Anyone who spends time waiting to board an airplane knows that people use smartphones while traveling. According to a Smith Micro study, 62% of travelers prefer to purchase or reserve hotel services with their mobile devices, rather than face to face with hotel staff. But hotel guests don’t drop off their smartphones with their keys when they depart. Consider the guest who wins points for writing online reviews about his stay. Or the loyalty member who has figured out that if she simply updates her location on Facebook each morning as she drives past the local hotel property on the way to work, she wins a few loyalty points. They are enjoying the company’s digital ecosystem while advertising their favorite hotel chains to hundreds of friends.
Focusing on the mobile guest experience will become key to commercial success in the hotel industry in the next five years, and will trump traditional product innovation. Getting the mobile experience right creates opportunities to generate new revenue streams and differentiate from the competition, including online travel agents.
But transforming from a mobile search-shop-and-book platform to a digital ecosystem is challenging. Hoteliers must standardize hardware and technology across chains, a large and unproven investment for major brands and a tough sell for large franchisers who do not directly benefit from on-property revenue.
This article first appeared in Hotel News Now.