App-ocalypse: How Hotels Can Thrive in the Post-App Economy

By Drew Patterson Co-Founder & CEO, CheckMate | February 28, 2016

It's no secret that consumers are more addicted to mobile than ever before. The average American spends five hours on a mobile device each day. Hotel brands-always eager to capitalize on lifestyle trends-have taken notice, and it shows. Nearly every major hospitality company has its own mobile app (and several have more than one). Over the last few years, we've seen hotels race to create newer, sexier apps, valuing bells and whistles over practicality. From a QR code scanner to music streaming to live video chat, brands have tried nearly every gimmick imaginable in an attempt to lure consumers to their apps.

Guests Are Just Not Into Your App

That approach is increasingly problematic for several reasons. Perhaps the most obvious reason-at least in hindsight-is the fact that it goes against the very core of the hospitality business, which aims to provide service, comfort and convenience. There's nothing convenient about asking your guests to download yet another doodad that'll take up valuable phone storage and introduce even more visual and mental clutter. Already, competing apps and messages have become noise that's easily tuned out-do your guests really need more of this? Do they need a replacement for human interaction, or a seamless way to improve communication,increasing personalization and decreasing response time?

Don't take this personally; it's a crowded field out there. Travel is not the only industry taking notice of consumers spending more time on mobile devices than ever before. The problem is that as the time spent on mobile increases, the number of apps used per day decreases. As I mentioned in a Hotel Executive website post in November, the Apple store alone has more than 1.5 million apps. But that doesn't mean users are engaging with these apps. In fact, user activity is becoming much more focused: the average consumer spends 79 percent of her or his device time on just five favorite apps. And only 10 percent of apps downloaded are used more than once. It's a huge challenge for businesses-especially in "infrequent purchase" categories like travel-to develop an app that's regularly discovered, downloaded and used.

According to a recent study, a grand total of zero hotel offerings appeared on the list of 25 most downloaded travel apps. The top travel performers are typically online travel agencies (OTAs), and with good reason. Mobile is well suited to OTAs' strengths, such as search, exploration and price aggregation.

Post-App Economy Plays to Hotels' Strengths

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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.