March 26 2015

Hotel Management Software – Let’s Get the Mobile Phone Right First

Accor Hotels recently announced the release their Apple Watch app.  it allows the user to:

  • Receive alerts telling them the online check-in service is open
  • Access information about their bookings: arrival date, number of nights, number of guests
  • Receive information about the hotel’s services (free Wi-Fi, parking, spa, swimming pool, etc.)
  • Access the interactive map, including the hotel’s location and the local weather forecast
  • Access Le Club Accorhotels loyalty card details, including status and loyalty points

It appears to be read-only, allowing consumption of information, but no actual actions. This release follows on the heels of Starwood’s announcement that their Apple Watch app allows for the user to open the door to their room.

All this for a product that’s not yet available for sale.  

The iPhone SDK was first released in 2008.  Seven years later, and there are billions of devices. One of the unique things about hospitality is that the producers are usually voracious consumers.  That is, hotel professionals are quite often guests themselves.  So, how many great guest apps do you have on your phone right now?  However low that number is, the number of great professional apps is certainly fewer.  

Apple Watch and Android Wear are most certainly the platform of the future.  Horological history shows how clocks migrated from bell towers, to walls, to pockets, to wrists. A strong allegory will be drawn from desktops, to laptops, to smartphones, to smart watches.  Surely, one day we’ll look at smart phones the way people in the early 1900’s looked at pocket watches.

But the smartphone is still the platform of today.  There were 1.3 billion smart phones in 2013, and the numbers are projected to double by 2018.  Still, smart watches other than Will.i.am’s abomination require a smartphone to operate.

Every day I talk to hoteliers unsatisfied with some piece of hotel management software; an up-sell solution, a loyalty program, a property management system, a sales and catering interface, a housekeeping management tool, even a hotel app provider.  So whilst I applaud the race to be first on an unproven platform, our industry has yet to see widespread adoption of a solution that wasn’t designed for the monitor and keyboard. So how are the organizations that haven’t been able to produce something compelling for the billions of 4.5 to 9.7 inch screens out there now going to nail it on a screen measured in millimeters?

What most desktop providers (both cloud and installed) miss, is that workflows must be streamlined for mobile.  The same processes that worked with a keyboard and mouse don’t work with a finger, and certainly won’t work with a digital crown.

Streamlining workflows for mobile has proven hard enough across verticals.  So much so that Apple and IBM joined forces to fill the void.  Long story short, this doesn’t cut it now, so this won’t cut it tomorrow.