With the quick and relatively seamless expansion of Airbnb to Cuba – in just a few months, the company already boasts over 1000 listings in Havana and other tourist hot spots – we are reminded of how much the hospitality industry has been changed by technology.
But for some reason, the traditional hotel is not catching on fast enough. Hotels used to be the epitome of modern convenience. A person would go to a hotel and enjoy all of the amenities you couldn’t afford at home – the fancy TV, the cable, the room service, the on-demand movies. So why is it that today, hotels have let themselves fall so far behind?
With on-demand services like Uber, Instacart, Postmates, and Netflix integrated into our daily routines, hotels are lagging so far behind that staying at one often feels as though we’re stepping back in time. Though hotels are slowly embracing technology and even developing their own apps, development has not gone far enough to merit an app download or long-term loyalty.
But it’s with apps that hotels have a major opportunity to innovate and capture lost customers.
The days of the hotel phone may be over, but that doesn’t mean hotels can’t capitalize on voice calling as an added revenue stream. Using data and Wi-Fi calling, hotels can let users call abroad from their app at a fraction of the cost, and integrate the cost into total booking, or offer it as an added service for the frequent traveler. A free calling tier could enable guests to be connected to local numbers, hotel services, or other hotel guests, from the app for a seamless experience.
Imagine the hotel app lists local restaurants, reviews, and the ability to place an online reservation. Or similarly, with local tours, museums, and transportation, you can do everything from your app without waiting to speak to the concierge. Plan your entire trip and finalize scheduling from your phone, on the go, the way you normally would when at home. And if you need to speak to someone, the app can include a click to call button to reach the concierge, anytime, anywhere.
Not to mention, you could reserve your pool chairs ahead of time (for a small fee, of course), call your friend’s room, or even be connected to friends and family back home, all from the hotel app.
Does anyone even look at the binders of menus and activities in each room? The hotel app can include room service menus, restaurant delivery menus, and even integrate with Yelp, Postmates, or similar on-demand services, to bring you food from anywhere at your convenience. The hotel takes a cut of the business from the massive integration, Yelp is happy, hotel guests are happy.
Everything from scheduling dry cleaning to requesting the toothpaste you left at home to getting an extra set of towels delivered could be done from the app and billed according to guest preferences, an obvious perk for business travelers with varying expense policies.
How many times have you had to head back to the front desk because your room key card has been demagnetized? Or you’ve lost it? Or you’ve spent minutes standing in the hall while you dig around your bag to find it? Similar to the hotel safe that was once so innovative, hotels can incorporate smart locks that unlock with your phone. You enter a pin for an extra level of security and voila your room remains secure while the hotel continues to impress with its advanced technological services.
Hardly innovative, but extremely useful, hotels can use SMS to notify guests of upcoming reservations, a link to check-in ahead of time, confirmations or promotions on various services, upgrades, and more.
Did you know 86% of millennials rely on online reviews and recommendations before making a purchase decision? Airbnb’s timely entry into the market satisfied an evident need – technology, transparency, reviews, and transactions, all in one place. But hotels have the clear advantage here, as they have the ability to offer more services and amenities and provide a better experience, overall. Would you rather go with the airbnb host who shows you exactly what you’re getting and has 5-star reviews or rely on the brand name of the hotel and hope for the best? By increasing two-way communication via voice, messaging, or SMS, hotels can better serve the needs of prospective and existing guests.
Many hotels have apps today, but let’s face it, apps are a plenty, storage is limited, and people need good reason to download and even better reason to stick. Hotels have an opportunity to far surpass their Airbnb-like competitors and start providing the tech and convenience guests are both accustomed to and expect as modern, connected consumers.
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