You're more likely to see people on their cell phones nowadays than not. Especially if they have a smartphone, which allows them to do everything from check e-mails to book hotel rooms. In fact, consumers are increasingly choosing the convenience of mobile phones to book their hotel stays. In 2008 and 2009 the mobile channel generated nearly $80 million in revenue for hotels according to PhoCusWright (www.phocuswright.com). Whether it's for business or for pleasure, no one can deny that the process for booking rooms has dramatically changed over the past few years thanks to the Web and its array of options.
In today's on-the-go, tech-crazed environment, a hotel booking may play out like this: a potential guest surfs the mobile Web for hotels, opens Facebook to check hotel offers and then reads guest reviews on TripAdvisor. After their mobile research, the consumer selects a hotel and books his/her room through a bookable hotel application. Later, the guest may decide to make the trip extra special so he or she returns to the hotel's website from a computer to upgrade to a suite and schedule spa appointments. Reservation complete, all without a phone call.
This scenario is reflected in recent statistics concerning the Web's increasing emergence as the booking channel of choice, and that means mobile Web, too. In 2009, according to TravelClick's eTRAK report (www.travelclick.net), Internet bookings increased by 6.6 percent compared to 2008 and now account for 54 percent of bookings. This is the third year of consecutive growth since eTRAK reporting began in 2006. What's more, PhoCusWright predicts that almost $80 million in hotel bookings will be made from mobile devices in 2010.
Revenue from the mobile channel will only increase as more hotels optimize their websites for mobile users and market themselves through aggregating hotel and travel mobile applications created by OTAs, brands and application developers. Advertising Age estimates that there are 57 million iPhones worldwide; hoteliers who don't already have a mobile phone strategy will quickly miss out on the fastest product uptake in the history of technology.
At the heart of the trend
Driving the proliferation of web bookings are new and evolving channels such as travel and social media mobile applications. Social networking sites (which all offer a mobile application) have emerged with similar speed, and according to Gartner (www.gartner.com/technology
), will become the most popular online activity by 2012. Hoteliers should leverage the power of social media to grow brand awareness, cultivate guest loyalty and ensure they're accessible on guests' most frequently used mobile applications.
Joie de Vivre Hotels (www.jdvhotels.com) has a popular Facebook page (www.facebook.com/jdvhotels) that is currently promoting the Road Trippin' California campaign, which encourages travelers to visit California where they can experience any number of unique Joie de Vivre properties. Guests can access Joie de Vivre Hotels' Facebook presence easily through their Facebook mobile application to learn about exclusive offers, participate in contests and learn more about properties before booking a room.
Bookable mobile applications are also a key technology for hotels as this avenue helps capture their target audience and turn them into guests. For instance, Joie de Vivre Hotels is comprised of all boutique hotels and therefore appeals to guests seeking a unique hotel experience. By becoming part of the bookable mobile application StayHIP (a joint offering from TravelClick, and Mobiata, www.mobiata.com), which provides only boutique hotel options based on location and key words, Joie de Vivre is able to target guests who are already searching for their type of hotel experience.
With so many booking channel choices, hotel marketing decisions have compounded in complexity. The recipe for success is in the right mix of channels, so don't let a shifted focus on mobile deter your efforts on the Web and traditional channels. Create the channel mix that works best for your hotel, depending on your property profile and target guest demographics. Most importantly, know your potential guests and where they are shopping. As new mobile-specific channels find their way into your marketing mix, implement those that are relevant to your customers' personal and business travel habits.