Hotel Brands Can Do Better With Mobile Booking

A new report suggests that prestige hotels are missing opportunities to better compete with online travel agencies like Priceline and TripAdvisor when it comes to mobile booking. While nearly 90% of hotel brands have mobile Web sites, only a third (32%) provide booking engines directly on the home page, according to a study by digital think tank L2.

Furthermore, more than half of U.S. mobile sites require six or more end-to-end clicks to book versus just 20% of desktop sites. About three-quarters of hotel sites allow users to view or modify current reservations, while only about half (47%) provide directions to a hotel location.

When it comes to hotels’ tablet sites, most brands (83%) simply serve their desktop site to tablets instead of optimized sites. Only 38% of sites use swipe functionality (up from 23% in 2013, while less than half had calendars tailored to the mobile screen. Among the exceptions was the Dorchester Collection, whose tablet app uses responsive design to enable both horizontal and vertical screen orientations.

Because hotels generate more than three times as much from their tablet than their mobile presence, creating a streamlined user experience to encourage bookings is especially important. About 85% to 90% of tablet browsing takes place via WiFi, suggesting it takes place mostly at home.

Hotel apps do not fare much better than their sites in delivering a wide range of services, according to the study. Only about half offer the ability to receive push notifications, for example, and just 23% allow guests to book in-hotel activities. More importantly, only one-third of booking apps cater to non-English-speaking users with information in multiple languages.

On the bright side, hotel apps beat out OTA apps like Priceline, TripAdvisor and Booking.com, with an average of five clicks to book a room. The report suggested hotels have an opportunity to “dominate their own turf” versus OTA apps across features like mobile check-in, in-hotel activity reservations, ratings and reviews, and coupons.

While the L2 report doesn’t rank hotel brand apps, it cited Marriott’s as a product that is getting it right, with services like mobile check-in, built-in Bing maps and the ability to save content from favorite Marriott properties for later viewing.

The study also highlights an app launched earlier this year by Warwick Hotels geared to last-minute travelers. It provides access to same-day rate specials, the ability to filter a search by price, distance or star rating, and uses GPS technology to suggest nearby properties. The idea is to take on apps like Hotel Tonight, which has become popular as a way to book a hotel room on short notice.
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