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Presenting the latest innovation and trends in hospitality technology and the products that are revolutionizing the service industry.

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Apps for Hotel Management: How to Put the Guest First

This article was originally published on Hotel Tech Report on November 20, 2019.

Guests are increasingly interested in communicating with a hotel before, during, and after their stay via mobile apps for hotel management. They’re seeking an easy avenue to check-in remotely, explore amenities, and learn more about the property and surrounding neighborhood. Hotel apps are one way hotels have successfully met this growing guest expectation.

Intelligently integrating a hotel app within the guest experience allows your property to open a clear line of communication with guests. It’s a platform through which guests can access hotel information such as room services and amenities, check-in remotely, place service requests, book a spa service, and more. Mobile hotel apps increase guest engagement and provide a new channel for upselling ancillary services, ultimately improving the guest experience when deployed correctly.

Mobile app providers like INTELITY are leading the way in providing a thoughtful, tech-enabled guest experience. Here’s what you need to know about guest mobile apps to offer a great experience at your property.

Why use mobile apps for hotel management?

Today’s guest is mobile-first, meaning hotels must find a way to provide five-star service optimized for any device. The ability to book and edit reservations, order room service, learn about amenities and check-in remotely are all features that guests expect to manage through a hotel app. Some hotels have taken it a step further to add features that engage and surprise their guests further.

The core benefits that any hotel app must provide are the ability to increase revenue with ancillary offers; real-time marketing through targeted promotions sent through the app; and the capture of data to build guest loyalty through a tailored experience. Apps like INTELITY can do much more than provide these foundational benefits.

Great hotel apps centralize a guest’s digital experience through streamlined communication and messaging. An app should integrate with your guest messaging service and PMS to provide mobile check-in and facilitate other guest requests. The ability to skip the front desk reduces wait times and lobby traffic by 20%, which makes guests happier and frees up staff. Through INTELITY, guests enjoy easy and convenient access to staff via mobile messaging, and staff are more readily available to assist via the back-end dashboard.

Guest mobile apps reduce barriers between guests and the right on-site teams to resolve any issues as they arise and ensure requests get answered quickly. INTELITY’s guest messaging connects guests directly with operations teams through SMS, as well as in-app messaging services, like Facebook Messenger. All messages get routed through the INTELITY platform to make sure there are no missed connections. Whether it’s a request for late checkout, room service, or for extra towels, an app should be able to route these communications to the right team within your property.

And, most compellingly, the right hotel app can unlock new ways to increase guest spend. Send relevant offers through the app to capitalize on guest preferences. A great example is the James Hotels app, James Pocket Assistant. The app helps guests discover and access amenities and special offers on-site. Menus and other content are updated quickly depending on what’s happening at the hotel and guest preferences.

The changing market of hotel apps

This year, the hotel app market saw three big changes: the growth of internet of things hospitality, more personalization, and the introduction of artificial intelligence in the app experience.
IoT has taken the tech world by storm, and hotel apps are not exempt, Mobile apps now allow guests to customize their in-room experience. Lucy, the smartphone app of Virgin Hotels, has multiple features that allow guests to interact with the room. Lucy gives guests the power to adjust the room temperature, stream personal content to their room’s TV, and turn their smartphone into a remote.

Personalization options continue with the ability to map data across multiple guest touchpoints. Hotel apps can utilize smart learning mechanisms to personalize guests’ needs throughout their stay.

It’s important that any hotel app platform you decide to implement has an easy to use content management system so that you can make regular updates without contacting your vendor.  INTELITY’s content management solution, for example, enables your team to update availability across food and beverage operations on-the-fly. Management can sync changes immediately across all channels: web app, in-room tablet, and mobile app, as well as send through discounts and promos in real-time.

And, lastly, artificial intelligence will be able to dissect and analyze guest interactions, behaviors, context and language to intelligently respond and provide a more personalized method of communication. Voice activation has become more common in consumer’s homes, and hotel rooms are likely to follow suit. Voice technology offers access to instant information about your hotel and the surrounding area, as well as answers to common questions that create a backlog at the front desk.

