Hotels Need to Cash In On Convenience

Amusement parks have figured out how to use technology to skip lines, make F&B reservations and purchase in-the-moment upgrades, but hoteliers have yet to harness the revenue-driving power of tech-driven convenience.

At the recent 2016 HTNG North American Conference, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment Chief Information Officer Darla Morse described how that company, which is moving into the world of hotels and resorts, created an app that helps monetize the very idea of convenience at its amusement parks.

The app is helpful for consumers in many ways; it stores guests’ passes, gives guests a dynamic map to help get around the park, tracks where they parked their car and gives a schedule of events and shows. But the focus from a business perspective seems pretty clear: it makes it easier for visitors to spend money on the company’s properties.

Using geolocation, the app offers many upselling opportunities, including skipping lines, ordering food and making food-and-beverage reservations while attending a show. The app also allows guests to buy enhanced experiences like behind-the-scenes tours and animal encounters. Not coincidentally, the app conveniently stores guest payment information to take as many steps as possible out of the purchasing process.

And SeaWorld isn’t alone in this endeavor. Similar offerings are available at Disneyland.

As novel as this all sounds, the first thought that popped into my head as I was listening was “why aren’t more hotels figuring out ways to do this?” And by “this” I mean aligning the desire for convenience and instant gratification with guests’ connection to their devices and turning it into revenue.

I don’t often root for companies to find new ways to take my money. But this is an instance where I’d be lining up for just that.

Hotels are making strides in terms of technology-assisted convenience, at least in a broad sense. Keyless entry via brand apps and mobile check-in are positive steps forward. But are the efforts being made to properly drive revenue from this shift? And aren’t there more opportunities for convenience-based revenue?

I travel a bit for work, and while I recognize I might not be the average traveler in every way, I can tell you there are ways hotels could be making more money off me if they’d let me use my own device and streamline the process.

While covering conferences, I pretty predictably spend some time near the end of the day holed up in my room typing furiously to get through writing the next day’s coverage. If I had the ability, in that moment, to grab my phone, scroll through some selections and order a meal in-app that would show up at my door while causing minimal interruption to my work, I’d be all over that. And I’d be willing to pay a premium for that kind of service.

There are some companies that are taking a run at this very simple concept: The Aloft brand’s emoji room service program would be a good example. But at the same time, this shouldn’t be the sole territory of the most forward-thinking brands when it comes to tech, and widespread adoption shouldn’t necessarily rely on things like emojis, which seems gimmicky compared to a more straightforward, widespread adoption of this concept.

That’s the first thing that occurs to me, but I’m sure that’s not the only instance that crafty and tech-savvy hotel companies could anticipate my needs and capitalize on that to generate revenue. And even if it was a bit more expensive, I’d be more apt to stay at the hotel that I knew could streamline my life in my moment of need.

This should serve as a reminder for hoteliers that the need for instant gratification and mobile thinking shouldn’t be confined to the beginning of the process. I don’t check out from using my smartphone after booking the hotel or even after unlocking my door.

I know I’m not alone in that regard, and that represents a real opportunity for some real cash.

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Founded by two travel and technology professionals with years of experience in Asia, Representasia specialises in sales & marketing representation throughout Southeast Asia for travel/hospitality technology providers and travel-related startups, as well as providing marketing consultancy services for hotels and travel businesses in the region.

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