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Hospitality and tourism industries have widely adopted information technology to reduce costs, enhance operational efficiency, and most importantly to improve service quality and customer experience. It is a trend to choose to elevate hotel's digital prowess, to enhance their business' growth and profitability. With an ever quickening pace of new technologies, especially mobile applications and communication opportunities, mobile has arrived as a fully viable consumer channel. Mobile services and their associated applications, as practical marketing tools to deliver the right information at the right time to the right customers, can assist the hospitality industry by enhancing the effectiveness of marketing operations and increasing revenue.
M-commerce and Mobile Service
As the appearance of wireless and mobile networks, which enables a huge income from M-commerce, the combination of mobile communication technologies and business activities. At the same time, it creates new opportunities for mobile equipment and services. Mobile phone has been recognised by the world as a basic communications equipment, communication and the transmission of information throughout the various links of business activities. However, the development of mobile commerce is still initial stage. As the inherent characteristic of mobile communications is one mobile phone belongs to one person, the largest advantage of M-commerce is providing personalized service aim at the mobile user directly anytime and anywhere, while personalized messages are the prerequisite and basis of personalized services. So the key of personalization in M-commerce is how to send the most appropriate information to the most appropriate person, through the most appropriate manner, at the most appropriate time.
Clearly, today's mobile phone has become an accepted, essential personal device that has drastically changed people's lifestyles over the past decade (Gibson, 2007). Mobile services possess unique characteristics - Keen and Mackintosh (2001) call them "the mobilisation of knowledge" - when compared to e-commerce, and many statements on an impending m-revolution have, in fact, been triggered by the assumption that mobile services will involve lower barriers and greater benefits in comparison to both e-commerce and traditional commerce. In view of that, the key question is to find some way to assess the value of mobile applications to prospective users, and to gain an understanding of the factors that may delay the penetration of the mobile Internet on a larger scale.
Customer relationship management solutions target this necessity, and mobile business solutions leverage their value on this need (Poslad et al., 2001; Malaka and Zipf, 2000). Mobile services seem to be an apparent choice for travel and tourism as the travelers are on the move, which is the first criterion for mobile services to be relevant. The travel and tourism industry, which is one of the largest and most rapidly expanding industries in the world and one of the significant users of ICT in its operations, will undoubtedly be a significant market place for mobile services. It can be assumed that travelers' and tourists' lives will be enhanced by smart services accessible via mobile devices anywhere and anytime (Ghandour et al,2003).Intelligent software technologies will allow mobile services to be personalized and context-aware to improve travelers' and tourists' experiences. Context-aware mobile services will make a difference as the services and contents adapt to both the environment and to personal interests. Thus it is not too unrealistic to believe that a future competitive edge in the travel and tourism industry may be built around innovative uses of new mobile technology and services.
Applications of mobile information service
As mobile technology continues to advance, find more interesting and useful applications for accessing and transmitting information: people make calls, use short-messaging (SMS) and multimedia services (MMS), take and send pictures, watch TV programs, and receive customized information through mobile phones. More advanced services, such as mobile maps or information searching, are already available, and mobile users, through expanding use, have demonstrated their acceptance of these services (The Pew Internet & American Life Project, 2006). Certainly, people are moving from using traditional telephones, televisions, and personal computers, to using high-speed mobile devices as their new source for information, communication, and entertainment (Lasica, 2007).According to eMarketer, more than 60 percent of customers access their mobile applications when travelling to get maps, directions, restaurants, attractions, access social media and keep in touch with family and friends. As more and more customers use their mobile phones to surf the mobile web, chat with friends and companies on mobile social networks, and purchase products and services, the implications for hospitality industry are huge and the statistics, compelling.
For the hospitality industry, there have been many pioneering uses of mobile applications as industry operators were among the earliest adopters to recognize the design features leading to improved service and self-service applications as well as robust employee assistance capabilities and back office functionality. Such guest-facing applications as hotel room amenity menus, digital food and beverage presentation, detailed wine inventory navigation, and account settlement contributed to the rapid success of T-commerce applications. In addition, monitoring of guest requests and staff responses, goods and services promotions, recipe content and nutritional analysis, e-couponing, and back office flash reports have become part of the lodging and foodservice toolbox. For the hospitality industry, the goal of T-commerce is to apply mobile applications in a way that technology complements service, not replaces it. Hotels, restaurants, bars and private member clubs have become better able to manage a variety of operations via mobile applications.
This world is a mobile world and mobile guest is increasingly demanding. Over the past couple of years, hotels have dealt with guest demands for more bandwidth as online services have consumed massive amounts of bandwidth to the guests. This is bandwidth that most hoteliers are still straggling to monetize, yet have had to increase their spending upon just to stay competitive. Now there is a new challenge on the horizon-mobile applications delivered directly to the guest's smartphone, any mobile handset capable of running an e-mail client, Internet browser and third-party applications that are installed via a PC client or directly downloaded to the handset itself.