Next year, we predict more apps to enter the market, making it vital that hotel owners consider how their app will add unique value to the guest experience. The market will consolidate, as we’ve already seen with major players like Aimbridge and Interstate merging. And, the use of mobile keys will continue to drive app adoption – Hilton guests downloaded 7.6 million mobile keys through the app in 2018.

What should hoteliers look for in an app vendor?

An app needs to provide a holistic experience at the guest’s fingertips. Here are some of the key features your app must include:

  • Mobile check-in: offer a frictionless way to skip the front desk while driving more revenue.
  • Mobile key: keyless entry leads to an average increase of 7% in guest satisfaction scores.
  • Guest messaging: SMS, Facebook Messenger, or and in-app messages to connect guests directly with your staff
  • Room service ordering: automate service request delivery, track order status, track request fulfillment time, and generate data
  • Loyalty program integrations: encourage increased engagement within your app between stays
  • Local services and content: recommend local services and POIs to market your location and help guests maximize their stay
  • Requests and ticket management: guests can make bookings with the concierge, arrange transportation or request more towels right from your hotel app
  • Room automation: control the lights, TV, AC and drapes right from your phone

Broadly, your app must integrate with your PMS, IoT provider, and service optimization software. Your property management system should be equipped relay guest info to and from the app easily and allow for guests to check-in from their phone. Integrate the app capabilities with in-room technology to control features (lights, thermostat, etc.). And make sure you control traffic with a service optimization provider that can communicate guest requests efficiently and seamlessly to your staff.

Questions to ask hotel app providers

There are more app vendors entering the market each day. Learn more about what each provider offers and make sure they can answer these three questions:

  1. Do you build that can integrate with my hotel brand app? Hotel brands need access to a complete SDK to make app functionality live within their branded app.
  2. Does your app include mobile key? Mobile key is one of the most in-demand features of a hotel app. Make sure the app integrates with many industry-wide lock vendors and hardware partners to provide a seamless experience.
  3. Does your app integrate with my existing loyalty program? Integrate your loyalty program to drive higher ROI by encouraging loyalty members to download the application. Serve more targeted offerings to increase revenue uptake and remove friction between guests and their desired on-property services.

Find out what other hoteliers are saying about mobile apps and learn more about pricing in Hotel Tech Report’s 2020 Hotel App Buyers Guide.

Is This The End Of The Hotel App?

Is it too late for the hotel app to catch on among travelers or is there still hope for hospitality to use mobile for innovation?

There’s an app for that! The phrase became popular after Apple introduced the App Store in 2008 (the same year Intelity went to market), signaling the start of the golden age of apps. Years later, hotel apps have finally become a major focus for investment among the hospitality industry. But has the hospitality industry waited too long to embrace the mobile hotel app?

There has been recent speculation about the role that apps will play in the future.

There are more mobile devices than humans on the planet.

App downloads have steadily decreased in recent years. Nearly half of smartphone users reportedly don’t download any new apps at all.

But mobile technology itself is more popular than ever. There are more mobile devices than humans on the planet, and the number of devices is growing more quickly than our population. Not to mention, the average smartphone user checks their phone incessantly throughout the day – an average of 85 times per day in fact.

In reality, apps are NOT dead. Mobile users are still spending a lot of time within apps, and not only on their smartphones. Apps are also popular on many other devices, even TVs.

What has died is an easy opportunity for app developers or brands looking for a mobile connection with consumers. With about 4 million different apps available, mobile users are selective with the limited real estate in memory on their devices. Most use an average of only 26 apps in total. In fact, 70 percent of all app usage is spread among only the top 200 apps.

“You’ll still interface with wearables/robotics and features using apps.”

Current interest has shifted to chatbots as a means to open two-way communication between brands in industries like hospitality and customers, enhancing the significance of hotel apps.

One industry commentator observes, “Apps become ever more important in a smartphone-centric wearables/robotics/voice-controlled/artificial intelligence-dominated world. You’ll still interface with those wearables/robotics and features using apps.”

When Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced the incorporation of bots into popular video and text messaging app Skype, he said, “Intelligence is infused into all of your apps.”

Hotel apps must have obvious value. They must be worth the time it takes to download and engage with them. They should provide a fluid, thoughtful experience that serves the best interests of the end-user by providing them with convenience, benefits, and a voice that is heard by the brand they want to interact with.

A hotel app has great potential to aid in cultivating satisfied, loyal guests if hospitality can figure out how to embrace innovation and prove to guests that this category of apps is designed with their best interest at heart. Features such as Messaging, Mobile Check-In/Out, and Mobile Key are a step in this direction, but it’s up to hoteliers to become more forward thinking in taking advantage of the opportunity that mobile presents to create a much-needed refreshment in the guest experience.

Hotel Technology at Boston Harbor Hotel

Read about this hotel technology love story in the heart of Boston at the iconic Boston Harbor Hotel.

Arching majestically over the Rowes Wharf, the Boston Harbor Hotel is renowned for impeccable service and personalized attention to hotel guests that rivals any other luxury accommodation in the city.

The property boasts a number of different awards in recognition of the high priority placed on guest satisfaction TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Winner, Conde Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards, U.S. News & World Report Best Hotels in the USA, etc). It’s also got the distinguishing credentials of both five stars and four diamonds.

In other words, it’s the embodiment of a love letter to its guests.

Stephen Johnston, Managing Director and General Manager, says, “We listen to our guests a lot. We’ve very engaged as a Five-Star hotel.”

It was an interest in maintaining this high level of guest engagement, and even deepening the connection, that led Boston Harbor Hotel to invest in new hotel technology through a partnership with industry innovator INTELITY. What better way to woo both new and returning travelers who wound up in the hotel’s lobby than with modern touches that facilitate communication, service, and engagement?

“When INTELITY was first sold to me, I liked it because we didn’t have much technology in the hotel, but we knew it was time to introduce some,” Stephen says.

And following the release of a customized hotel app, in addition to the installation of hotel in-room tablets in each of the guest rooms, the Boston Harbor Hotel has already noticed dramatic improvements.

Increased in-room dining revenue, reduced operational costs, and positive guest feedback was only the start of the benefits realized.

Read more about how we helped foster hotel technology love among staff and guests at the Boston Harbor Hotel.

5 Benefits of Mobile Device Management for Hotels

With the BYOD trend in hotels on the rise, hoteliers are facing challenges in meeting the expectations of both guests and staff who are carrying an increasing number of mobile devices. The benefits of mobile are plentiful, but ensuring efficient use throughout an organization can be difficult.

Availability of mobile device management (MDM) to the hospitality industry has brought about improvements in this arena by allowing hotels to take control of the hotel enterprise mobile technology trend.

Mobile device management (MDM) is defined as a solution that allows for “the administration of mobile devices, such as smartphones, tablet computers, laptops, and desktop computers.” It isn’t just a hotel technology trend buzzword. As more hotels see an increase in travelers carrying mobile devices and as hotel rooms become fitted for advanced technology, such as hotel in-room tablets, enterprise mobility tools are going to continue to increase in value to simplify these hotel technology upgrades.

Remote Management of Devices

With more connected devices on your property than staff, MDM solutions assist in monitoring and managing these in a more efficient way. For instance, many hotels are now installing in-room tablets in guest rooms as a way to improve guest service and engagement. Hotel MDM is the best way to easily get these up and running, as well as perform ongoing maintenance. Using MDM in hotels, devices on the network can be remote wiped or have diagnostics run for troubleshooting.

Regulation of Applications

Hotel apps are more popular than ever and providing complimentary access to these on hotel tablets has become extremely popular in the hospitality industry. Using a hotel MDM solution, hotel management can select which apps they want to load or disable on devices across the network to create a superior digital staff and guest experience.

Data Protection and Backup

Data management using a hotel MDM solution can reduce the risk of costly incidents relating to exposure and breach. Hoteliers can use mobile device management to protect data and prevent leaks or wipe data completely from unauthorized user devices.

