Upward Mobility – For Your Hotel, That Is

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The Intimacy of Mobile

The extraordinary appeal of application software, nicknamed apps, for phones proves that people have created a close relationship with their smartphones, so close that it could be characterized as an intimate one.

Think about it.

People use their smartphones for e-mailing, texting, tweeting and, oh yes, talking. They also get information, keep their appointments, play a game, update Facebook, check into their flight, even check in to their hotel. That’s much more than the old so-called “feature” phones. Smartphones now represent more than 50 percent of new cell phone sales and that share is increasing rapidly.

In January, Apple announced that it had its 10 billionth app downloaded from its iTunes or App Store. The total number of apps available will probably exceed a million by the middle of next year. Gartner Research estimates that by 2013, 21 billion apps will be downloaded annually!

By its nature, a mobile phone enters your personal space. You interact with it through touch and voice as you hold it in your hand near your ear or right in front of you. Laptops, of course, are used at arms length on your desk, lap or tray table.

Travelers carry their laptops to serve as a kind of office on the road, downloading the latest technology to make and improve documents and presentations and to play games and videos. Emailing for business is another prominent use of a traveler’s laptop, however, their mobile phones have overtaken every other means of communication as they use, monitor, track and enhance their daily lives.

While you may still not agree that the nature of your relationship with your phone is an intimate one, I’m sure you’ll agree that your mobile phone provides a personal and unique user experience.

Getting A Self-Service Mobile Solution

We celebrate the advancements in technology that have produced a device as handy and connected as a smartphone. And it has changed us and changed our expectations.

As travelers, we now want control over the ebbs and flows caused by changing airline flights, shifting weather patterns and revised agendas. And we’re getting it. New apps increasingly provide that content and control, right there in the palm of our hand. In real time.

This also means that expectations of hotel stays should be more in the control of the traveler as he or she becomes a hotel guest.

So what’s a hotel to do? What it always does – serve its guests. And always strive to serve them better and better.

It’s time for application software to come to the rescue!

Getting Closer To Your Guests

When hotels renovate, innovate and upgrade their properties, their goals are always about adding value and quality to the guest experience. And, of course, they want to either maintain parity with or superiority over their competitors.
Cheaper than new towers or towels, new Web site, new lounge or new lobby furniture is a hotel mobile app that is easily downloaded by the guest and used before, during and even after their stay. It increases the dialogue between a hotel and its guests. It allows the guest to request dining, housekeeping and transportation services, check out the local entertainment and attractions, and even learn about the events of the day for the meeting they’re attending at the hotel. In short, it meets the demands of today’s travelers for convenience, content and control.

Fewer than 200 hotels have recognized the opportunity of how a full service mobile app need not simply book a single stay but develop a guest relationship that makes them a customer.

With a full service mobile app, a hotel can get closer to its guests than a renovated lobby ever will. And the personal connection and intimacy of the dialogue begins even before check-in and remains with them long after their stay. And into their next one.

2011 – Explosive Growth

As hotels are increasingly recognizing the advantages of mobile apps, 2011 will likely see an explosive growth as they populate the app galleries of Apple and Google and elsewhere. Many will serve mobile phones and, since late last year, the exploding tablet populace as well.

Like anything else, what will distinguish them is in the details of what they offer to a guest. Some hotel apps will merely be mini-Web sites presenting the accommodations of the hotel with photos and descriptions. Other mobile apps will elevate the technology and create intimacy (like the device itself) where the guest can actually review, select and order the hotel’s services and amenities. Drawing from traditional hotel classifications, the “mini-Web site” version offers Economy or Budget service. The “review, select and order” version is Upscale and Luxury level service.
Which version of app a hotel chooses may be determined by just how close a hotel wants to get to its guests – offering information or relationship, being of humility or of service.

Phil Schwartz is chief marketing officer for Intelity. Working on the ad agency side of the business, his accounts in travel & hospitality included destination tourism, hotels, airlines, car rental and attraction companies. After selling his half of the agency seven years later, he wrote two books, taught advertising and marketing at the University of Florida and consulted with more than one hundred advertisers and agencies. Phil joined Intelity as marketing chief in April 2010. Follow @Intelity on Twitter and on LinkedIn.

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