Smartphones-Introducing a Paradigm Change in the Hospitality Sector

Thomas Klein, RVP, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts
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Thomas Klein, RVP, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts

Technology continues to seam­lessly weave itself into the general populations’ daily habits and increasingly it is also influencing travel plans and rou­tines. Smartphones and the peripheral technology associated with them has be­come an integral part of hotel stays for many guests.

Hotel technologies that are (or are nearly) ubiquitous

• Mobile check-in and check-out
• Keyless room entry
• Digital concierge
• Touch-screen technology
• In-room tablets for internet browsing, temperature control, ordering from dining outlets and more
• Hotel brand specific apps

Mobile bookings are becoming more popular and represent a large piece of the business mix for hotels, thus making it critical that mobile websites and/or apps offer an accessible, well designed interface. In the past, many brands did not have a mobile-specific website and as a result, frustrated users quickly exited to potentially book on an IMM or 3rd party channel. Today, most brands have updated their mobile sites, to employ responsive designs. These mobile sites now aim to provide optimal viewing and interaction regardless of device. Responsive design is becoming more vital as recent reports indicate that mobile traffic makes up more than half of all internet traffic.

Hotel brands seeking to stay relevant (or ahead of the curve) must analyze these technologies and determine what warrants allocation of limited resources. When Google Glass was announced, it was perceived to be a futuristic technology and something that all brands needed to plan for and invest in developing corollary technology. Looking back, this anticipation was clearly off the mark as Google Glass’s perceived future impact was grossly overstated and the product is no longer on the market. The impact of the Apple Watch for example remains to be seen and it would be unwise to immediately dedicate resources to an unproven technology.

  In the past, many brands did not have a mobile-specific website and as a result, frustrated users quickly exited to potentially book on an IMM or 3rd party channel   

Instagram is a huge player in the hospital­ity social media space, with certain experts believing it to have overtaken Facebook in its impact. Conrad Ho­tels features touch- to-shop technology on its Instagram page. When you click on a thumbnail on its Instagram feed, it takes you to a specific property website to book. Facebook booking widgets have been around for a several years, but have had less of an impact on luxury hotel brands than those with a significantly lower price point.

Reputation management is a discipline that was virtually unknown to some brands as recently as five years ago. Now there are companies that provide brands with the ability to understand and respond to what is being said about them online. While in the past, conventional wisdom would have had companies abstain from engaging consumers in a public debate, the overwhelming number of brands today not only actively engage, but have individual employees dedicated to that sole function. This is an arena that has put fear into many companies, who need to not only manage brand perception, but decide whether or not to respond to posts while maintaining their effort to control the message. While this is a legitimate fear, it is critical to understand that the conversation will happen whether or not the brands choose to participate and it is in their best interest to offer their side of the story.

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