3 Mobile Musts for Hoteliers in 2015

Of all adult Internet users in the world, 80 percent own smartphones. We are firmly planted in the Age of Mobile. In our world where increasingly connected travelers rely on their smartphones for planning, booking and experiencing travel, lodging operators must incorporate mobile technology into business strategies across the guest life cycle to remain competitive and provide the kind of experience guests have come to expect.
Mobile innovation in hospitality is rapid. Mobile bookings are no longer novel; they’re necessary… Properties are engaging guests more effectively through mobile apps… And mobile room keys have already made their debut at numerous big-brand hotels. It’s hard to keep up, let alone know where to start.
Here are three mobile milestones most properties should have met by now:
1. Mobile-Friendly Website and Booking Engine
Just this week Google rolled out its major mobile-friendly algorithm update that rewards mobile-friendly websites with higher rankings in mobile search results. The search engine king has been promoting mobile-friendly websites for months already, with a mobile-friendly site testing tool, mobile usability report, and mobile-friendly tag in mobile search results. The reason for all this is simple: with mobile searches looking to surpass desktop searches this year, search engines must give the user what they want — which is relevant sites that work well on smartphones. If a site doesn’t function well, users tend to look elsewhere. These days, a mobile-friendly website is essential.
Responsive Web design ensures that your website provides an optimal user experience on all devices — smartphones, tablets and desktops — and all Web browsers.
A fundamental component of your website, your online booking engine should also be optimized for mobile. Recent research by ad tech company Criteo revealed that more than 25 percent of all digital travel transactions in the U.S. are generated by mobile devices. If your online reservation system is not mobile-friendly, it’s costing you bookings.
2. Mobile-Friendly PMS
Mobile-optimized property management systems (PMS) essentially allow hoteliers to take the front desk (and back office) with them wherever they go. Providing secure access to data from anywhere onsite or offsite, mobile PMS enable staff to attend to operations and guests on the go, resulting in increased efficiency and better guest service. Guests can be checked in via smartphone or tablet without having to wait in line at the front desk, housekeeping staff can update room status and housekeeping notes instantly from their mobile device, and guest requests can be resolved faster by whichever staff member is nearer.
Cloud PMS put lodging operators ahead of the game, bringing mobility to the heart of operations and facilitating easy integration with other hotel systems and mobile applications for improved efficiency and service.
3. Mobile-Friendly Guest Communications
Here are some inspiring numbers: 53 percent of emails are opened on mobile devices (tablets and smartphones); and there are 745 million mobile Facebook daily active users and 288 million monthly active Twitter users worldwide. Right about now, you are probably asking yourself some questions about your digital guest communications — like whether your property’s pre- and post-stay emails are optimized for mobile, and whether it’s time to start engaging with customers on social media (if you haven’t already). The answer to both should be a resounding yes.
Looking Ahead
There really should be a fourth point in the list above, because a mobile-friendly mind is another mobile must for lodging operators who want to stay competitive and maximize revenue. Hoteliers should be aware of and open to innovations that are relevant to their property and guests, and consider those that offer real potential to enhance the guest experience and improve operational efficiency.
Some big-brand hotels have already implemented mobile applications that not long ago seemed like gadgets from the future. Take Virgin Hotel’s cutting-edge personal assistant app, Lucy — the mobile app controls the thermostat, orders room service, serves as the TV remote, recommends the best spots around town, and more. Starwood already offers mobile room keys in a number of Aloft, Element and W hotels. While mobile applications like these are not quite yet mainstream and might not suit all types of lodgings (at least not presently), such technology is becoming more accessible to independent properties.
Going forward, it’s important to identify the applications that will provide the most value to your guests. And, due to the rapid evolution of mobile hospitality technology, it’s also important to adopt platform-independent solutions that will adapt to new innovations as we head into the future.

 Photo: Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock