September 03 2013

Hotel Apps…Make them provide useful services!

There is a lot of debate about specific hotel guest apps. Will guests download the apps? Will guest use the apps? Should the apps be native or should they be browser based mobile apps? At StayNTouch we think it all comes down to the usefulness and the marketing of the app provided by the hotel.

Take for example Capital Bikeshare, you can rent a bike in one place of the city and drop it somewhere else in the city. Two things you need to know, where is the nearest bike station and where at my destination are can I drop the bike. Without an app it is hard to find out, but once you download the GPS controlled app, it becomes easy to find available bikes and available drop off locations. A worthwhile app even if you only tour the city for 1 day, as it provides useful services. Today’s airline apps provide another example of useful apps. While most airlines deliver a mobile booking experience, they do encourage their customers to download the airline app, where functions such as account management checkin and boarding cards are provided with a great and fast user experience.

The first generation of hotel guest apps were and are not much more than small electronic brochures mostly with some information about the hotel and local area, none of it dynamic or up to date. Most of those apps were and are downloaded very few times, and probably used only once by the guest (if used at all). A “brochure about the hotel app” is of not much help when the guest has already booked the hotel and tries to find a way to check in, order room service or wants to “text” (ask) a hotel staff member a quick question.

What if the app would actually be useful? If the hotel app was useful, will the guest go through the effort of downloading the app even if it was only for a one night stay? I would! A few weeks ago I was checking into a 600 room hotel in New York City. While the line was not long, it still took about 20 minutes before it was my turn to checkin. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was an opportunity to use my smartphone to check in? Had the hotel displayed a simple card or sign indicating the hotels guest app, somewhere around the front desk, my 20 minute wait could have been a less than 60 second check in experience. Downloading the app; about 10/15 seconds, than another 45 seconds or so to register and check in! In addition the technologies to provide the guest with their hotel room key are available, making the experience even more memorable.

“79% of smartphone-owning business travellers would use mobile check-in and check-out hotel services if available.” (Carlson Wagonlit Travel Survey, May 2013)

While the mobile browser app is great for booking and researching the hotel, once the guest arrives, an native app that enables to guest to do all service requests from a single, simple and fast user interface, is of great advantage to the hotel and the guest. Hotels should look for smartphone apps that enable guests to do things such as check-in, check-out, order room service, provide feedback, and most importantly given the digital age in which we are, the app should enable digital communications such as texting, messaging and social media between hotel staff and guest. Hotels that look for a combined mobile browser and native app experience, tailored towards certain parts of a guests hotel pre-during and post stay will get ahead of those who do not. Lastly, for those apps to provide a seamless experience they must be integrated or be part of the hotels property management system.

The right hotel guest app, is more than a brochure, provides useful services and is tightly integrated into the hotels or chains CRM and property management systems.