Using mobile applications, hospitality can enhance effectiveness and efficiency of their communication channels with customers. According to Rasinger, Fuchs, and Hopken (2007), if consumers' internal memories are insufficient for decision-making, information search activities expand to external information sources. Such external information sources can be obtained through mobile applications, especially for those with continuously changing, personal situations (Kray & Baus, 2003). In this context, mobile technologies are superior to offline- and online-based information because
of better mobility (Hyun, Lee, & Hu, 2009).
At the same time as social media has boomed to become an integral part of a hotel's reputation management, hoteliers shouldn't lose sight of their goal of providing flawless service to their guests. Hotels should remain wary of a costly investment in mobile apps when other forms of guest engagement can be more effective. The social component is really important because guests are looking to social media not to see what you're advertising, but to help them find what they're looking for. It's used to get guests what they want when they want it, so if we don't have an effective way of implementing that with mobility, it has to be integrated.
Mobile reservation applications in the hospitality industry
Most of us are familiar with at least some of the thousands of consumer-focused mobile applications, a fair number of which are targeted at travellers, but there's also a good range of more hospitality-focused offerings. The application user is able to: search hotels by name, city and location; check hotel prices online; review descriptions of the rooms, the location of the property and historical information; call hotels directly to make a booking or to send a reservation request. All leverage the key elements that make these tools so useful, mobile access to data, the ability to do something with it, interaction with other systems and location awareness. Online check-in is becoming more common for hotels, similar to the airlines and just as useful in saving time when you arrive. Some hotels are experimenting with unique check-in codes sent to the phone for the guest to use to open the guestroom door, allowing the guest to by-pass the front desk completely.
According to Rohit Verma et al (2012), with regard to gathering information for a hotel stay, business travelers most often follow their company's recommendation for a hotel, although many of them use search engines or online travel agents to learn more about available hotels. In contrast, recommendations of friends and colleagues are most important to leisure travelers, followed by travel-related websites, search engines, and OTAs. Once the information is gathered, however, travelers of all kinds turn more to such sources as the brand website, OTAs, and TripAdvisor. Late in the decision process, the respondents tended to land on the brand websites or go to an OTA, where they can book their room.
In terms of the currently implemented in OTAs, like Expedia has published some mobile phone applications, the new mobile phone web site provides the more detailed hotel and guest room information, tourists only need one instruction can map from the hotel guide click enter their favorite hotel page. Expedia said that the hotel Expedia applications the built-in GPS function, tourists can use this feature to find nearby hotel, and from the hotel to the reservation search success, tourists need only four steps. In the use of iPhone, Android and all kinds of mobile phones can be flexibly provide specific landscape browsing. Meanwhile, Hotels.com also published iPhone and Android applications, Hotels.com provide the global more than 135 thousand of hotel reservation service translated into 30 languages for travelers. The mobile application of Hotels.com has a personality login "sign - in once" function, the user can check at any time before or future reservation record, no matter whether the cell phone on the data connection. Online hotel booking agency HRS is at the forefront of mobile technology, having launched an application for both BlackBerry and modified its website to fit the iPhone. The application allows business travelers to search for and book rooms at more than 2 30,000 hotels worldwide, but it does a lot more than this. The fact that BlackBerrys have GPS built-in means accommodation can be booked based on a user's current location. Or it can simply pull up a list of available accommodation on arrival at any destination. Once the booking has been made, the traveler transfers the hotel information into their calendar or address book, or can display it on a Google map. In china, like elong.com, qunar.com, ctrip.com and other OTAs also have launched their mobile applications offensive.
In hospitality industry, the world's largest hotel group, InterContinental Hotel group (IHG), is working on a number of mobile applications, including putting InterContinental Concierge websites and videos on iPhones. The idea would be to give travellers mobile access to its full concierge applications, which are currently web-based. Four Seasons also uses various mobile technology applications, including Twitter. The Four Seasons Hampshire uses Twitter to send out news alerts and special offers to followers. In Washington DC, the Four Seasons has a Beta site for an application that allows it to text confirmation and message information directly to a guest through the mobile number stored on their profile, while the Four Seasons Las Vegas sends guests a pre-arrival email on their BlackBerrys the morning of their
reservation to speed up check-in. Once their room is ready, the guest is sent another email advising of this. Best Western already offers a point-of-interest (POI) application to its customers. The technology allows people to import updated POI information, which is constantly changing, into their in-car units. "We've seen exponential increases in hotel reservations made by smartphones, even though their penetration is only about 30 per cent of the population." says Chuck Sullivan, senior vice-president at Hilton Worldwide in McLean, Va. Smart hoteliers are zeroing in on that demographic, as people who make mobile bookings tend to be high value customers. "Our conversion rate on mobile bookings is about 150 per cent higher than for online bookings. These are decisive travellers who are in a hurry and ready to purchase," says Kerry Kennedy, vice-president at Omni Hotels in Dallas. Given the pace of life for handheld reservation seekers, download speed is extremely important in capturing their business. As such, most hotels are building bare-bones mobile websites offering text-based information only, stripping out memory-hogging images and video.
