By Binu Mathews

Smartphones are everywhere. Walk into any coffee shop, restaurant, or hotel lobby, and a high percentage of people engaged with their smartphone will be directly affected by the application they are reviewing. As consumers, we now look to our smartphones to converse with friends, purchase items online, look at a myriad of pictures, and yes, sometimes, to talk to another person.

The impact of smartphones on our everyday life is undisputed, but how has the smartphone impacted the hotel guest?

When it comes to searching for a hotel, regardless of whether it is for a business or leisure trip, the bulk of the search process is done via our mobile device.

Research conducted by CWT shows that business travelers are more likely to use their smartphone to book a flight versus any other traveler segment, and this is becoming the norm when booking hotel rooms as well. There are more variables when it comes to booking a hotel rather than booking a flight because there are many different ways to book a room. So, even though hotel bookings via mobile are slightly behind air bookings, we expect the trend to continue to rise.

Upselling on the property is a big revenue driver these days, and the easiest way to inform a guest about a special or an event happening on the property is via text message to their smartphone device. In a Skift Report entitled, “Megatrends Defining Hospitality in 2019”, the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas found that hotel guests who texted its chatbot, Rose, spent up to 30% more money than those who didn’t. This trend will continue to rise as the introduction of texting platforms continues to increase. Texting is now also used to inform guests that their room is ready, should they may arrive at the property a little too early, and it is also used to help guests checkout efficiently and effectively. The challenge that faces hoteliers is trying to understand what the proper balance should be between human interaction and texting. No guest is alike, and as such, hoteliers need to be cognizant that some may enjoy the hands-off approach of texting while others may find it intrusive.

Nearly one-third (32%) of consumers said they prefer communicating with a hotel by walking up to the concierge, front desk, or another staff member directly. As for how different generations prefer to make special requests, nearly one in every seven (15%) millennials said they want to text message with hotels, almost one in five (17%) of 35–54 year-olds want an email survey from the hotel before they arrive, and roughly two-thirds (66%) of those 55 and older prefer to call hotels directly. So as you can see, we are still at the early stages regarding how guests want to interact with hotel staff and hotel operators.

Now, your smartphone can open your hotel room. It sounds like a panacea for those who are adept at using hotel apps. No more silly cards that invariably get lost or the RFID chip in the card malfunctions and makes the guest head back down to the front desk for another key to be made.

Marriott International expects to expand the use of its Mobile Key technology from the 1,800 hotels that currently have it available to its Bonvoy program members to all of its 7,000 properties by the end of 2020, said a spokesman, John Wolf. There are also many other large brands such as Hilton, IHG, and others doing the same. The expectation is that most larger brands will have the full capability for their guests to use their smartphones to, not only open a hotel room but act as the primary relationship device between the hotel and its guests.

When it comes down to guest behavior and how the smartphone revolution impacts the guest’s view of their hotel choice, how they are treated when on the property, and even after they leave, the question is still up in the air. However, rest assured that due to the invasion of smartphones that affect each and almost every one of us, hotel companies will do their utmost to leverage this technology to deliver exceptional service, to assist with driving ancillary revenues, and to communicate with their guests. Ultimately, it will be up to the guest to decide how they want to communicate with the hotel. As they say, “the guest always comes first”.