. Even if you have a limited guest base, aren't those guests just as deserving of the latest technology? Whether you have 150 rooms or 15,000 rooms, why wouldn't you want to increase bookings, increase guest loyalty, and improve brand recognition for your hotel? A mobile app will benefit your hotel in a number of ways and it has little to do with the size of your hotel.

Another common myth is that an app is too costly for smaller independent hotels, and is a luxury that only larger brands can afford. This may be true for hotels that opt to create an app from scratch and pay enormous fees for everything from initial design, app development, coding, technical testing, and content creation. As a hotel marketer, it was clear to me that these fees were unnecessary, and I knew I could find a way to provide my clients a mobile app for their hotels that was affordable, easy to set-up and use, and maintained the same high-quality and customization as if it had been created exclusively for one individual hotel.

I partnered with a proven app development company, DeCare Systems Ireland (DSI), and combining O'Rourke Hospitality's hotel marketing experience with DSI's technological expertise, we created a robust mobile app platform, which we coined SmartstaySM. This mobile app platform is a flexible framework, and we work with each hotel to help them create their own customized hotel app complete with their own logos, custom designed welcome pages, maps, images, videos, and hotel information. The pricing and business model of the Smartstay app makes it very affordable for smaller independent hotels to create their own hotel apps, and the apps often pay for themselves within a month or two.

With such a low-risk investment, small and large hotels alike will see an increase in ROI. Fergel Twomey, General Manager of the Cheval Phoenix House in London, reported that his Smartstay app generated over 19 bookings in just one month, the equivalent of €7,000. After having seen the benefits of the Phoenix House app, Cheval Residences is in the process of creating Smartstay apps for all of its other six properties.

By now you may begin to see that a hotel app actually is an affordable, viable option for your smaller independent hotel, but you may still have questions. Many hotels ask, "How does an app compare to a mobile website, and which option is best for my hotel?" This has been a debate for quite some time now. Forrester Research has just published its annual mobile technology outlook for 2011(1) and predicts that this debate will continue – and remain irrelevant. Brands do not need to choose one or the other, they can have both, and many hotels do.

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Coming up in March 2019...

Human Resources: An Era of Transition

Traditionally, the human resource department administers five key areas within a hotel operation - compliance, compensation and benefits, organizational dynamics, selection and retention, and training and development. However, HR professionals are also presently involved in culture-building activities, as well as implementing new employee on-boarding practices and engagement initiatives. As a result, HR professionals have been elevated to senior leadership status, creating value and profit within their organization. Still, they continue to face some intractable issues, including a shrinking talent pool and the need to recruit top-notch employees who are empowered to provide outstanding customer service. In order to attract top-tier talent, one option is to take advantage of recruitment opportunities offered through colleges and universities, especially if they have a hospitality major. This pool of prospective employees is likely to be better educated and more enthusiastic than walk-in hires. Also, once hired, there could be additional training and development opportunities that stem from an association with a college or university. Continuing education courses, business conferences, seminars and online instruction - all can be a valuable source of employee development opportunities. In addition to meeting recruitment demands in the present, HR professionals must also be forward-thinking, anticipating the skills that will be needed in the future to meet guest expectations. One such skill that is becoming increasingly valued is “resilience”, the ability to “go with the flow” and not become overwhelmed by the disruptive influences  of change and reinvention. In an era of transition—new technologies, expanding markets, consolidation of brands and businesses, and modifications in people's values and lifestyles - the capacity to remain flexible, nimble and resilient is a valuable skill to possess. The March Hotel Business Review will examine some of the strategies that HR professionals are employing to ensure that their hotel operations continue to thrive.