Technology has been steadily changing all aspects of our lives for a long time, and how we travel is no different. Just a few decades ago, a family on a road trip might have been armed with nothing more than a highway map and change for a phone booth.
But today’s travelers are more tech-savvy. Armed with just their smartphones, people are planning itineraries, identifying interesting stops along their way, and checking room rates and availability in real-time. And as a hotel professional, it’s your job to know what they’re using to get their information, what they’re doing with it, and how to keep your brand on their radar.
There are hundreds of apps out there that help travelers find the best gas prices, conserve cell data or exchange currency, but when it comes to hotels, here are a few that you should be aware of.
Knowing what’s down the road may take some of the discovery out of traveling, but apps that find amenities and points of interest are some of the most popular among travelers, and Roadtrippers is a prime example. Users input their starting point and destination, and the app populates their path with points of interest.
Users can limit their search to lodgings, attractions, natural wonders, and “weird stuff.” A search of LA reveals sights like Muscle Beach, Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, and the Manson Family Ranch.
A critical mobile function for travelers is booking their stay – this is where apps like HotelTonight come in. Focusing on last-minute bookings, HotelTonight displays nearby hotel’s unsold rooms to travelers in search of a deal, or who have lost (or forgot to make) lodging arrangements.
Rather than aggregating public data, HotelTonight partners with hotels to populate its listings. Getting on the list takes a little more work, but the upside is that you retain flexibility over pricing short-notice inventory.
For the traveler who leans more toward planning ahead, apps like Gogobot help them build itineraries that can be saved offline, or updated on the fly. Tapping into the popularity of collaboration, app users can choose a “tribe” (foodies, family, artsy, etc.), and search attractions already recommended by like-minded travelers.
Speaking of collaboration, apps like Field Trip take the concept a step further, operating in the background and alerting travelers to interesting attractions based on proximity.
The app populates its suggestions via publications like Zagat, Thrillist and TimeOut, giving the user a pop up when they get close to an attraction that meets the parameters they’ve set. Kind of like a guide book with a mind of its own.
Your hotel’s app
We’ve pointed out before the importance of offering potential guests a mobile app specific to your brand, but it bears repeating.
Beyond simply allowing guests to book rooms, sign in and out, or even unlock their room door, your app is an additional selling point for your brand – about 85 percent of mobile users out there would rather access your site via an app.
“Savvy travelers want to stay at a hotel that is reflective of their lifestyle and can provide them with the new technology they have come to rely on,” O’Rourke Hospitality Engineering CEO Tom O’Rourke writes in Hotel Executive. “Hotels that already provide this service to their guests stand out as progressive and current.”
Getting on the radar
Knowing what apps are gaining buzz is important, but getting your hotel’s information to appear in their searches is critical. It can take a bit more research, but learning how developers create their travel apps will put you on the right track.
Since some apps like HotelTonight and TripAdvisor partner with businesses individually, you will need to request a listing for your hotel to appear. Visitors can also write reviews of your property to get you listed, but doing it yourself is important in regards to controlling the image that’s presented.
The popularity of apps rises and falls quickly – make sure you research what’s hot at any given moment, and then double check that your hotel appears in its listings.
More and more travelers are relying on mobile apps to find their next destination, locate and book lodgings, and tell others about their experience afterward. And if that’s where they’re talking about your hotel, that’s where you need to be, too.
About the Author
Abi Mandelbaum is co-founder and CEO of YouVisit, a leading virtual reality company empowering the world to easily create, share, and enjoy virtual reality experiences. YouVisit has worked with thousands of businesses and institutions such as Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, Carnival, Yale, Zumba, and New York’s Central Park.