Mobile Technology: How to Reach Your Guests Where They Are

Mobile's Special Relationship to Travel and How Hoteliers Can Leverage its Rewards

By Vanessa Horwell Founder & Chief Visibility Officer, ThinkInk & TravelInk'd | May 27, 2012

If Politics 101 wasn't your favorite college course, the term "special relationship" in the subtitle of this piece may not inspire a raised eyebrow, or an enlightened nod.

But perform a simple Google search and you'll find the expression "special relationship" wasn't chosen at random. "Special relationship" speaks to the deeply felt, if informal, political ties between the United States and the United Kingdom. Coined by Winston Churchill in 1945 and used most famously a year later in his "Iron Curtain" speech concerning the Soviet Union's nefarious influence on Eastern Europe, it's a special relationship that for a combination of political, economic and cultural reasons endures today. In modern times the phrase "special relationship" or "special relationship status" has been used by other nations to describe similar relationships with their own close allies as well.

And when it comes to the world of mobile technology and the travel industry, it's becoming clear that a "special relationship" also exists between these two partners. Not for political reasons, but for economic and even cultural ones too. As a technology built for on-the-go movement and communication, mobile devices can be a unique partner in the travel and hotel experience while the value to hoteliers through guest engagement, loyalty and revenue generation is just being tapped.

In other words, hotel guests are rapidly adopting the mobile platform for a host of uses and they're demanding hotels go there too, helping cement this rapidly growing special relationship now and in the years to come.

From Novelty to Necessity: Smartphone's Proving their Reach

Some in the hospitality industry –and some of my clients – have gone so far as to call it a mobile revolution. While the term "revolution" isn't one of my favorites due to its overuse (nor is "buzzword" for the same reasoning) I find myself hard pressed to challenge it. Less than a decade ago, advanced feature phones like the LG 8000, for instance, boasted a low-megapixel camera as the newfangled extra, could send SMS messages and just maybe, offered Bluetooth® connectivity. A CNET article from September 2004 even refers with excitement to the coming age of "Microsoft's smart phone invasion." And, yes, "smartphone" was spelled as two separate words.

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.