Mobile Technology: The Biggest Challenges for Hotel Mobile
By Vanessa Horwell Founder & Chief Visibility Officer, ThinkInk & TravelInk'd | January 22, 2012
Imagine this scenario. You are a last-minute business or leisure traveler. Thanks to the power of the mobile web you've already price compared and booked your flight, the overnight bag and miniature toiletries are packed, and you've already scouted neighborhoods for an appropriate hotel and have thumbed through page after digital page of an online travel agency's hotel search criteria, eager to book what looks good. But in the end, what you really wanted was the ability to cut out the middleman and book your stay directly from a specific hotel via your mobile device, whatever that may be. What gives?
It comes down to this. For an industry that prides itself on customer service, and connecting with guests, ensuring repeat visits; one area that could use some "spit and polish" is in the booming channel of mobile communications. While travelers are increasingly going mobile, hotels have yet to fully embrace the platform's potential. What is the holdup? So sluggish has been the hospitality industry's mobile embrace, in fact, that a recent New York Times article, in addressing the challenges of converting websites to their mobile format, only discussed third-party sites like Travelocity, Orbitz, Priceline and Hotels.com. No mention of hotels following a similar path was reported.
What's the holdup of mobile adoption?
While non-mention in a New York Times article isn't exactly scientific finality, it does suggest a trend. Ultimately the reasons behind hotels' mobile reluctance are several- fold. The general umbrella concern is that hoteliers have yet to get the digital memo – that is they fail to see the benefits of creating, maintaining and promoting a mobile booking site. For all the talk that mobile is the way of the future, hoteliers look to the present and find relatively few guests booking via mobile. Recent data suggests that only 1% of mobile site hotel visitors booked their stay through that medium, and only 19% of all hotel queries are done via mobile. There's also the safety valve belief that OTAs or, online travel agencies, are already offering some of those mobile services so why offer redundant services the argument goes?
In addition, apps run off multiple platform carriers, be it iOS, Android and Blackberry. Designing a multi-platform app is obviously one solution, but it remains anyone's guess which smartphone, if any, will come to dominate the market. Even now data suggests Blackberry's business world dominance may be slipping, thanks to recent technological hiccups. A recent survey by analyst firm Enterprise Management Associates found that nearly a third of current Blackberry owners plan to shift to another mobile platform - namely iOS or Android. With that kind of fluidity, it's anyone's guess what may happen next. Finally, there is also the relatively mundane concern that comes up with any new technology: fear of data errors, personal information security risks, and last-minute booking nightmares that rather than inspiring potential guests to click "book it," they instead run for the proverbial hills.
Sitting it out on the mobile sidelines is not a good position to take
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