An explosion in the use of mobile devices worldwide is changing the way hotels run their businesses. It is also forcing a change in approach that hoteliers need to recognise and adapt to stay up with the competition, writes Phil Benson.
You will not go far before seeing someone using a smartphone, iPhone, blackberry, iPad or palm-top device, all of which can now access mass information within a few seconds.
No Stopping Mobile Devices
Research from hotel industry sources identified that between 1 per cent and 1.5 per cent of visitors to hotel websites came from travel consumers who were already in a position to access the site using mobile devices. Google revealed figures in October 2010, showing that year-on-year, mobile searches for hotels had risen by an astounding 7000 per cent, with industry experts predicting that by 2013, the mobile Web will have exceeded the traditional Web in size.
Figures from a survey conducted by PhoCusWright seem to support this claim already, revealing that 67 per cent of travellers and 77 per cent of business travellers had used their mobile devices to find local services, accommodation and attractions.
This development in mobile device use has meant that mobile networks and applications has become a new mandate for many hotels, with operators keen to explore ways of using these connectivity gadgets to stay in touch with guests and operate more efficiently.
In May 2010, Deloitte carried out a survey that showed 10 per cent of the respondents admitted to using a hotel application on a mobile device to book rooms, view reservations or pay a bill.
Hotel Industry Still Learning
Early versions of web and mobile applications have been on the market since 2009 and the industry is still beginning to identify what really works and what is unpractical and less cost-efficient. Tweaks to these applications will carry on, with some companies now collaborating with others to Read our Top Mobile Technology Tips Here“>offer a greater content availability and services to run on multiple platforms.
NFC Enabled Mobile Devices
One such service being piloted sees Near Field Communication (NFC) enabled mobile phones replacing hotel room keys. A number of companies have joined forces to create the technology to allow guests at The Clarion Hotel Stockholm in Sweden, to check in and out using their mobile phones and receive the hotel key directly to the phone before arriving at the hotel. Guests will also be able to access a range of services and on departure, check out easily.
The hope is that the technology will also increase security. If the phone is lost or stolen, the access permission can be cancelled remotely preventing unauthorised people from using it and then re-issued to the correct user.
It is hoped that following feedback from guests and employees using the NFC phones during the four-month pilot, will see them be enhanced and distributed to other hotels, the commercial sector and residential buildings over time.
The mobile web, mobile networks, services and applications has become an increasingly important transaction and travel-planning tool throughout the world, with tourists, business travellers and hotel guests using mobile devices more actively. It is important that the hotel industry respond to this requirement for more, better and user-friendly mobile travel services.
By Phil Benson