Once a hotel brand has established a mobile relationship with a user, the consumer is more likely to maintain that relationship, said Steffan Berelowitz, vice president, digital platforms at Travel Tripper. “Mobile booking is a gateway to a greater relationship with the guest—it allows the brand to move to the next step,” he said. “That can change the balance of power for enabling brands to build great loyalty.”
Native apps are changing the guest experience in a hotel now, allowing guests to open the door, order roomservice, and control the temperature, Berelowitz said. Because mobile is so important to millennials, hotels need to approach mobile by thinking long-term about the relationships they want to foster.
Brands need to aggressively hoard their most loyal travelers, especially those who have high rewards status, said Douglas Quinby, vice president of research for Phocuswright. “This is something that Starbucks does better than anyone—they easily link to rewards programs, remind users of their free birthday drinks, and offer free music linked to iTunes,” he said.
Quinby said he believes Virgin Hotels’ Lucy app is a good example of the future of mobile.
“It’s less about the booking and more about controlling the in-room and on-property experience,” he said. “It’s powerful and real-time and gives control of the experience to the traveler. There are benefits, perks and promos for special activities, on-property restaurants, spa times and golf tee times. It makes those loyal guests feel really special.”
If that guest feels special, the bookings will follow, he said.