Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

November 10 2015

Why This Hotelier Isn’t Bothering With A Mobile App

By David McMillin
Hotel Service

It’s the three-word phrase that meeting attendees, business travelers and leisure guests read everywhere: download our app!

As professionals power up their smartphones to check email, manage calendars and play games, organizations are constantly launching new mobile apps in the hopes of keeping their customers and members engaged. One hotelier isn’t jumping on the bandwagon, though.
Commune Hotels & Resorts, which owns brands including Thompson, Alila and Joie de Vivre, has opted for a different mobile communication tool: texting. In a partnership with travel tech company CheckMate, Commune is using a personalized communication program that lets guests use SMS to interact with properties. While the program may seem more basic than an app that turns a phone into a key, it appears that basic can equal brilliance. After a four-month test of the service, Commune found that 75 percent of guests engaged with properties via SMS.

While downloading an app isn’t difficult, it
does add one more program to the growing list of icons on a smartphone. Those apps might include some useful tools, but a recent study from comScore shows that most smartphone owners are only using three of them on a regular basis. Commune didn’t want to invest in developing an app that would rarely be open.

“The convenience of not having to download an app for this service reinforces our goal of making life easier, not harder, for our customers,” Niki Leondakis, CEO, Commune Hotels & Resorts, said in
a statement.

SEE ALSO: A New Mobile App Certificate Course

Here’s a look at how some guests used the service:
  • At the Thompson Chicago, a guest alerted the front desk of a barking dog in the room next door. The hotel texted the dog’s owner (and hotel guest) who was away from the hotel, asking for permission to bring the dog downstairs. Problem solved — and the dog received a bonus of some belly rubs.
  • Before a guest checked into the Thompson Miami Beach, she texted the hotel a request for tea and honey to relieve her sore throat. When she arrived, a hot tea kettle was waiting.
  • A guest texted the staff at the Hotel Vitale in San Francisco before she arrived to celebrate her husband’s birthday, and the staff upgraded the couple to a room with a view. They also helped kick off the party with a bottle of the couple’s favorite wine and a birthday cake.

SEE ALSO: How This Major Hotel Brand Is Upgrading Its Mobile App

Could Texting Transform Your Attendee Communications?

I don’t think a texting program can replace a mobile app at a meeting anytime soon. From helping eliminate the costs of printed program books to providing another source of sponsorship revenue to helping facilitate networking opportunities, there’s a reason that mobile apps have overtaken the meetings industry. However, Commune’s program shows that SMS can also provide a meaningful line of communication with your audience. With a group of thousands of attendees, this might not be possible. However, for more intimate groups, this seems like it could be a good tool. Would you ever consider arranging a program that would allow your attendees to text your staff with requests? Or would this type of program create too many on-site headaches? Share your thoughts below in the comments section.

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