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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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.