Online travel bookings? Mobile is the way to go

Online travel bookings? Mobile is the way to go

SINGAPORE - More tourism players here are turning to technology to serve travellers who are increasingly using mobile devices to plan and book their trips.

Starwood Asia Pacific Hotels & Resorts - which operates brands such as Westin, Sheraton, and W Hotels - plans to roll out a "mobile concierge" at its hotels here in the coming months.

Guests can chat with the concierge using their smartphones to check room reservations or ask about nearby attractions, and get instant replies.

"In this day and age, e-mail is actually kind of slow. Mobile chat is instant," said Starwood's social media and digital marketing manager, Mr Lawrence Kuok.

Accor, which has hotel brands such as Novotel, Sofitel and Ibis Hotel in its portfolio, allows customers to make hotel bookings directly through its apps, which come in 15 languages.

"The number (of people making mobile bookings) is growing exponentially," said Mr Jens Uwe Parkitny, Accor's Asia-Pacific vice-president of digital marketing and distribution, on the sidelines of the Web In Travel conference at the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre.

But the challenge for the industry is to come up with apps that are easy for customers to use, said Ms Kathleen Tan, chief executive of AirAsiaExpedia. "It's not just about selling a hotel room, it's integrating a travel experience," she added.

An app launched by Expedia last year allows customers to book hotels and flights directly. It tracks flights, sends notifications on flight delays and reminds hotel guests about checkout times.

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