It seems that with every new release, smartphones are changing everything. They have had a significant impact on the travel industry over the last few years, and this trend doesn’t seem to be stopping. A lot of the larger hotel chains have developed stand alone apps to try and gain better control over the guest experience. These apps are typically targeted to members of their loyalty programs or frequent travelers, but Google has a new product that might make them obsolete and level the playing field for independent hotels.
Google Now is Improving Travel
Available with the latest versions of Google’s Android OS and through the Google Search app for the iPhone, Google Now is changing the way users are interacting with their smartphones. Using what they call Google Cards, Google Now displays a custom feed of information tailored specifically to the user. Day to day use provides local weather reports, traffic conditions, where you parked your car and new stories relevant to your interests. It pulls this data from the usage of your phone, GPS data and emails.
Specifically when traveling, Google Now can be incredibly useful. By scanning your emails, Google Now will automate a travel itinerary and update it on the fly. It knows what time your flights leave and will alert you when it’s time to check in, leave for the airport and even if there are any delays. Google Now even generates your Boarding Passes as a scannable QR code. Once you arrive and check in, Google Now can display local attractions, nearby restaurants and other areas of interest. Now has become not only your itinerary, but your travel guide as well.
So how can hoteliers use these services to their advantage? Every hotel should make sure their emails are coded to trigger Google Now Cards. Contact your booking engine provider to see if their coding is compatible. If you’re doing your own coding, Google has provided a basic tutorial to help get started. Encoding your outgoing emails to be captured by Google Now will only impact those currently using the service, others will see your emails normally. Once set up the Card can display a photo of your hotel, a Click to Call button, Reservation number, and Check In/Out times. As mobile Check In features become more robust they will be integrated into Now as well. Most of the larger OTAs are already coding their emails to work with Now, so it’s important for hoteliers to match and exceed that experience as services grow.