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Mobile Technology Paving Way for Future Growth

Travellers are now, more than ever before, hyper-connected to their mobile devices, even on the move. This in turn provides the travel and hospitality players a golden opportunity to capitalise on the ease of access and instant gratification which can lead to more revenue generation. Akansha Pandey reports.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016, 11:01 Hrs  [IST]

India is sitting on the cusp of a giant technological revolution and nearly everyone from toddlers to grandparents has embraced the switch from point-and-click to touch and- swipe. The country has grown to around 400 million internet users and is likely to cross 500 million this year. Going forward, the NASSCOM report on the ‘The Future of Internet in India’ suggests that India’s internet users will grow two fold to 730 million by 2020 and 7 out of 10 new users will emerge from the rural areas. Out of the total internet user base, The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) reported that the wireless or mobile subscriber base has increased by 0.19% from 1,033.16 million at the end of May 2016 to 1,035.12 million in June 2016.

The use of technology at all customer touchpoints is trending. In 2016, the percentage of passengers who checked-in online and used a mobile boarding pass rather than a printed one increased from 69% in 2015 to 71%, as per International Air Transport Association (IATA). The smart phone is getting even more integral to everyone's lives and decisions are frequently online content driven, seeking advice and opinions from online websites and applications. From exploration of options and choice to customer reviews and satisfaction, technology is gradually becoming the centre of client-consumer interactions.

However, despite offering an abundance of opportunities for personalisation, endorsement and loyalty, investment in technology by hoteliers is still inadequate, highlights HVS. Even today, the use of mobile technology such as smart phones present ample opportunities for hoteliers to connect with consumers and streamline operations, but it is still grossly under-utilised.

A mobile phone is the number one travel accessory today, with twice as many people preferring to travel with their device than their loved ones, highlights Mobile is a great way for hotels to target not just Millennials and Baby Boomers but the technologically evolving Gen Xers as well. The ability to quickly request a service from a mobile device and have it added to their bill leading to more on-site requests and purchases, is a major opportunity all hoteliers should embrace. Not only does it equate to a higher degree of guest satisfaction, it is also a way for hotels to generate more revenue.

Innovating with Technology

Mobile technology can make life more convenient by easy management of the receipt of hotel invoices, easy routing of guest folios to expense applications, check-in, check-out, ordering services and more. This convenience on mobile applications is a significant opportunity for the industry to encourage repeat visits among travellers. Realising the same, growing number of players in the hospitality domain are innovating with the mobile technology platform to speed up faster decision-making, increase bookings, up-selling, creating a personalised experience and collecting preference data to capitalise further. To name a few, reverse bidding hotel booking platform, is also noticing 60% of the traffic through mobile devices, increasing at 50% month on month. In total, 35% of actual hotel bookings are taking place on mobile app, informed Simran Sial, Co-founder, Seeing the trending mobile technology and immense opportunities attached to it, we are also motivating our hotel partners to go mobile, he added.

As employee delight leads to enhanced customer satisfaction, AccorHotels is investing EUR 225 million into a digital plan that will not only augment every part of the customer’s journey but also improve the service experience of the staff, owners, franchisees and partners, asserts Nilesh Patel, Director of IT, AccorHotels India. enjoys over 170 million online visits per year and our guests make one booking every two seconds online. Given our significant focus on mobile technologies and the substantial investment on our mobile app, we can confidently say that mobile technology is an important contributor towards achieving this noteworthy digital growth, he said.

Marriott International is also investing in a wide range of solutions that create immediate and personal engagement. The company is rolling out many tech-driven amenities, including the ability to skip the front desk at check-in, order room service via a mobile app and log in to Netflix from the hotel-room television. Kumar Shubham, Director of Sales, Courtyard by Marriott, Gurugram, adds, “The digital entry feature is in the pilot stage right now which will enable accessing the hotel room using the smartphone in India in near future. Mobile dining is also being designed to order food by the mobile device at Marriott hotels.”

Mobile and internet access is phenomenally changing consumer behaviour. Hoteliers need to look at real-time technology solutions that will help them stay updated on changing consumer dynamics and leverage the same to remain competitive. “The convenience of researching about hotels and making reservation through mobile booking apps is changing the distribution scenario of the hospitality industry. Hoteliers not only need to distribute inventory across high performing demand generators, they also need to ensure that they are maximising the revenue opportunity by selling even their last minute availability,” stresses Nitin Srivastava, Director - Sales and Marketing, Clarks Inn Group of Hotels.

Trend & Future

According to a recent survey conducted by a leading travel portal, as many as one third of travellers from India are booking holidays on their mobile phones. The mobile uptake is higher among business travellers with almost 40% of them making travel arrangements including bookings via mobile while on the move in India. The survey further states that most Indian travellers decide on the go and are well in tune with the latest technology. Owing this and many other factors, hotel occupancy in India also surpassed 60% for the first time in four years in 2014-15, according to HVS.

As OTAs double down on hotel distribution, they are also investing heavily in mobile offerings, pursuing a growing user base with broader product offerings and a better user experience. India's total mobile bookings (OTAs and suppliers combined) are projected to hit USD 3.2 billion by 2017, with OTAs accounting for the vast majority of the figure.

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