InterContinental Banks on Apps to Drive Millions of Dollars in Hotel Bookings

The InterContinental Hotels Group has been experimenting with mobile for years, but it wasn’t until recently that it started to pay off.

The hotel group, which includes such properties as the Holiday Inn, Hotel Indigo and Crowne Plaza brands, said it recorded $10 million in mobile revenues in April, jumping from only $1 million in the same period a year earlier.

Michael Menis, InterContinental Group’s VP of Global Interactive Marketing, said the growth is not a surprise, since they’ve been anticipating it for awhile.

“I think we are at an interesting time related to mobile. We are seeing the convergence of consumer adoption and platforms.” But, he said, “it’s still in its infancy.”

InterContinental, which does all of its own mobile development in-house, hopes to build off what it has learned over the past year by launching seven new iPhone applications — one for each of its properties.

In 2010, it released a Priority Club Rewards app, which catered to its most loyal users, for iPhone and Android. That application, which is only accessible through a free membership, has generated a bulk of the revenues.

Here are some of the lessons InterContinental has learned:

  • A full 65 percent of bookings occur within one day of the actual visit (despite offering no last-minute incentives on the application).
  • Roughly half of users book reservations from the app, whereas half use the mobile browser.
  • Of the people who use the browser, about half use it to find a phone number and make a call, while the more frequent bookers use the apps.
  • The rewards app, launched last year, has been downloaded more than 200,000 times on iPhone and 60,000 times on Android.
  • In just over a year, the hotel group has seen a nearly 1,000 percent increase in room night bookings from mobile devices, and in the first five months of the year, it has already surpassed last year’s total nights booked from mobile.

With the introduction of several branded apps for each hotel property, the company hopes to generate even more revenues, and also create more ways for guests to connect with the various properties, which include InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, Hotel Indigo, Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, Holiday Inn Hotels and Resorts, Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites.

The new applications will allow users to find and book hotel rooms, check rates and view or cancel reservations. They will also emphasize finding last-minute rooms by quickly identifying a person’s location to offer nearby locations and available rooms.

InterContinental is not the only one to discover that customers are frequently scrambling to book a last-minute reservation by phone. In fact, several companies have recently launched mobile initiatives with similar ambitions.

Other features will be rolled out over time to each app that fits with the individual hotel’s brand.

Bill Keen, InterContinental Group’s Director of Mobile Solutions, said, for example, that the Crowne Plaza typically serves business customers, so the application may offer tips on how to be more productive, whereas the Holiday Inn brand is more about family.

One specific feature could also use location-based services. Keen said it could use geofencing to identify when the guest is getting close to the hotel and push out a coupon for dinner, preempting the person from stopping to get something to eat on the way there.

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