Mobile: The Real Time Revolution!

By Jared Simon Chief Operating Officer, HotelTonight | March 18, 2012

In 2008, the American book publishing industry was in a very dark place. Declaring that “flat is the new up,” the Book Industry Study group reported a 1.5 percent drop in unit sales from 2007 to 2008. As the industry struggled to grasp this new reality, a few industry visionaries recognized that the declining consumer demand had little to do with a waning interest in reading. Rather, the industry simply needed to reinvent itself for a new generation of readers who wanted the convenience and sizzle they found in new tools like iTunes and Netflix, but which had been lacking in traditional books.

Amazon launched the Kindle, with the ability to download e-books anywhere the user had a cellular connection, and others quickly followed. E-books could appeal to a new, growing segment of the population who might not even have considered reading a book were it not for the convenience and lower price of this new format.

The revolutionaries proved to be correct: as e-books grew from 0.6 percent of the total trade market in 2008 to 6.4 percent in 2010, publishers' net sales revenue grew 5.6 percent. As Russ Grandinetti, vice president for Kindle content at Amazon noted in May in the New York Times, “Even though some digital sales may be substitutions from print, one of the great impacts that the digital business has is people spend more minutes a day reading. They make reading more of a habit, and that’s good for the total book business.”

Although the US hotel industry is far from the dark place the 2008 US publishing industry found itself in, we can take some very compelling (and profitable) lessons from this experience. The Internet transformed the distribution of hotel inventory ten years ago, but not much has changed on the distribution front since then. Yet, with the advent of powerful mobile devices, the hotel-buying public is changing dramatically. Forward thinking hoteliers, like the first authors and publishers who quickly embraced e-books, have a tremendous opportunity to reach an entirely new segment of consumers in exactly the way they want to be reached. Of course, as with any exciting, new medium, mobile must be used intelligently to avoid cannibalization and other ill effects. Read on to learn how to get the most out of the mobile revolution.

When you get right down to it, beyond features or computing power or marketing, the primary value of owning a mobile device is just that: it’s mobile. That is, it goes where its owner goes, and it is available whenever it is needed. Now consumers can make dinner reservations on the fly, they can identify the song playing on the car stereo (and purchase it immediately) or even deposit checks while sitting on the beach.

The increasing ubiquity of mobile services like these has had two notable effects. First, for those industries that have embraced it, the volume of purchases has grown. In music sales, 2011 actually represented the first year of growth since 2004, according to Nielsen Soundscan. True, some of this renewed success can be attributed to an improving economy. But many of these industries (like music and books) were shrinking for years before the economic downturn hit, so it is difficult to ignore new technologies’ influence on their rebound.

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Hotel Spa: Oasis Unplugged

The driving force in current hotel spa trends is the effort to manage unprecedented levels of stress experienced by their clients. Feeling increasingly overwhelmed by demanding careers and technology overload, people are craving places where they can go to momentarily escape the rigors of their daily lives. As a result, spas are positioning themselves as oases of unplugged human connection, where mindfulness and contemplation activities are becoming increasingly important. One leading hotel spa offers their clients the option to experience their treatments in total silence - no music, no talking, and no advice from the therapist - just pure unadulterated silence. Another leading hotel spa is working with a reputable medical clinic to develop a “digital detox” initiative, in which clients will be encouraged to unplug from their devices and engage in mindfulness activities to alleviate the stresses of excessive technology use. Similarly, other spas are counseling clients to resist allowing technology to monopolize their lives, and to engage in meditation and gratitude exercises in its place. The goal is to provide clients with a warm, inviting and tranquil sanctuary from the outside world, in addition to also providing genuine solutions for better sleep, proper nutrition, stress management and natural self-care. To accomplish this, some spas are incorporating a variety of new approaches - cryotherapy, Himalayan salt therapy and ayurveda treatments are becoming increasingly popular. Other spas are growing their own herbs and performing their treatments in lush outdoor gardens. Some spa therapists are being trained to assess a client's individual movement patterns to determine the most beneficial treatment specifically for them. The July issue of the Hotel Business Review will report on these trends and developments and examine how some hotel spas are integrating them into their operations.