According to Euromonitor International, in 2009, Asia/Pacific had 2.1 billion mobile phone subscriptions, or 46% of the world’s total subscriptions. China had the largest number of mobile phone subscriptions in Asia/Pacific and indeed in the world, with 707 million subscribers in 2009, making up 33.6% of mobile subscriptions in the region. It was followed by India (21.4% of subscriptions in Asia/Pacific), Indonesia (8.6%), Japan (5.4%), and Pakistan (5.2%). The vast majority (91.1% in 2009) of mobile phone subscriptions in the region were in emerging and developing economies.
With these facts in mind, HotelNewsNow.com explores what hotel companies in Asia are doing to address the growing demand for mobile applications and what the future holds.
Mandarin Oriental’s VP of e-commerce Christoph Oberli shared the following new trends in the development of applications or tools to facilitate travellers’ planning and booking processes:
• Easy access to relevant—and specifically to mobile-rendered (brief, to the point)—content.
• Integration of various travel tools and applications.
• Seamless experience between desk top and mobile presentations; whilst screen sizes are smaller, it no longer means presentations cannot be well-branded, or luxurious.
• Stay-through services, check-in/-out, access to hotel services.
Wotif.com said its customers use its mobile site most often for quick transactions such as last-minute booking or to access limited time sales. Usually, they have a good idea of their destination and preferred hotels and use the mobile site to browse comparable hotels for a specific location and pick the best bargain. In fact, the average lead time for bookings on Wotif’s mobile site is a few days while it’s approximately two weeks for its standard website.
“Our mobile site also serves as a source of information for travellers when needed,” said Matthew Varley, Wotif.com’s executive GM–Asia. “Some customers who have already booked their stays also access our site while travelling to the hotel, to check the property’s address and details. Other travellers whose plans have changed, need our help or who need to amend their bookings look on the mobile site for the contact details of our 24-hour customer service. Those who need more extensive research to choose their destinations, or who are unclear on which area they want to stay in, tend to stick to using their desktop or laptop computer.”
Over the years, there have been issues that have plagued the development of this channel. For instance, the industry has called for establishment of standards so development is easier. Also, the network providers need to reduce data charges.
Christoph Oberli, VP, e-commerce, Mandarin Oriental
Oberli said, “I think a lot of progress has been made in the industry to standardize development language so that interfaces can be developed faster; however, there is a lot more room for improvement, if we speak specially about the mobile industry. It is commonly known that we are just beginning to scratch the surface and tremendous growth will occur in the near future, which naturally means that a lot of improvements and development will happen. I do agree that the cost of usage is still an issue, but at the same time, usage of Wi-Fi will further increase and I think somewhere in the future, as mobile becomes more and more a commodity (it) will have an effect on overall cost.”
The decision-makers are looking at ways to calculate return on investment.
In the case of Wotif.com, all bookings made over mobile phones are tracked for easy analysis of booking drop-outs and which stage of the booking process those drop-outs occur and also tracked thereafter to improve on those stages.
“We also record how many visits and bookings we receive, in order to track ROI, and the numbers are positive,” Varley said. “We expect the number of people buying travel through their mobile phones will increase with the update of smartphones across the world. Toward that end, we are working on developing a scalable mobile site that can be utilised across multiple mobile platforms.”
Going forward, the industry in this region is expecting novel initiatives as well.
Taj Hotels and Resorts said special offers, accessing loyalty programmes and checking reward points and various widgets to enhance the mobile customer experience are planned and under development.
There are also a few mobile apps being considered by the group: one around planning weddings and another focused on making travel more convenient and fun, said Namrita Sehgal, director of Internet marketing, Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces.