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Technology to accompany guests before they arrive

Today, the multiplicity of distribution tools and especially the contribution of internet have changed hoteliers' everyday life. This allows them to share information with their clientele on a number of media, at their home and during travel, via Smartphone applications, digital tablets and websites. The interest lies in visibility, sharing offers that can be more personalized, for a presumed result of leading users of these new technologies to reserve a room at the hotel in question.

Heither Leisman, Managing Director EMEA at HotelTonight, explained at the Global Lodging forum 2014: "Today, more people in the world have a telephone than a computer. The mobile thus offers a massive quantity of different opportunities and possibilities."  In this age where technology follows us outside the home, thanks to Smartphones in particular, the hotel industry is able to approach the client just about anywhere, allowing him to access all information from his mobile phone.

While the advertising on these networks can be judged intrusive, these tools makes it possible to receive information about customer travel patterns and offer adapted products. The new technology helps marketing, by reaching out to the customer before his arrival at the hotel, thanks to Internet and mobile applications. But making the Smartphone become the hotelier’s best ally for contacting a client? Some major chains have already done that, with help from suppliers who understand the need for simple quick exchanges between clients and hoteliers.

Using all types of media

In order for hoteliers to contact guests before they arrive they must set up a tool to transmit information. For that to happen they much reach the media used by potential clientele. These are, first and foremost, Smartphones. Several media are available. Mobile sites are legion, but applications specific to hotels also exist such as those offered by the Atlantis in Dubai : a hotel map, a global positioning system and lists of events to be held at the hotel or in the city. These apps exist for the most popular media, such as the Appstore for Iphones and Playstore for mobiles that use the Android operating system. Smartphones are thus a target for hoteliers.

Thus, professionals can create their application and install it, paid or not, on dedicated download platforms. According to a study with French hoteliers by Hospitality-On and Olakala, 62% of hoteliers interviewed see Smartphones as a potential payment tool for the hotel industry. It is undeniable that this tool simplifies the visibility and above all the proximity of the hotelier to potential clientele. Smartphones may be used anywhere and customers no longer need to be home to receive the latest news about a hotel or chain. Adagio, for example, has launched its mobile application « ApartHotels Adagio » in 15 languages that focus on the possibility for the customer to have a personal space. It recaps reservations and history, as well as promotions and information concerning his loyalty card.

This offers fine marketing opportunities for hotels, and in particular the latest promotional offers and product information. Smartphones are not the only type of device giving access to hotel applications, and there is also a tablet version in many cases. Some groups, such as Starwood Hotels & Resorts have been more innovative and placed their trust in the potential of Google Glasses, and adopted them. Suppliers now offer solutions to bring more visibility to brands via all available supports.

Which contents for these tools

Once installed on these devices, hoteliers, along with suppliers (there is Appy Hotel which developed, in particular, software for the brands Renaissance and Sheraton), must first and foremost carefully select which contents they make available in order to be efficient. Photos of properties and general information about them are musts; they stimulate the user’s interest, while giving access to information that will be useful to understanding if the property fits his needs. As for navigation, it is mostly tactile and organized by tabs, it must also be simple and quick to use; time-savings must be considered in the sharing of information.

But other innovations have joined the sites and applications. Virtual tours of properties have become a new means of discovering services and installations at hotels. The future guest can soak up the hotel’s atmosphere ahead of time to discover rooms, lobbies, Spas and restaurants. Google, for example, launched its tool “Inside 360°”, which was adopted by the hotels Kyriad, Campanile and Première Classe, of the Louvre Hotels group in order to give potential clients a sampling of the property they are interested in. It helps the customer make requests and truly personalize his experience. Martine Granier, director of the travel department at vente-privé, explained at the last Global Lodging Forum “the more digital the relationship is with the client, the more important it is for it to be personalized.”

Thus, the use of registration on most sites and applications allows the hotelier to gather precious information about the client, in order to make offers that are appropriate. Age, name and especially previous reservations and trips will help the distribution of the right supply according to the customer profile.  

Luca Gerini, E-commerce and mobile manager for Louvre Hotels Group, declared after the launch of a mobile application for his group: “Now that this initial acquisition phase of mobile technology is finished, we will focus on customer relations through applications that allow us to communicate with him in real time. Thanks to our better knowledge of guests’ consumer behavior before, during and after their stay, we are able offer adapted services (breakfast or meals at reduced prices, information about nearby places to visit, exclusive discount coupons…). Mobile applications will become veritable travel guides!”

Thus proving what they offer in terms of personalization offered by solutions related to new technologies.

Global positioning systems also assumes an important role with respect to these innovations by making marketing more adaptable. It makes it possible to personalize the offer to fit the client’s needs by proposing hotels belonging to the brand that are in the surrounding area. It thus becomes another means for the brand to accompany the traveler, and snatch up opportunities for last minute sales. 

The reservation as goal

All these investments offer precious assistance to travelers, but they must also contribute making a profit for hoteliers. Visibility and availability of hotels is boosted by a presence on all current supports. The image the hotelier wishes to convey is available everywhere, but it can also be adapted quickly in order to offer users the latest information in a timely manner along with promotions related to the group or hotel using the application or website.

But the final goal of these investments must be visible through profit, occupancy rates and thus reservations made through these distribution networks. With a simple and rapid interface, the client’s desire kindled by the promoted supply must be identifiable and easy to select in a few clicks. In addition, connections to these applications and websites don’t stop once this transaction has been made.

Consultations regarding the reserved room may continue, with the purchase of additional services prior to arriving at the hotel. 3 criteria appear to need to be taken into consideration before the client’s arrival at a hotel property: availability on different media, availability of information and availability of the supply. Concretely, the tools help share the information and are the true crossroads for supply and demand. Tomorrow, mobile technologies will also become the tool of the buying process: according to an Hospitality ON's survey, 62% of hoteliers believe in Smartphones as a potential buying tool in the future.

More than a simple transmission of an offer, it is all the buying process and the personalization of a product that will use soon new technologies, that are more and more strategical for hotels and groups.

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