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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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.