Smartphones and the Art of Self-service: No Cost Spells Danger

By Olivier Dombey Chief Information Officer, | February 20, 2011

The global smartphone market is projected to grow by 24% CAGR and reach 619 million units by the year 2015(1). We as travel industry professionals are obviously dazzled by the very viable and possibly amazing opportunities for growth through mobile devices.

Be it location based applications, pushed SMS; it's all there for the taking. Or are we all wearing blinders? Have we paused to consider the increasingly possible pervasive effects of getting guests so focused on themselves? Meanwhile are we unknowingly fulfilling a core CRM financial principle namely, pushing client servicing costs onto the clients themselves? Are they organizing their myriad of self-servicing mobile nitty-gritty 'bits' rather than appreciating the sensorial value of the services you so dearly hope to sell them?

But for now, you are feeling good right? And so you should. ADR, LOS, REVPAR, OCC, and all your KIPs are comfortably trending in the green(2); rate parity is back on the straight and narrow again; owners are looking at their properties with a renewed sense of excitement. Even better, your guests are displaying a rejuvenated open mindedness with a refreshed appetite for fulfilling hospitality experiences, and a healthier wallet to back it all up.

Moreover, you are now grappling with your Facebook page, Twitter and other social networks to use them in a much better way; you are diligently monitoring your online reputation and your reviews on TripAdvisor. This has finally given you a multitude of new marketing conduits including mobile phones to reach your audience, push out offers, enhance services and get those guests coming in at the right price tag.

Better yet, your guests have a plethora of new channels and tools available at their fingertips to first find and then possibly do business with you.

Never in its recent history has the hospitality industry seen such a positive potential, all wrapped up in what would appear to be an unlimited array of marketing opportunities. In fact, it has been a long time since I last observed such an upbeat momentum in our industry.

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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.