The hospitality industry is well aware that customer ratings have a strong effect on customers' willingness to book a hotel. According to David Atkins(2012), mobile and the data it produces on customer intent provide several unique advantages to hospitality industry. Foremost is the time and location aspect of the mobile channel. Time and location data allows a hospitality marketer to easily distinguish a customer who is looking for a hotel room for today compare to someone who is in the pre-travel research step. It provides very individual and distinct messages to customers who are imaging about a destination, researching a trip or need book a ticket, a room, a car or a meal now based on the distance they are from the marketer's location. The use of mobile applications can provide more effective, efficient and timely communication with customers. Customer relationship management will also benefit from mobile applications by delivering tailored information to specific customers, thus improving the level of satisfaction of existing, repeat customers. Some customers may have special needs, requests, or preferences, and such information can be communicated effectively and efficiently through mobile applications.
According to IBM (IBM Business Consulting Services 2003), the accommodation service providers will be expected to personalize their services with constant precision to each individual customer during the next decade. Today there are very few personally tailored hospitality services that would be attainable in each market segment. But, when certain hospitality services are made available via mobile application, we will be a step closer to personalization, and, furthermore, travelers will be offered new freedoms. Freedom is about choice and value for customers and consumers, but the choice has to translate to values that customers are willing to pay for and that companies can afford to provide. Unfortunately, not many accommodation service providers have currently understood that the mobile hospitality services they offer should be value-adding for the customer. For instance, cramming a hotel website into a WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) format is to misinterpret the possibilities the mobile application is offering and offers no reasonable value to the customer.
Mobile technology solves two major problems for hotel management everywhere: how to keep a roving manager up to date with important information such as the arrival of a VIP, and how to improve guest service through immediate notification of priority tasks to housekeepers and engineers. Its impact has greatly expanded into several other areas, though, especially with the introduction of slate/tablet devices such as the iPad. Applications need to be tailored in different versions for the various users' needs and devices; phones for convenience, slates for practicality. Analysis of hotel data is one obvious example; a regional manager may want to check high-level property statistics and key performance indicators on his or her phone, but it's not a convenient tool for diving far into the data. Slates are a near-ideal format for use by many hotel staff and will surely be adopted in many different departments. They're not as portable as a phone but are portable enough, and their larger screen size makes them much more realistic tools for many purposes. Further, because of their more professional appearance, they make guests less likely to wonder if a staff member is actually working or just checking Facebook on his phone. Some tasks will still be better performed on traditional desktops or laptops. For example, even though revenue management vendors such as RateTiger have released phone versions of its software for managers to adjust room and rate availability wherever they are, they typically don't need to be away from their offices often and the larger screens and higher performance of less-mobile equipment can be a real help. When you need to make the changes, though, it's definitely helpful to be able to do so wherever you are.
"Mobility" is no longer an option but a necessity to survive in an increasingly competitive market. The world is going mobile, hoteliers either need to step up, or risk falling behind their competitors and losing business. Whether or not mobile enablement leads to immediate ROI (Return On Investment), it will be a critical long-term strategy. Mobile applications have benefits in hospitality, including increase employee productivity and efficiency, improve customer service, increase occupancy rate, reduce staff costs via automated processes, and increase over fulfilment accuracy. However, there are several challenges facing the hospitality industry: cost of hardware; security concerns and risk; cost of software, integration, service and support; difficulties in employee training, support and integrating mobile applications into existing infrastructure.
For global hospitality companies, the well-designed and deployed mobile first strategy is the key to success for unit level hotels, brands, ownership groups, real estate companies, CVBs, DMOs, attractions, restaurants and food and beverage operators Mobile applications must interact with mobile customers on a personalised basis using all of these different attributes to create meaningful and personalised offerings means creating automated targeting solutions, multiplatform content distribution systems and developing the back-end platforms that enable rapid analysis and optimization of customer relationship data. These technology initiatives do not come cheap, so start planning a technology roadmap that will yield results and be flexible to serve unidentified needs. There are four guest-centered strategies can help hoteliers understand how and when your customers want to interact with theirs brand, and provide the tools to genuinely engage them, as follows: Optimize your Website for mobile use; Implement a mobile booking engine; Find bookable mobile applications that target your guest niches; Invest in mobile advertising(Robert Post 2010).Hotels need to enhance the productivity of working time by making routines straightforward, time-saving and foreseeable, and to work in such a way that necessary routines for checking-in and checking-out are as simple as possible, making the stay in a hotel as frictionless as possible.