Just a man, a bike, a penchant for travel, and a long journey ahead. Well, that might sound a tad cinematic, and I can’t make any claims to the cycling prowess of Tom Dumoulin or Eddy Merckx, but I did decide to head off on a bike-bound tour from Holland to Bordeaux in 20 days. As a hospitality professional, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to unwind in my element, while taking in some remarkable sights and hotel properties.
I was especially curious to experience first hand how mobile technology has transformed the booking experience for on-the-go travelers. Although I don’t exactly land in the millennial category myself, it’s become apparent that millennial travelers are leading the charge for mobile, convenience-driven booking and travel experiences. In fact, studies show that 49% of millennials take last minute vacations, and 72% are choosing to spend more money on experiences rather than material goods — lending to the creation of the ‘experience economy.’ Even further, it is the millennial generation of travelers who are showing increased interest in ‘micro-trips’ (weekend getaways) that are often booked last-minute or on the go, using a mobile device. So, what exactly does the booking experience look like for a man booking 20 hotels in 20 days? I’ll tell you.
Mobile App-Based Convenience is a Must
Consider this — up to 80% of hotel bookings are made on mobile devices. Considering our mobile device is often named as our most important travel accessory, this should come as no surprise. We have long since entered the mobile era, a time in which we can rely on our smart device to do, well, almost anything. From phone calls and texts to social media, email, app-based bookings, banking, home security, and so much more. Our mobile devices have become a handheld hub for accessibility. With this in mind, app-based booking seems like a natural (and ultimately undeniable) transition in the continued push for enhanced convenience while traveling. Airlines have implemented self-service kiosks and mobile boarding tickets, and now it’s time for hotels to follow suit with native apps to ensure a seamless guest experience, both on and off the property.
Speaking from my own experience, booking a hotel in real-time via my phone was a much preferable booking process than pulling out a laptop to find Wi-Fi and book online. Not only was it more convenient due to the nature of my trip but booking via my mobile device also frequently awarded me with last-minute offers and perks. Research shows that with mobile platforms making it easier than ever before to book a weekend away on a whim, searches on smartphones and bespoke travel booking apps have spiked, and account for up to 89% of traffic, for last-minute bookings.
High Risk, High Reward
From a hoteliers perspective, utilizing mobile technology boasts a great deal of opportunity and reward. With the help of real-time, intuitive, and easy-to-use technology, hoteliers can appeal to prospective new travelers, win direct bookings in the continued battle with OTAs, and better personalize the guest experience. This, in turn, translates to high occupancy rates, enhanced revenue, and an improved guest experience both in regard to personalization and convenience. However, with the potential for reward also comes the potential for risk. Studies show that 2 out of 5 mobile transactions for hotel bookings are cancelled because of poor user experience. As you might imagine, hoteliers in the U.S lose a significant amount of revenue every time a consumer fails to complete a booking via mobile devices. Research also indicates that when people have a negative brand experience on mobile, they are 62% less likely to purchase from that brand again in the future. With this information comes the realization that it isn’t just integral for hoteliers to implement a mobile booking experience; but rather, it’s paramount to invest in the technology/solution and vendor which ensures a truly user-friendly, fail-proof mobile experience.
Hoteliers, when considering your current (or prospective) mobile app, ask yourself the following:
1. Is the app interface fast, intuitive, and easy to navigate?
2. Does it help you to leverage a more personalized experience and capitalize on upgrade/upsell opportunities, as well as last-minute bookings?
3. Is the reservation form small and easy to fill out on small screens?
4. Is your pricing transparent throughout the entire mobile booking process?
5. Is your mobile payment process secure?
6. Is the app design pleasant, responsive, and flexible?
While traveling across the country and booking last-minute accommodations while on the go, payment inefficiencies or app-specific pain points were often viewed as deal breakers. After all, the advantage to mobile apps only works if, you guessed it — the app works, each and every time.
One note to make, when you travel to major cities, larger hotel chains can offer easy access to hotels using their apps, but as soon as you get into rural countries that option disappears, and you have to go from web site to web site,…. Unless you use an OTA app. From day 2 of my trip, I used the booking.com app for all my nights, which, to be honest, was an Airbnb-like experience. Finding a hotel for everynight was easy and convenient. Checking reviews before booking led to great stays almost every night. So while hoteliers may not like the OTA channel all the time, for the consumer/guest it is a very convenient option to book hotels of all styles virtually anywhere.
How to Remain Competitive in a Hyper-Competitive Landscape
It’s also essential for hoteliers to realize that OTAs aren’t their only competition. While the implementation of intuitive, custom hotel apps has helped to tip the scale away from OTAs and back in hoteliers’ favor, there still exists Airbnb and Google. Let’s take my scenario, for example. I am moving accommodations every day along my trip for 20 days. While on the move, and traveling more ‘on a whim’, many millennial travelers will opt for an option like Airbnb. Why? Because not only is the app convenient, but the accommodations often cater to a more ‘novel’ and private experience, while prospective guests know exactly what room they’re getting when they book.
Fortunately, it is within the means of hoteliers to contend with the allure of platforms such as Airbnb, by implementing ‘Choose Your Own Room’ features in-app. Hilton rolled out this feature some time ago, while IHG and Mariott’s new reservations platforms promise to make it possible for guests to pick and choose specific attributes of rooms that they want to have. It is this level of customization and autonomy that should be built into every hotel’s app and digital forums to ensure they continuously attract and appeal to the modern guest.
As I made my way across the country, I found myself continuously arriving back at the same realization — it is an exciting era for hospitality. As hotel brands, both large and small, continue to invest in new-age technology, the guest experience is being transformed before our eyes. With the help of intuitive technology and a continued emphasis on personalization and convenience, we are forging our way to a more efficient (and direct) booking model that caters to every kind of traveler.
About Jos Schaap
Jos Schaap is a well-known hospitality software executive and entrepreneur, with over 30 years of experience in hotel management and software. He has a passion for hotels, especially staying in them, which has inspired his pioneering ideas for new technologies that have transformed the industry. As a great advocate for change and innovation, he has dedicated his career to developing new things, projects, applications, and companies.
Jos founded StayNTouch in 2012 with the vision of re-inventing the hotel PMS technology; making it simple, mobile and transitioning the software to the cloud. With his vision and team, he succeeded. StayNTouch grew year over year with 300% to 700% serving more than 90,000 hotel rooms around the globe. The company was acquired by Shiji Group in September 2018. Today the company continues to thrive under the Shiji Group flag.
Prior to StayNTouch, Jos spend 18 years at MICROS Systems Inc. (now Oracle Hospitality), as a Senior Vice President of in charge of global product development and strategy for the Hotel and eCommerce divisions. During his tenure, MICROS’ hospitality products became the global market leader growing the company’s revenues from less than $300 million to $1.1 billion. He spearheaded multiple new products that enabled MICROS to enter hospitality segments from limited to full-service hotels globally.
“I focus most of my technology design and decisions around guest engagement as I believe that’s ultimately what really matters to most hotels and guests. Building teams that deliver great technology is what I do best.” Jos Schaap