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What's Your Mobile Strategy?

Not many guests are booking rooms with their Smartphones now, but that's going to change soon.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Caryn Eve Murray
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Just like many guests who may be rushing to get to their destinations, hotel websites are increasingly on the move too. In fact, when it comes to being able to log on while getting a move on, portability and hospitality are quickly becoming synonymous.

But having your hotel show up on an iPhone, Blackberry or Droid screen – or being visible on another Smartphone or tablet – doesn’t necessarily require the construction of a mobile website, a solely committed, separate mobile presence. Such sites tend to be expensive and, in many instances, constructing a site such as m.yourhotel.com is often not even necessary, said Kent Lewis, president of Anvil Media Inc., an Oregon-based search engine marketing company.

Building m.yourhotel.com isn’t just a case of reinventing the wheel on a smaller scale but, he said, “it’s often hard to justify,” at least not unless a hotel operator is utilizing the site for a half-dozen or more properties.

After determining that your guests and prospective guests would indeed benefit from a mobile site, consider making your main website “mobile-friendly” instead – if it isn’t already, he said. Mobile-friendly sites are designed through a coding technique that allows the display resolution to fit just about any screen size. This eliminates the need for so-called web sniffers, which detect use of a mobile browser and redirect visitors to the dedicated mobile site, such as m.yourhotel.com.

Keeping a main site mobile-friendly also means avoiding reliance on Flash animation and video, which not only takes time to load – even in a conventional browser – but often is not supported by Smartphone browsers.

“Just build the site attractively and you can avoid a lot of problems,” he said.

Although a relatively small percentage of guests are currently booking through a mobile platform, it’s wise to plan ahead since these numbers are certain to grow, Lewis said. “You want to be smart about your use of images and so forth; you don’t want to be too heavy on images that are hard to see on a small screen size, or that really reduce your download time,” Lewis said.

The site should still contain the basics: address, phone number, driving directions and a map. “And you want to talk about your accommodations, rates and amenities in a way that is quick to view,” he said. Another bit of advice from Lewis: Start doing your research now on who has plans for a mobile-compliant booking engine – or which engines are already up and running.

Having an on-the-go online presence isn’t just about mobile-friendly websites, however; savvy hotel operators will also consider keeping in touch via SMS, sending texts to customers’ Smartphones. “You know how you can get those reminders of status updates when your flight is delayed?” he said. “Hotels have platforms that offer guests texts on deals on rates and so forth.”

And there is one other way, said Lewis, to get quality screen time on a Smartphone: through mobile applications, or apps, specific to a hotel brand.

“Most hotels are not going to need a dedicated mobile app,” said Lewis. “But one good way around that is to sponsor an application, such as weather. If there is snow and you are up in Aspen, you can do mobile advertising and be a sponsor on that mobile app. That is one way you can be relevant.”
Caryn Eve Murray
Associate Editor
Hotel Interactive® Editorial Division

Bio: Caryn Eve Murray is a freelance writer and an assistant editor on the news desk at Newsday on Long Island. During her tenure as a business writer for New York Newsday, she covered the city's small business community for which she won the Distinguished Business Reporting Award of Excellence from the New York Newspaper Publishers Association. She has also been a feature columnist and writer and has ...
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