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Hotels Go Mobile for a Better Stay
Properties create apps to reach prospective guests and the ones they have
For the rest of the March 2011 issue of CRM magazine please click here
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Hotel guests, like customers of any business, are turning to their mobile phones to learn about companies before doing business with them. To meet the demand, some hotels have turned to mobile apps to provide potential guests with information before they arrive and to enhance their stays once they check in.

One such hotel is the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club in Lenox, Mass., in the heart of the Berkshires. The property recently launched a mobile application for iPhone, iPad, and Android telephones. Available as a free download, the application was designed as an insider’s guide to the hotel and the surrounding area.

The Cranwell app allows guests direct contact with the hotel for real-time mobile reservations via email or phone. In a few taps, app users can explore all the facilities of the resort. To enhance those features, a photo gallery is included. An interactive map serves as an area guide, showing guests information on the nearest restaurants, bars, shops, cultural and recreational venues, and must-see attractions. Users can view detailed information on each place on the map by clicking on the icon. They also can tap on the phone number to learn more or make a reservation.

Hotel guests can use the app to send virtual postcards to friends and family and to access guest-relations information anytime, anywhere.

“The way that our customers search for and book their vacation experiences is shifting,” says Norma Probst, director of marketing at the resort. “This new feature will enable us to connect with our guests and prospective visitors before, during, and after their stays.”

Cranwell Resort built the app with the help of O’Rourke Hospitality Marketing’s Smartstay platform. The entire process took about five weeks from start to finish. “Because Smartstay is a turnkey product, we basically purchased a license from them, then simply uploaded our content and set it to go live. It was all very efficient,” Probst says.

The mobile app is also integrated with the hotel’s Web site, so any time an update, like a change in room rates or availability, is posted to the hotel’s site, the change is automatically ported to the mobile app as well. The hotel can incorporate its Twitter stream to supply guests with real-time information. For example, if the hotel posts a last-minute deal at a restaurant, guests with the mobile app receive a message on their phones and can click to make a reservation.

Cranwell pays O’Rourke a monthly licensing fee for using the app. The hotel makes sure to promote the app on its Web site, marketing materials, and advertisements.

Even though Probst does not yet have numbers to reflect how many users have downloaded the app, Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH), a collection of more than 500 luxury hotels in 70 countries, has seen tremendous success with a similar application it launched a year ago for the iPhone. That application, designed with Fortune Cookie, a Web development company based in the United Kingdom, has been downloaded 57,000 times and has logged close to 200,000 user sessions, according to Robyn Fuchs, an SLH spokesperson. “It has been very well received,” she says.

Customers can use the SLH mobile app to book a hotel and share their favorites with friends and family. The SLH app also helps them find nearby points of interest through an augmented reality function.

The app offers three main functions. They are:

• Discover—allows users to browse and book their hotel rooms with search categories, such as destination, specific experiences, or special offers;
• Share—enables a shortlist of favorite SLH hotels and experiences to be shared with family and friends via Facebook, Twitter, and email; and 
• Enjoy—search for points of interest near the hotel using an augmented reality layer that delivers expert personal recommendations from SLH.

Tom O’Rourke, founder and CEO of O’Rourke Hospitality Marketing, notes the mobile platform is new for hotels and is often overlooked in their marketing plans in favor of more traditional media. The latter aspires only to attract guests, while the mobile platform lets hotels communicate with guests in a continual and connected manner, he says.

“This is not just another app; it’s an opportunity through a mobile channel to connect with a guest before, during, and after his stay,” O’Rourke says in a statement. 

For Probst, it’s a logical step. “A lot of hotels should be moving in this direction,” she says.


News Editor Leonard Klie can be reached at lklie@infotoday.com.


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