As with so many things in life, the travel and hospitality industries were forever changed by the internet and portable technology. Technology has irrevocably altered the way people plan and experience travel. Today,the connected traveler can access hotels, airlines, travel blogs, guide books, and maps all from a single device. They can live chat with customer service agents rather than pick up the phone and call. They can book their entire vacation from one app or website. They can tell a hotel — and other travelers — what they really think of their stay using a third-party website, such as TripAdvisor.
With the connected travelers freedom and accessibility comes the expectation that the technological aspects of the trip should be seamless, convenient, and user-friendly. Consider these statistics:
- Forty (40) percent of consumers will leave a hotel website if it isn’t mobile-friendly. [Source: Hospitality Technology]
- Sixty-two (62) percent of hotel guests want to use their mobile devices to order amenities and services. [Source: Statista]
- Forty-six (46) percent of Millennial travelers say the ability to check in and check out of a hotel using their mobile device would motivate them to return. [Source: Grant Thornton International]
- More than 30 percent of travelers want the ability to instant message a hotel. [Source: Hotels.com]
Hospitality Then and Now
Planning travel wasn’t always as easy as it is today. Before computers, the internet, and mobile technology became mainstream, travelers had to rely on the telephone to communicate with airlines and hotels. (Or, in the case of booking airfare, go directly to a travel agent or one of the airline’s ticket offices.)
Today, travelers have access to:
- Hotel and airline aggregators, such as Expedia, Travelocity, Skyscanner, and Kayak;
- Transportation and mapping apps, such as Google Maps, Citymapper, and Uber;
- Language apps, such as Google Translate and Duolingo; and
- Digital city guides, such as the Time Out and Lonely Planet apps.
There is very little need to call anyone for anything relating to the travel experience now. Thanks to technology, the connected traveler has just about everything they’ll need while they’re on the road — and all of it can be accessed at their fingertips. The mobile phone has become such a fixture of the travel experience that people would rather bring their device on a trip than their toothbrush, deodorant, and driver’s licenses. Today’s guest wants to be able to check in and out, access their room, and communicate with hotel staff using their mobile device.
Connected Travelers and Technology Use
The connected traveler love to share their experiences when they’re on the road, but capturing photos and video of one’s trip isn’t the number one use of the mobile phone during travel. Neither is searching for maps or landmark information. That honor goes to email and messaging. The connected traveler more often use their mobile devices to text while on the road than they do to book travel, look up directions, and find tourist information.
Even more curious is the fact that 35 percent of travelers use their mobile devices whilst abroad more often than they do at home — and more than half of travelers say they’d feel lost if they didn’t have their devices with them on vacation.
Mobile technology is indispensable to today’s traveler. Many brands are starting to catch up with this trend, offering the connected traveler a convenient way to interact with staff via live chat or texting. Some are even experimenting with AI and chatbots. Text allows the connected traveler to communicate on their own terms, at times that are convenient for them. After all, who wants to listen to hold music for 45 minutes while they wait for service?
And if the connected traveler can get the service they want from retailers through live chat, why should it not also be so at hotels? There is a reason texting and live chat are so successful in customer service environments. Here are a few more stats to consider:
- Text messaging is the most widely-used mobile app, with 97 percent of smartphone users texting at least once over the course of a month. [Source: Pew Research Center]
- At least 31 percent of smartphone users say they would rather receive a text than a call. [Source: Pew Research Center]
- Text messages have an open rate of 98 percent, versus only 20 percent for emails. [Source: Mobile Marketing Watch]