We’ve all heard the boiling frog experiment. You know the one: If a frog is placed in a pot of boiling water, it will jump out. But if that same cold-blooded amphibian is placed in a pot of lukewarm water that is slowly brought to a boil, his body won’t notice the subtle change in temperature and … well … frog legs for everyone!
From a scientific context, the experiment is more or less hogwash. But from a metaphorical standpoint, the deadly predicament facing our soon-to-be appetizer provides an apt lens through which to view the mobile movement.
There’s no doubt that “mobile” has become a foundation of e-commerce in the hotel industry. Heck, we’ve been writing about the movement since we launched HotelNewsNow.com nearly four years ago.
Don’t let the smile on this guy fool you. His demise is near.
Odds are you’re probably sick of hearing about it. “We know, we know,” you must be thinking. “We’ve got to build better mobile websites and offer guests easy-to-use booking platforms.”
But I’m here to tell you that if you’re still just thinking about doing those things, you might be too late.
The water is boiling, folks. And if you haven’t jumped out of the dark ages and embraced mobile head on yet, you’re likely to become a succulent first-course for your hungry competitors.
Exhibit A: HITEC
The show was absolutely buzzing this year with innovative platforms and tools and services that circled almost entirely around mobile—whether via smartphones or tablets. As my colleague Jason Q. Freed observed Thursday in a blog, “I’d venture to guess that 60% of the exhibitors at HITEC use the iPad platform to deliver their product or service.”
HITEC’s a fantastic bellwether for the future of tech in the hotel industry. While not every product being hocked on the bustling show floor will gain momentum, the rows and rows of booths and displays offer a veritable looking glass into the future. A mere peak reveals that mobile is inextricably weaved into nearly every product and service.
Exhibit B: Data
New research from the ridiculously smart brain trust at Atmosphere Research Group found that nearly 40% of U.S. smartphone users said they will book a hotel stay using a mobile device during the next year.
The group’s president and co-founder, Jeffrey Breen, expounds on those numbers in a blog, in which he offers three great tips to build a better mobile booking experience. One of his underlying themes: Get out of the customers way. If you have someone who wants to give you money, make that process as easy and painless as possible.
La Quinta Inns & Suites made strides recently with the launch of their “LQ-Instant Hold” feature in an update to their mobile app. The service allows guests to search and hold a room using only their mobile number, thus bypassing the often clumsy and tedious task of entering credit card data on those ridiculously small smartphone keypads.
Exhibit C: Guests
I’m not going to assume I know your guests better than you; I’ll just confirm what you already know they’re thinking.
Guests want fast, easy-to-use mobile accessibility! Just look in your lobby. How many of those folks have their faces locked in a stupefied trance as they stare into their phones? Catch them where they’re at.
In closing, I’ll point back to Atmosphere’s Breen, who so articulately wrote:
“Real consumers are spending real money booking travel through smartphones, and this is just the beginning. Whether or not mobile bookings will rival or surpass web bookings, mobile needs to be treated as a first-class citizen while planning strategic and (information technology) investment priorities. For a growing portion of your customers, your mobile experience will become their primary customer experience. Embrace it and own it.”
In last week’s version of my “Checking Out” blog I offered a compromise between the hotel industry and the American Association of People with Disabilities over the hotly contested issue of pool lifts.
I suggested the use of portable pool lifts, which, as I wrote, are “less intrusive, less expensive and, most importantly, get the job done.”
Shortly after the blog ran, a rep from the AAPD contacted me to ask if Mark Perriello, president and CEO of the association, could write a rebuttal. We’re all for the open exchange of ideas here at HotelNewsNow.com, however critical, provided it’s done in a civil and respectful manner. Thus, I give you part of Perriello’s response unedited:
Your statement that portable lifts are a reasonable compromise is inaccurate. Portable lifts do not provide equal access to pools. If they did, over 200 people in wheelchairs, along with members of the larger disability community, would not have protested at the AH&LA headquarters.
The fact is, 22 years after the ADA passed, the community of people with disabilities has changed. We are better educated, have better jobs, and more disposable income. While that progress isn’t true for many in the community, one thing is true for all of us - We will define equal, not government bureaucrats at the DOJ, not high paid industry lobbyists, and not backwards thinking hotel owners. We know which businesses are doing their utmost to include us, and we know when we are being asked to accept something less than everyone else. I find it difficult to understand why anyone would think that we would show this passion about the issue if it didn’t actually matter.
