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Beyond mobile booking: The rise of the smart hotel

  • Lanier Norville By

Mobile bookings are on the rise, according to a recent TripAdvisor survey. Nearly half of hoteliers have a mobile booking offering. But for hoteliers who are implementing mobile technology, mobile booking represents only the first breeze in a potential financial windfall.

U.S. mobile travel sales, which include travel purchases on both tablets and smartphones, totaled more than $16 billion in 2013, and will increase another 60 percent this year, according to a recent eMarketer study. In the near future, most major hotels will need to offer mobile booking options to capture an increasing share of the market. But hoteliers shouldn’t overlook opportunities to integrate mobile devices into the everyday operations of their businesses. Innovative hotels are using mobile technology to streamline operations and wow guests throughout their stays, from arrival through check out.

From the moment guests arrive, mobile devices can help immerse them in a cutting-edge sensory experience. A guest who is greeted with mobile check-in options or digital menus displayed on tablets or smart TVs will be assured they have chosen a savvy hotel equipped with the latest modern conveniences.

With mobile devices in hand, concierges can complete the process with a few taps of the finger – no check-in desk required. At busy times, check-in staff bandwidth can be extended by equipping additional concierges with tablets and having them circulate in the lobby.

Hoteliers can display special offers on digital menus so guests can see what the hotel has to offer the moment they walk through the doors. When guests arrive in their rooms (perhaps unlocked with a mobile device using Bluetooth or NFC technology), in-room tablets can be used to control the temperature, lights and television. Guests can also use tablets to access a digital guest services directory, a modern innovation that can save hotels thousands in printing costs. Some hotels are even using tablets as digital menus for requesting room or turndown service or a valet, so guests never have to pick up the phone. By integrating apps into existing systems, guest orders can be automatically entered into the order system at the hotel restaurant or guest services desk, saving time and freeing hotel staff to perform other tasks.

Behind the scenes, housekeeping staff can keep track of inventory by logging data on their tablets. Some hotels have even added small barcodes to linens, which housekeepers then scan with scanner-equipped mobile devices. Other staff members can access the information from elsewhere in the hotel in real time. With a mobile housekeeping app, or through a secure connection to an existing system, repair requests can be entered as soon as a housekeeper notices an issue, and the relevant maintenance staff member can be alerted instantly via his or her mobile device, helping ensure rapid guest room turnover.

While the benefits of mobility in hospitality are clear, IT may worry that keeping track of all those devices and keeping customer information secure will cause major headaches. Enterprise mobility management (EMM) solutions can provide IT with a way to track mobile assets in real time, so that they are alerted as soon as an in-room device leaves the premises. For mobile devices used to collect or transmit customer payment data, implementing EMM can immediately meet many of the requirements of industry standards such as PCI by providing sound mobile security. EMM can also help keep other proprietary information safe from data breaches and provide IT with a platform for furthering the innovation of their organizations. Hotel IT departments can use AirWatch Mobile Application Management to build secure apps and create customized app catalogs.

Mobile devices also can be used behind the scenes to speed employee training and task management. Through an EMM platform such as AirWatch, IT can delegate certain functions to managers, such as the ability to update their teams’ devices with the latest documents, provide digital training materials and manage workflows.

Check back next week for stories of how AirWatch’s most innovative hospitality customers have made mobile technology central to their business strategies.

Lanier Norville

Lanier Norville

Lanier Norville has been writing and editing for online publications for six years. Before joining AirWatch, she was the editor of three medical technology magazines including the award-winning publication TechNation.

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