Do Small, Independent Hotels Need Their Own Apps?
At the end of last year during our awards' week, the 2012 "must-have hotel amenity" was an app. For something that's only been around a few years, apps have already come a long way. We've gone from apps that barely help you book to ones that enhance your stay, allowing you to order room service, check in, and read recommendations for the area. Naturally, it would be great if all hotels had a useful app for its guests, right?
Well, that's a little easier said than done, which is why to this day we really only see apps from the big chain hotels. An app seems inexpensive to the consumer (since it's usually free or only a few dollars), but did you know these apps can cost anywhere from $50,000 to $150,000 to develop? Consider an app like Marriott's, which includes almost 4,000 properties along with photos and city guides.
Additionally, the apps take a long time to develop. According to Intelity, a hospitality software solution company, a smartphone or tablet app can take up to 12 weeks to create. Now, imagine you are a bed and breakfast or small, independently-owned hotel. Is this worth your time and money?
We spoke with the owner of one such establishment (who asked to remain anonymous) who is currently debating whether or not to move forward with mobile development. He raised a good point. We as guests know we want them as an amenity, but the question remains about how much of a "must" these apps become in the future. Sure, you know you should throw some soap on the sink, but should you invest in an app? If it's something that's going to bring in more business or prevent current business from leaving, then yes, of course. But what if the app is just another trivial amenity, something like an ironing board and iron, that really has no impact on whether or not someone stays?
The Internet was an amenity for a while. Now it's essentially required by guests in most hotels around the world (when was the last time you stayed somewhere that didn't offer Internet?). Will the hotel app remain something that smaller hotels can get by without, or is the future of travel going to require them to pony up and hop on board?
What do you think? Is an app a "must," or just a perk at this point? Let us know your thoughts on Facebook, Twitter, or in the comments below.