It matters. Fixed lifts provide people with disabilities the same access to facilities as other customers. They’re available whenever a pool is open and are guaranteed to be placed where they are safe—where the water is at the proper depth for use. To use a portable lift, a person must locate staff, to find, inspect, and install it. The staff person on duty might not know how to ensure safe set-up, presenting risks of injury and liability that do not exist with regard to permanent lifts. This simply does not constitute equal service for customers who are paying equally for all of a hotel’s amenities.
The hotel industry, using its money and influence to roll-back decades-old, civil rights protections for over fifty-four million Americans with disabilities, isn’t “common-sense”, nor does it reflect any desire for a reasonable “compromise”.
Two quick points before I close the book on the topic.
First, I still maintain that portable pool lifts can provide equal access when used properly. Perriello’s concerns should be duly noted, however. For them to work, staff must be easily accessible and adequately trained to install and use them in a safe and timely manner.
Second, you would be wise to note the passion of his petition. Just as the AH&LA represents the interests of many of you, the AADP represents the interests of a considerable group of would-be travelers, as well.
Perriello is correct. This issue does matter. And as I wrote last week, owners shouldn’t think of pool lifts and other ADA requirements as a thorn in their side; they should be viewed as an opportunity to better serve guests and distinguish your business among the competitors.
Now on to the usual goodies …
Travel note of the week
Made my first every trip to Baltimore this week for the HSMAI’s Revenue Optimization Conference, which is held in conjunction with HITEC. My only previous exposure to the city came through watching the Indians play the Orioles at Camden Yards on TV, episodes of “The Wire” and watching my Cleveland Browns compete in the same division as one particularly nauseating NFL franchise. Baltimore, in reality, was a bustling, wonderful place—the inner harbor area in particular. I stayed at the Sheraton Baltimore City Center, which featured an exceptionally competent front-desk staff who were able to quickly check in a swell of guests without making any of us feel as though we were cattle headed out to pasture. It’s rare a hotel staff finds that delicate balance between speed and service.
Stat of the week
For the past two months, group ADR in the U.S. hotel industry has surpassed group ADR for the 2007 boom year. While the industry still has not clawed its way back to the 2008 peak, it’s definitely headed in the right direction. (Kudos to STR’s Steve Hood who dug out this little nugget, which he expounds upon in “US hotels hit major performance milestones.” STR, by the way, is the parent company of HotelNewsNow.com.
Quote of the week
“If you’re out of rate parity, the franchisor will fine you $75 to $150. On the second offense, they take you off of the (central reservations system). They take you off the CRS and send lawyers after you. After you acknowledge you’ve been wrong, they will reinstate you for $5,000. That’s how the franchisors are enforcing rate parity.”
—Max Starkov, president and CEO at Hospitality eBusiness Strategies, discussing rate parity in “Does rate parity limit revenue managers?”
Starkov and others shared some really revealing facets of rate parity that opened my eyes. It seems more revenue managers than not view the practice as a hindrance. And if the market performance continues to gain traction as we head into contract negotiations, some hoteliers might move away from the practice entirely.
Comment of the week
“Whether religious or not, i personally don't believe these quotes have any business in the workplace. If you want to have them in your personal at home email, no problem. Your employer should not have to tell you that this is inappropriate however. Business is business, and whether we know the religious status of the recieved (sic) party is irrelevant. You never want to place anything in an email that could possibly alienate or create any negativity of any kind. With emails, you already have a tricky ambiguous state where humor or seriousness sometimes are misread. Many emails that were completely innocent have been recieved (sic) negatively by others. Ending with an automatic "Have a Great Day" or some sort of positive quote would be fine, but there is no place for political or religious views in your workplace email.”
—Commenter “The Idey” concurring with HotelNewsNow.com columnist Celeste R. Yeager in “Are religious quotes in email too far?”
Email Patrick Mayock or find him on Twitter.
The opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the opinions of HotelNewsNow.com or its parent company, Smith Travel Research and its affiliated companies. Bloggers published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.