Expanded Security Features

Security of hotel digital networks and guest data is a top priority for many hoteliers, and there’s been discussion over how to enhance hotel security when it comes to network use, especially from mobile devices. Hotel MDM use can allow for expansion of security measures, such as requiring authentication of all devices and active monitoring of registered devices. It can also allow for tracking the physical location of devices on the network to reduce hardware theft or loss.

Establishing Network Use Policies

Every hotel should have a policy in place regarding the use of any networks, and this policy should apply to staff and guests alike. A mobile device management solution can assist in enforcing and solidifying this policy by consolidating regulation in the hands of those overseeing the network. Useful features include defining WiFi settings, setting compliance guidelines, and optimizing the function of the network overall.

Read the first part of our series on Mobile Device Management for Hotels and Hospitality for more on the specific uses of this hotel technology trend.

7 Travel Safety Precautions to Follow While Traveling Abroad

Here are some travel safety tips you should be mindful of when you’re on the road away from home.

The thought of exploring a foreign nation is exciting. When traveling abroad, you get to experience new cultures, tempting food, new languages, and much more of the elements that make up our beautiful planet. Although traveling internationally is safe in most of the parts, it is still advisable to keep in mind these travel safety tips for peace of mind. Let’s check them out:

Travel insurance is a must

If you’ve planned an overseas vacation then you must get travel insurance. It protects your precious belongings, cover the medical expenses and help you out in case if you get stuck in a problem. In short, insurance is mandatory for people going to a foreign country.

Scan all the important documents

Just imagine a situation wherein you’ve lost all your important papers, your passport, your flight ticket etc. Horrible enough! That’s why you should have backup copies of your all important papers, including digital versions of them, just in case you happen to misplace them during your joyous trip.

Don’t carry everything important in a single bag

It might be tempting to keep traveler’s checks, credit cards, cash, passport etc in a small bag or wallet. But don’t make this common travel mistake. Keep your checks, IDs, cards, and cash in a hotel room safe or locked compartment. Separate identifying items and cash into different places. This safety tip could increase your peace of mind even while you’re away from your hotel room and exploring the area.

Before and after you stay

Do some homework before booking a hotel or any lodging options haphazardly. Choosing to stay in self-catering studio rooms is a good option as it offers greater flexibility and can easily fit in within your budget. Once you get the right accommodation, lock all valuables in a safe or locker and do not share your room number with anyone. Another thing to keep in mind is the peepholes. Yes, anyone can easily get a quick look of your room through small holes. To avoid this, just put a bandage or small piece of cloth over the peephole of your hotel room door.

Connect with the embassy

Before stepping inside the plane to take off for a new location, acquaint yourself with the designated country’s embassy. The embassy will send you alert messages if any sort of threat takes place in the designated area. In a natural calamity or in the aftermath of a terrorist attack, you’ll want the embassy to know you are still in the area so they can equip you with required help.

Get local

Monitor Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms. Although they don’t provide you genuine details, they’ll alert you to activities in places you need to stay away from. And avoid places with bustling crowds, political gatherings, riots, and protests.

Warily research ground transportation

Research ridesharing and taxi providers that are trustworthy and available without any hassle in the area. Do they accept cash or credit cards only? Is there any emergency number you can call if you get stuck in an emergency? If you’re thinking of using public transportation, check for a good mobile app that can provide you accurate updates about the transportation system in the chosen country or area.

This post was submitted by Lana Marshall, who has worked at Space Apart Hotel for over seven years and has extensive knowledge of both the serviced apartments and the rental studio property market.

 

Tips For A Better Hotel App From: Google Travel

Borrow from Google to create the best hotel app possible.

Google has slowly but steadily been making headway when it comes to the travel industry, with a collection of mobile apps designed to make travel easier. Google Travel is a product capable of serving as a digital travel agent or trip planner and more. It exemplifies the concept of mobile-first as well, due to the heavy use of mobile by travelers.

Here are some takeaways from Google for developing a better hotel app.

Search Filters

Ease of use is key to gaining and keeping users for a hotel app, or really any app at that. Being able to navigate an app without confusion is a major draw, and this should be kept in mind during the hotel app development process.

