So mobile has been the buzz word in the travel industry for the last few years, but where are we? And more specifically, where are hotels with mobile?
Clearly, the large international chains all have a mobile strategy, the likes of Accor, Hilton, Starwood etc. We also see chains such as Premier Inn with a good mobile App. However, there’s more the mobile than Apps. And especially for independent hotels. I’ve said time and time again, if you’re an independent hotel, make sure your website is mobile before investing in Apps. It makes sense to download the Accor App if you travel a lot or stay in the brands hotels regularly. If you’re an independent hotel, chances are your guests don’t need an App to make bookings – they will call you, book on your website or through other channels. If a customer wants to book on the move, I am sure they would expect to find your property online via your mobile booking site, rather than find your App amongst thousands of other hotels, just to make one booking. It’s also important to remember that most hotel chains report that only around 5% of bookings are made via Apps. And actually, Apps are used more to cancel bookings, not make them!
So we know these more obvious mobile ideas, but I actually wanted to talk about something different. Something that some of the big hotels are starting to think about, but also something I can’t find good examples of in use now. And that’s taking mobile to the next level. What do I mean? Well, take a look at the airlines and their mobile strategies.
Not only can you book your air travel on their mobile Apps or mobile websites, you get far more of a service. For instance, its common place to download your boarding pass to your mobile phone, to use to check-in, pass via security, and at the boarding gate. How often do you see a mobile phone with a complex bar-code displayed? This is the technology airlines are using to that the end traveller can do everything via mobile. But where do hotels fit?
Well, they don’t. Well, not yet, and not commonly to my knowledge. How can the same principles be applied to the hotel world? Well imagine confirming your reservation on a mobile enabled site or App, or even making your booking and the rest being fulfilled via your mobile phone. Then your booking details sent to your mobile (not uncommon) but with a twist. Your room key is sent to your mobile as a barcode. You use it to check-in at a self-service kiosk or reception, get your room number, then use your mobile barcode to unlock your room. Taking it a stage further, using that barcode to charge dinner or drinks to your room, or even taking technology further and using it to control lighting or TV in your room. Ok, so that’s taking it a bit far, but why not use it as a key to access your hotel room.
We are already seeing the first steps, and in the UK too. Premier Inn have self-service check in desks. The next step for hotels? Changing doors to read mobile barcodes? Well, maybe not straight away. That would be a huge financial investment. But it’s all a possibility. I probably see a big chain softly rolling this out at a small number of hotels as a trial and going from there. Or a ‘technology’ hotel adding it to create the right first impression to go with their in-room iPads, and remote control curtains and shower. Let’s see what happens. The technology is there – who will use it first?