It’s Official: Travelers Want More Mobile

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There’s a big push for mobile services in hospitality and a lot of statistics to support going mobile, but aside from mobile-friendly websites and mobile bookings, do travelers really want more? A recent study by The Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University of Hotel Administration revealed that yes, they do.

The study surveyed more than 750 smartphone owners to ascertain how they currently use their mobile devices when they travel and how they’d like to in the future. Supporting plenty of other research in the field, the report also reveals some intriguing issues in the use of mobile technology throughout the entire travel cycle.

Not surprisingly, the Cornell report confirms that travelers do (and want to) use mobile devices before, during and after a hotel stay, but here are some key takeaways from the research that we found particularly interesting.

Travelers Don’t Keep Individual Hotel Apps

While most smartphone users are willing to download travel apps, about half are subsequently deleted, suggesting that travelers don’t want single-purpose apps cluttering their phone. Rather, the study discovered that travelers are more interested in having access to a (hypothetical) general app that allows them to create a personal profile that is used by numerous hotels to provide customized offers and service.

So while individual hotel apps are useful to guests during their trip, hotels should find a way to offer real value in retaining the app beyond the stay — like loyalty program access and customized offers — in a bid for customer loyalty.

Travelers Want Utilitarian Mobile Functionality

Currently, travelers mostly use their mobile devices to augment travel during their trip, doing things like using maps or navigation apps and checking the weather (94%), locating restaurants (81%) and finding things to do and see (80%). Of course mobiles are also used for social networking during a hotel stay, with 77% of respondents using their mobile device for sharing photos and 65% for checking Facebook or FourSquare activity.

In addition, travelers largely want to be able to use their mobile devices (via a hotel app or mobile website) to gain convenience during their stay, most notably for receiving notification when their room is ready, checking in and out of the hotel, and requesting guest services. Survey respondents felt neutral about using a mobile hotel app to book spa appointments or tours, and were even less enthusiastic about using an app or mobile site to connect with other hotel guests, implying that travelers desire greater automation of utilitarian tasks relating to their hotel room, rather than ancillary services.

Travelers Are Concerned About Privacy

There is a lot of untapped potential for targeted mobile marketing and service before, during and after a hotel guest’s stay. Post-trip, travelers mostly use their smartphones for sharing photos (64%) and updating statuses (63%) on social networks, but 31% of survey respondents used their mobile device to look for special deals at the same hotel — and 17% wished they could.

The conundrum is that fewer travelers are willing to share more personal data via mobile applications to receive customized offers (10% did and 10% wished they could). Generally, mobile users are willing to share some basic information like gender, age and preferences in return for personalized offers, recommendations and services, but are reluctant to share social profiles, employment information, smartphone number and geolocation.

In light of this, hotels should take care to earn guests’ trust, reassuring them that personal data will be stored securely and used to benefit the guest.

 

Moving forward with the mobile revolution, it’s important for hoteliers to keep their finger on the pulse; to be aware of available and emerging applications that are relevant to their property and guests. The evidence from the Cornell report suggests that hoteliers should proceed with offering mobile functionality for on-property convenience tasks like check-in and check-out and requesting guest services, as well as provide mobile applications that promise customers value in keeping the app after their trip. In addition, we suggest looking for cloud hotel technology that will adapt to your growing mobile requirements, because one thing is for sure: travelers want more mobile.

The full report, The Mobile Revolution is Here: Are You Ready?, is available for free from Cornell’s Centre for Hospitality Research.

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