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

By Bernard Ellis President & Founder, Lodgital Insights LLC | 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 2019...

Mobile Technology: The Future is Now

Mobile Technology continues to advance at a relentless pace and the hotel industry continues to adapt. Hotel guests have shown a strong preference for mobile self-service - from checking-in/out at a hotel kiosk, to ordering room service, making dinner reservations, booking spa treatments, and managing laundry/dry cleaning services. And they also enjoy the convenience of paying for these services with smart phone mobile payments. In addition, some hotels have adopted a “concierge in your pocket” concept. Through a proprietary hotel app, guests can access useful information such as local entertainment venues, tourist attractions, event calendars, and medical facilities and services. In-room entertainment continues to be a key factor, as guests insist on the capacity to plug in their own mobile devices to customize their entertainment choices. Mobile technology also allows for greater marketing opportunities. For example, many hotels have adopted the use of “push notifications” - sending promotions, discounts and special event messages to guests based on their property location, purchase history, profiles, etc. Near field communication (NFC) technology is also being utilized to support applications such as opening room doors, earning loyalty points, renting a bike, accessing a rental car, and more. Finally, some hotels have adopted more futuristic technology. Robots are in use that have the ability to move between floors to deliver room service requests for all kinds of items - food, beverages, towels, toothbrushes, chargers and snacks. And infrared scanners are being used by housekeeping staff that can detect body heat within a room, alerting staff that the room is occupied and they should come back at a later time. The January Hotel Business Review will report on what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in this exciting mobile technology space.