Google is a master of online search, being the go-to Internet search engine of choice for so long now, and their travel features reflect this. Various search filters can be applied by travelers looking to plan a trip or perform mobile hotel bookings, such as location, price and hotel type. These make it extremely easy for users of Google’s apps to find exactly what they want quickly and efficiently.

Exclusive Deals

What better reason could there be for guests to use a hotel app than saving money? It adds incentive to taking the time to download and retain an app if there are exclusives offered through it that can’t be found on a company’s website or through a third party.

To note, Google even sends notifications to travelers about when great prices are available for their desired flights and hotels. The additional convenience shows true thoughtfulness for improving the user experience, and hospitality should be all about exceptional guest experience, no matter the channel or method through which it’s delivered. Convenience and financial discounts will no doubt increase the appeal and result in a better hotel app.

Complete Travel Experience Management

Google Travel features don’t focus solely on mobile hotel booking. Travelers can also access flight information, maps and directions, suggestions for building a vacation itinerary, and more.

A hotel app can be more useful if it presents multi-dimensional features that focus on the full travel experience, even before or after a guest’s stay. Incorporating useful information, such as flight information, maps, social media access, and hotel concierge recommendations for exploring the local area, will delight hotel app users and give them a reason to open a hotel app time and time again.

Constant Innovation

If there’s one inspiring takeaway from Google Travel (or Google in general) it’s the value of constant innovation. In order to develop the best hotel app, it’s necessary to experiment and take risks, not just follow the crowd. Thinking outside the box and jumping on leading trends can be difficult to justify, but being a hotel technology leader can pay off in the long run with modern guests who appreciate the conveniences afforded by digital amenities.

 

Hotel Technology Tips: Generating Revenue with a Hotel App

The benefits of hotel mobile apps are a hot debate throughout the industry. A sampling of those benefits includes Improved guest satisfaction, more efficient staff interactions, and better communication with guests, all of which increase a hotel’s competitive advantage. Yet, while leveraging mobile to result in increasing guest satisfaction and operational efficiency is a top priority when implementing mobile technology in hotels, increasing revenue through the use of mobile apps can also be a major part of justifying the investment. When used correctly, hotel apps can maximize revenue in order to provide significant ROI.

Mobile Booking

This is the most straightforward method to generate revenue from mobile apps. Allowing for mobile hotel room reservations is a primary source where hotels can create profit. With hotel bookings on smartphones rising (including 65 percent of same-day bookings), mobile reservations are a lucrative and sensible feature to enable when seeking to generate revenue through a hospitality app.

And booking room reservations don’t have to be the end of it. Hoteliers can also generate revenue by allowing for in-app booking for other hotel amenities, such as hotel spa services, golf or sports activities, restaurant reservations, in-room dining, and more.

Mobile Ads and Marketing

The benefit of guests utilizing a hotel app is that it gives hoteliers the opportunity to market directly to guests through a channel that is always on and always in the palm of a guest’s hand.

Push notifications give hoteliers an increased reach to market their services to their guests and the ability to provide consistent reminders and prompts to app users. Implementing advertisements into a hotel app is also an effective and clever way to generate revenue when done in a way that isn’t disruptive to the user experience. Hoteliers can boost revenue through pay-per-click or banner ads embedded in mobile apps.

Enabling guests to act on these prompts and mobile ads through in-app purchasing features can be very lucrative, as 76 percent of profits from apps stem from these types of purchases.

Third-Party Partnerships

Hotels can take advantage of partnering with local companies to maximize available space through a mobile app. Allowing these partners to seamlessly advertise on the hotel app interface for a fee can generate revenue for you and provide guests with information about relevant services, such as local boutiques. It’s important to select partners that enhance the existing brand image or provide significant benefit to a hotel’s most common demographic of guests, though.

As the landscape of the hospitality industry is shifting to focus more on mobile technology in response to guests who are demanding more sophisticated digital engagement during travel, developing apps that are functional on multiple levels and provide an ROI that offsets investment is growing more important as well.

For more information about how to generate revenue with a hotel app and determine the ROI of hospitality mobile technology, explore our mobile solutions or schedule a demo with a member of our team.

