Last updated: 05:02 PM ET, Fri September 30 2016

Are Hotels Lagging Behind Travelers' Tech Needs?

Hotel & Resort Josh Lew September 22, 2016

Are Hotels Lagging Behind Travelers' Tech Needs?

Photo courtesy of PortoBay Hotels & Resorts

Travelers are using hotel apps for everything from booking and remote check-in to researching amenities and even ordering room service. A recent study by the Global Business Travel Association Foundation showed that most travelers are basically satisfied with how their hotel apps perform, but the hospitality industry could be missing opportunities to offer additional features and to create partnerships with tech companies. 

Business travelers taking advantage of hotel apps

The GBTA Foundation, which is the GBTA’s research wing, found that more than 60 percent of business travelers have an app for at least one of the seven major hotel chains in the world. More than half of those surveyed had at least two of the seven on their phone. 

One of the most rapidly developing areas of hospitality tech is mobile check-in. This is something that more business travelers are interested in. One-fourth of those surveyed by GBTA said that they used mobile check-in during their last business trip. This number could have been higher, but keyless entry systems, which could further streamline the check-in process, are not yet universal in the industry. 

Hotels shouldn't lose sight of the fundamentals

Monica Sanchez, GBTA Foundation director of research, said that hotels are doing well when it comes to app development and addressing the tech needs of guests, but they shouldn’t lose sight of the fundamentals. 

“Hotels have room to expand the capabilities of their mobile app as well as promote increased awareness of those capabilities as the interest is there. In the future, hotels could invest in innovative new technologies, but should also continue to focus on improving existing amenities, especially Wi-Fi as that remains most important for business travelers.”

Read More: GBTA Forecasts Global Business Travel Spend to Reach $1.6 Trillion by 2020  

Sanchez could be referencing one piece of data from the survey, which found that about two-thirds of business travelers would change their booking practices and book directly through a hotel’s app or website if it would earn them free high-speed wireless internet access. Only 16 percent of the survey takers said that they were given such a perk for booking directly. 

Business travelers also said they would like hotels to add features like in-room chargers for their devices and more electrical outlets and USB ports. 

What's next? 

Younger business travelers also said that they would like to have access to streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu from their in-room TV. The demand for streaming could lead to some sort of partnership between hotel chains and streaming services that could be beneficial to both parties. 

This kind of partnership has worked in the airline industry. JetBlue showcases Amazon Instant Video as part of its IFE offering. Fliers can get it for free as long as they sign up for a trial from Amazon Prime. The same kind of lead generating deal (or perhaps an ad-supported version of streaming service) could bring an extra income stream to the hospitality industry. 

One of the more interesting responses to the survey came from high-frequency travelers. In the age of concern for privacy and criticism of mass data collection, frequent road warriors said that they would like hotel chains to maintain a guest profile for them so that they can personalize their stay without having to make specific requests each time they check in. 

To their credit, hotels have done a lot to develop their apps and bring in new features like mobile check-in. It remains to be seen if the industry can keep moving forward with this kind of development and also keep improving in fundamental areas like making basic connectivity easier for guests.