By Mike Murray CEO, TripCraft Mobile
Alexa Robertson is traveling for business. At the airport, she pulls out her smartphone and opens her favorite hotel’s mobile app. With a few finger taps, she requests an airport transfer and early check-in, receiving a confirmation notification within seconds. Upon entering the hotel, a welcome message pops up, complete with her booking information and room number. Skipping the front desk line, she heads directly to her room, unlocking it with the app’s mobile key technology on her smartphone. A push notification offers her a discount on a spa service, and she immediately books a massage before making dinner reservations and arranging for a car to pick her up the next morning.
In our modern world, people are using their smartphones for nearly everything, with hotel apps and technology playing a key role in the booking decisions of 70 percent of travelers . While third-party apps such as Hotel Tonight, Hotels.com, TripAdvisor, and Booking.com are prevalent for offering travelers low prices and special deals, hotel brands can score points with guests by creating their own mobile apps that go above and beyond these offerings, even beyond reservations and loyalty program management. In the report, “The Mobile Travel Landscape 2016,”  Phocuswright researchers describe significant advantages for hotels and travel companies that develop their branded mobile apps, pointing out that once an app is downloaded, it can influence purchase decisions, foster loyalty and capture future bookings from a customer.
With all signs pointing to the continued rise in mobile booking, let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits hotels realize by launching their own brand mobile app.
Personalized experiences. Hoteliers can gain valuable data and insights regarding customer behavior through their app, and use that information to create individualized guest experiences. Customer relationships are strengthened, and hotels cultivate loyalty as guests appreciate the recognition of their personal preferences, such as receiving their favorite cocktail upon arrival, or a coupon for a spa service they typically enjoy. An area of personalized relationships that requires better research is the guest social footprint. TripCraft’s Social Engine lets hotels increase the understanding regarding the utilization of social media channels and the guests that have the greatest impact.
Greater convenience. Increasingly tech-savvy hotel guests want easy access to information and an instant response to requests that only an app can provide. The Marriott app swiftly accommodates guest requests for additional towels, airport transfers, and wake-up calls. And the Hyatt Hotels app permits guests to check in and out on the go. A growing number of hotel apps are even offering features like the ability to control the TV, order movies and adjust room temperature.
Enhanced amenities. Hoteliers can enrich a guest’s stay by including location-specific app features such as local weather forecasts, a curated guide of favorite activities, and a map to local attractions and restaurants. With the touch of a fingertip, Ritz-Carlton’s concierge is ready to provide personalized service and answer any question, and Starwood Hotels & Resorts allows their guests to video chat 24/7 with Starwood’s support team.
Improved brand loyalty. Apps make it simple for guests to provide instant feedback directly to a hotel, before, during and after a stay. This allows a hotel to nip in the bud any potential negative reviews, as well as rectify a situation to ensure customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. An app can also help create brand awareness by making it easy for guests to share their hotel experiences via social media.
Increased revenue. The rise in use of mobile devices has led to the development of mobile commerce, or m-commerce. With their proprietary app, hotels can use push notifications and in-app messages to encourage guests to book dining and other services or inform them of special promotions. TripCraft enables hotels to sell more and connect with their guests using their proactive Marketing Engine. Generate special deals and incentives and send notifications to your target audience to help increase booking conversions. You can up-sell rooms and increase the cross-sell of ancillary services like spa, restaurant, and other product or services.
Diminished customer relationships. Without the direct link to hotel staff that an app provides for guests, service is often slower, and requests may even get missed entirely. With this in mind, TripCraft developed its Services Engine that offers Text and Menu driven interaction between your guests and staff to optimize your service capabilities. In addition, without the beneficial customer intelligence that apps capture, hoteliers lose out on opportunities to personalize experiences and strengthen customer relationships, possibly missing out on repeat business.
Operational & financial losses. With an app, management can easily track peak demand for specific services, streamline operations and coordinate staff accordingly. Without one, many services require employees to manually complete tasks which result in more allocation of labor, reduces staff efficiency and creates longer wait times for guests. On the financial side, hotels lose out on the sales that could be converted through relevant and timely in-app offers and promotions.
Competitive disadvantage. As mobile app-loving millennials gain ground in the travel marketplace, hoteliers who ignore this technology shift will lose out to their competition who are already catering to this crowd. In the United States alone, they represent $200 billion in annual buying power and their effect on businesses globally has been dramatic in a relatively short period of time. Millennials are mainly looking for a few key abilities, including the ability to purchase a product or service from the app and communicate issues or complaints.
By 2021, mobile app downloads worldwide are expected to reach 352.9 billion , and it’s not exactly a big secret that mobile technology is the way of the future. Although superior guest service will always involve attentive face-to-face interactions, hoteliers who evolve along with this shift toward mobile will truly excel at providing the instant access and self-service options that guests (particularly millennials!) crave. Hotel brand mobile apps are going to play a crucial role in a hotel’s success in terms of brand differentiation, marketing, and defining the guest experience.
 What Are the Benefits of a Hotel App. Intelity. 2016.
 The Mobile Travel Landscape 2016. Phocuswright. May 2016.
 Number of mobile app downloads worldwide in 2016, 2017 and 2021, by region (in billions). Statista: The Statics Portal. 2017.
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