Sunday 22 August 2010

Hotel websits on Smartphones need rethinking

"Most regular websites look horrible on a Smartphone." So says Chris Atkinson, Founder at MobiSphere.

I agree, and we have the proof of that in the video below. This is particularly true for the Hotel and Tourism Operator's website,  where bookings are complex and include many dimensions: Terms and meal plans, upgrades and add-ons,  different rates by season, special deals and promotions,  different rate plans, family plans and packages.

Over the last few years, hotel reservation and booking forms have become wider as developers and application designers put all information on a single screen. The Smartphone just can not handle it. It's time to get back to basics.

Many hotel and tourism owners think the scrunched-up websites on the Smartphone are cute and perfectly adequate. It amazed me that a 700-pixel screen of our site,, did look cute and is readable on a tiny screen. But on closer inspection, it is not so smart and it is rather like the video below, in some cases.

It is inevitable; these sites must be re-designed
in order to provide the service. The re-design must be from the ground up. Smartphone and mobile users have a different mindset and they want pertinent facts in precise form. Content must be concise.

There is no doubt that the Smartphone mobile market it going to be vast.
(see whyMobile.PDF). 

eMarketers' research show that both travelers and tourism operators have plans for the Smartphone market.

The question is how best to get there

 eBusiness Strategies found that 40 percent of Smartphone owners say they’ve done at least some of their leisure travel research on their mobile device; 25 percent say they have booked travel through their phones.  Smartphone use is accelerating at a rapid pace as consumers and business users shift from desktop PCs, and  laptops, to iPhones, iPads, Androids, BlackBerrys and other platforms.

A critical choice is: should you do applications for every phone, or a build a better web experience?

Applications are great. They can be fully optimised for the Smartphone to take advantage of internal features on every phone.

The problem is, of course, that you have to develop an app for each phone (operating system at least).

At the same time, travelers have to download the app, and they have to find it!. App stores have a long way to go to replace web search. Apps are proprietary and closed. They are becoming lost in a crowded app store that has not been designed for search and retrieval. As apps get more numerous, the store seems more inadequate.

When I talk to smartphone users, they all use their phones to browse the web. Many say they browse far more that they look for apps. So that tells me it is the right place to start. I think the apps idea is not mature for travel shopping, compared to the number of users who still browse the net. My view is that web browsing will not go away and it is the right place to start. App stores will not, in my view, replace the search engine, as people will want to find information and services that are free and readily available on the net.

Well, it's a view in hindsight! We initially created a Smartphone application for travel shopping (see our PR It was pretty straight forward and works well. Several hundred travelers have downloaded it already and we are committed to apps as a long-term strategic solution for tourism.  But our next initiatives will be in mobile websites and web-based services for Smartphone mobile website.

We are soon to introduce new applications to help hotels and tourism operators get their own hotel websites and marketing information Smartphone-ready. Websites are ready now with a longer-term strategy to build the same content and new services into apps. It's a comprehensive Smartphone Tourism Marketing strategy; building for the immediate and for the long-term. 

But not all agree with the rational of building smart websites. Apple says that iPhone users don't want search; they want apps. I agree that they certainly don't want to search for regular sites. But the app idea undermines the concept of the web as an open and comprehensive service.

My vision of the future is that people want openness, and if there are great apps, they will want it on their own Smartphone. The best way to deliver that openness is via the Internet. It is where we will see the next burst of innovation as the net morphs into the Smartphone, bringing the entire universe of information to your pocket as quick and easy and as versatile as an app.

Watch out for our next blog, where we outline AXSES Smartphone Strategy for Hotels and Tourism Owners. Direct sales straight to a pocket for you!

HubPage on this topic | arcRes travel Platform | 

Just off the Press: Aug 22 2010 - Eye for Travel EU study finds  "consumers were almost 3 times as likely to access travel services via a browser, compared to an application".
With the ongoing enhancement in Smartphones and development of the web and more Smartphone-ready websites, we expect that consumers will continue to prefer browsing over using an app to shop for travel.