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Why digital apps should become a permanent fixture in the travel industry’s ‘new normal’

By Andy Boland 1st September 2020
open suitcase

In the wake of the global coronavirus crisis, many hotels, resorts and campsites, have shifted to using mobile apps to manage the customer experience in a way that minimises human contact. From contactless check-in to ordering food to monitoring your hotel room’s account, these apps help holidaymakers maintain social distancing and travel more safely.

The travel industry was brought largely to a standstill when the virus appeared at the beginning of 2020. Although travel corridors are now reopening, Covid-19 is still having a huge impact on holiday bookings. There is a strong incentive for holiday providers to invest in technology that protects the consumer in the short-term but also strengthens and improves the longer-term customer experience.

Claire Thorpe, Director at SimpleClick, explains the value of developing a high-quality mobile app to enhance and safeguard guests’ travel experiences:

“How quickly hotels, campsites and resorts bounce back from the impact of the coronavirus crisis will depend, to some extent, on how safe customers feel about returning to stay. The introduction of contactless technology, such as a customer app, will help travel providers adapt to the ‘new normal’ and improve consumer confidence."

“The value of a customer-focused app goes beyond the immediate reaction to the crisis. Apps can aid, simplify and even enhance the customer’s experience of their holiday. Many hoteliers were already adopting technology such as digital room keys and a digital check-in process - coronavirus is simply a catalyst for more travel companies to rapidly adopt digital solutions for health and safety purposes. Although this will hopefully attract customers in the short-term, travel providers have a choice between using ‘quick fix’ technology as a response to the crisis or investing in a bespoke digital solution that will reinvent the customer experience. For example, an app designed for a campsite with contactless check-in abilities could include a map of the site that remotely directs campers to their allocated pitch."

“Obviously, a branded app will improve awareness of your company brand, which can encourage repeat custom. It also gives travel providers the opportunity to promote other services, properties or campsites within their portfolio. Additionally, digital apps have been shown to be effective in increasing customer spending, due to ease of use and the ability to promote special offers using push notifications.”

SimpleClick previously designed a tailored app for client Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines. Therefore, we understand the value this can bring to the guest experience. Launched in July 2019, the app provides information such as detailed itineraries, restaurant menus, activity schedules and access to cabin accounts. Similar to many travel apps developed in response to Covid-19, on-shore excursion bookings can be arranged remotely within the app.

As well as streamlining the cruise experience, the app creates a more environmentally friendly holiday. Paperwork such as maps, menus and excursion listings are available digitally rather than in hard copy. Most app functions are available offline or with limited Wi-Fi, meaning guests don’t need to be online to use it. The Fred. Olsen Cruise Line app is a great example of how technology can improve guest experiences.

When thinking about mobile apps in the context of Covid-19, improved health and safety is obviously the most important outcome. Features such as contactless food and drink ordering capability, a digital check-in service and remote booking for excursions, tours and spa treatments are essential. Some existing apps even allow guests to reserve a socially-distanced seat by the hotel pool. Ultimately, any functionality that reduces human-to-human contact is important for guests’ safety.

That being said, it’s worth looking beyond the coronavirus crisis to ways in which an app can revolutionise the customer experience:

  • Explore how an app can make your business more sustainable, for example by cutting down on the use of paper or sending notifications encouraging environmentally friendly behaviour from guests.
  • Consider an app that functions ‘off-grid’ for guests that don’t want to be on the internet on holiday. This is essential for camping and glamping sites that don’t provide WiFi to guests or are located in regions with poor mobile reception.
  • A translatable app would remove language barriers for foreign visitors.
  • Including a bespoke concierge service for guests would add value to their holiday experience.

Developing a tailored mobile app for your travel business increases safety for customers while upgrading the guest experience and streamlining customer services. The coronavirus crisis has undoubtedly sped up the development of apps in the travel industry, but there is still scope to innovate the industry with a bespoke offering unique to your business.

For more information on how SimpleClick can support you in developing a mobile app for your travel business, Call us on 0844 736 2747 or email us.