 

Marketing a Hotel App: Hilton Waikoloa Village

It might seem obvious, but there’s no point to developing a hotel’s mobile app, or any hotel technology if no one uses it. It can be a challenge to get people to download an app, though, with so many competing for their time and attention.

We recently had a talk with Leanne Pletcher, Director of Marketing Communications at Hilton Waikoloa Village in Hawaii, about successfully marketing a hotel app. The property’s app is currently one of the top 5 most downloaded out of all INTELITY-created hotel apps. In the following interview, Leanne explained how the hotel has found success in getting guests to download and engage through the app.

Did you have a strategy laid out in advance of launching the hotel’s mobile app at your property, or did you develop one as you went along?

Several years ago we determined that we needed an app for the resort. Part of this determination was based on what our competition was already doing. We had unique goals since our resort property is truly a destination in itself with an incredible range of services and activities.

For our guests, we have found that maps and directions are very important because our property is on 62 acres and is approximately one mile from one end to the other. With the app, we wanted to increase guest convenience by including restaurant menus, and contacts for our various services including Kohala Spa and the Luau. We recently added links to OpenTable for dining reservations at our two signature restaurants, KPC and Imari. The support of Hilton Hotels and Resorts helped, as well.

Which social media channels are the hotel active on and how have these been useful in increasing guest usage of the hotel’s mobile app?

We’re very active on a wide variety of social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube and Google+. We had the honor of being selected as the top property for social media engagement in 2013 out of all the Hilton Hotels and Resorts properties in the Americas. We do post about our INTELTY app from time-to-time to give our followers more options for resort information. Our social media posts tend to focus more on our location, events, activities and captivating imagery. We find that our posts get a lot of engagement that way.

What has the guest response to the app been? Have you faced any apprehension from guests who are resistant to digital amenities, and how have you addressed that?

It’s been very positive from the guests who do communicate with us, and we do find most of our guests are pretty tech-savvy. We haven’t really encountered any resistance.

I think in general the app is great to have as another option for our guests to learn about what is available on property. When a guest is checking in, our challenge is presenting our wide range of services and activities without taking too much time. It helps to expedite the check-in process if we can direct the “tech-savvy” guest to the hotel app, as well as our website for information.

Our concierge team finds the app to be a useful tool to share with guests, as well. The app gives us another tool to educate our guests, in addition to our website, the social media postings, and printed activities calendars that are placed in all the guest rooms. We actually do see a number of guests on property checking their smartphones for information, too.

Has your Marketing team been involved in the design and image of the hotel app? How does the content you select impact guest usage?

Our Marketing team did take the lead on developing and managing the hotel’s mobile app. We focused on using high-quality images because that generates more interest in going from screen to screen, as well as increases the chances that the guest will want to experience what they see. We have found this leads to increased revenue, too. For example, the guest may see the KPC restaurant sunset shot on the app and decide they really need to make a reservation through the OpenTable link.

We also link our app content to the website content so that everything can be updated at once. Because the resort is continually updating events, menus, and activities this feature has been extremely helpful in ensuring consistent information among all of our technical communications.

How would you say the app has changed your hotel’s relationship with guests or the ability to market to them?

The app has been extremely instrumental as another resort information resource for our guests. It has introduced our resort team and our guests to the possibilities of technology. We realize that there is still potential for more growth within the app, too.

It’s not an interactive app at this time. It’s purely informational. Eventually, we’d like to have it interactive to help with the guest experience. The way we look at it is it’s another point of digital content, and it supplements our website and our social media presence for our guests. We’re able to keep consistency with all of our digital marketing platforms.

Overall, what have you learned since the hotel app’s launch and what would you recommend to other hotels looking to market a new mobile app?

Probably the most important aspect is to keep it up-to-date and consistent. Guests will notice if the website has a different message or content than the app, which will raise questions.

Also, keeping the various channels linked to each other and making sure everything is working together ensures that our guests get reliable and helpful information. We’ve learned, too, that our guests really do use this as a tool and find it very resourceful. And we certainly enjoy working with INTELITY.