The role of the smartphone in helping to redefine the passenger experience cannot be underestimated, and touches almost every aspect of the travel process, whether through app-based booking, mobile boarding passes, airport wayfinding, or inflight entertainment consumption.
Hilton Worldwide is itself embracing mobile technology to ensure that the end-to-end journey, and the hotel experience in particular, is as simple and seamless as possible for travellers. It has made a significant investment in exploring how smartphones can positively impact the guest experience, and the results are impressive. As well as enabling guests to make bookings via their smartphone, members of the Hilton HHonors rewards programme can check-in and choose their exact room from digital floor plans, and customise their stay by purchasing their upgrades and making special requests for items to be delivered to their room, all using their mobile device. There are also plans to enable guests to check-out using their personal device, and they will even be able to use their smartphone as their room key at the majority of Hilton hotels by 2016.
“The future of the travel industry unquestionably is a connected one,” explained Josh Weiss, Hilton Worldwide’s VP Brand and Guest Technology. “At Hilton, we’re investing in and delivering on a more mobile future with our recently redesigned Hilton HHonors app. With the launch of an industry-first digital check-in and room selection, we are changing how guests engage with our brand by empowering them to dream, book, stay, check-out and follow up with us right from their smartphone.”
Importantly, he also recognises the value of collaborating with other key stakeholders in the travel chain to ensure that the benefits extend beyond the walls of the hotel. “There are a number of opportunities for digital collaboration between the airport, airline and hotel industries – including leveraging iBeacons and other location services and capabilities to push relevant information to travellers,” he commented. “One example of where we already see this alignment is with Hilton’s paid search strategy. By showing nearby hotels to customers affected by a specific flight cancellation, we make their experience easier and also drive business to our properties.”
He continued: “The reality is that connectivity between various parts of our lives is becoming the expectation. This isn’t just about being able to manage my entire trip conveniently from whatever device I choose, but also having consistent, convenient, location-aware access to relevant entertainment, communications, fitness, news and information, and pretty much everything else.”
Hilton’s approach to its smartphone-based strategy has common elements with airports’ and airlines’ moves towards passenger empowerment through mobile technology. “The check-in and room selection tools we recently launched provide guests with comparable capabilities to the mobile experience offered by the aviation industry,” he said.
A ‘remote control’ throughout the travel process
Looking further ahead, Weiss explained that there are far more opportunities to be exploited through mobile technology, suggesting even that “we’re moving towards a future where smartphones and other mobile devices will become guests’ remote controls throughout their entire travel experience”.
At the hotel, this could mean enabling guests to prioritise their television channels, connect with the concierge in real-time, or access on-property amenities and events using their smartphone.
What is abundantly clear is that the end-to-end travel experience can be truly enhanced and redefined through technology and collaboration. “Looking ahead, there will be many differences in how we bring all of this to life for our guests in the hospitality industry, but across the board this technology is rooted in delivering a seamless and easy travel experience,” Weiss concluded.