Booking Here and Now – How Late is Last Minute?
By Roland Wildberg ~ Weekly Exclusive - Views On The Latest Trends
Thursday, 4th April 2013
Exclusive Feature: Everybody who does the hotel booking shortly before departure, was so far considered messy, at most a little cool, but mobile booking does change the scene dramatical: who is cool nowadays, books between lobby and reception.

We are for sure no good trip planner: mostly a 'ping' from our Outlook Reminder startles us, indicating only three hours before check-in on the fact, that we should now finally tuck a toothbrush into the laptop bag. And what about a hotel?

Exactly - one hour before departure to the airport we normally start looking frantically for our tonight's room at a good hotel-reservation system (Which one? We will tell that only if the concerned group finally sends us a consulting contract!).

Much later, when in a relaxed mood, we usually tend to laugh at ourselves, and tell the circle of close friends and empty bottles of this hectic and pretty unprofessional last-minute search. Many consider us hopelessly messy, sure. And maybe (hopefully!) also a little cool.

But according to the criteria of the new traveller, we are hopelessly old fashioned. And, furthermore, extremely uncool. Because those guys do not book hours before leaving home, but minutes, even seconds before arriving at the final destination. With a little help by their smartphones. This you can of course call no longer last minute – the industry prefers Very Last Minute. Very sophisticated.

Another buzz word is Same Day Booking. That sounds even more harmless. A really true term for this booking on the run must still be found. What about Here and Now booking? This strikes: Strictly speaking, with one of those snappy new apps you can book between Hotel revolving door and reception desk.

And we are sure that some especially cool contemporaries will do so. "Three years ago, less than 3% has been booked via smartphones – today, there are 10 to 11%, the business grows to a quarter of a year," says for example Connor O'Connor, CEO of Hot Hotels, a real time booking portal (which by the way does not have many hotels in their portfolio until now) whom we met first at ITB Berlin 2013. According to him, during the same measuring period, the PC bookings reduced. For people like O'Connor, this is gorgeous indeed.

Hotel yield manager the new booking behaviour does make rather nervous. O'Connor adds: "Many hoteliers make literally effort, that their clients never ever learn to book this new way!" As always when someone's trying to buck the trend, also this attempt may be hopeless on the long term: Human's love it the simple way and smart phones are replacing the PC significantly.

"Desktop search goes down, all the statistics say this - no wonder, with a modern smart phone you have an entire computer in your pocket." Great booking portals have already smelled the rat and provide the immediate room by their own apps, for example "Hotel Tonight" or "Hotel now".

What is an even more teasing aspect: The here and now hotel rooms are cheaper, because they are to be released in the short term only to the special nomads audience. So the customers will be allured with discounts of up to 70 percent – according to marketing . For hoteliers it is discouraging that CRM becomes even harder through this, because the (lowest) price seems to be the only remaining issue that drives mobile travellers. So it seems true: "We are discouraging hoteliers frequently", adds O'Connor with a slightly sardonic smile.

Of course, due to technical limitations the here and now booking has downsides: the small screen allows very little add-ons, which means that extensive contents about the hotel offer and its quality are difficult to accommodate, especially images are limited. So importantly, particularly in this booking sector there is an urgent need for relevant reviews, indicating reliably whether the accomodation is really one in which the traveller would like to sleep.

Not to mention advertising - a big fly in the ointment of all economic mobile fans.

It does not at all make sense to close your eyes and wait until the app fashion may end – it will not end. In close future, it is consistently feasible to book exclusivly through mobile devices. Countless practical apps will allow us to book not only the hotel, while the taxi driver unload our suitcases - that this one has free rooms, the "around me" function has revealed already when heading to the property... We book even a museum or expo ticket and sort all those virtual tickets thanks to Passbook (iPhone) or Passwallett (Android) in our individual follow-up file.

Thanks to the smart phones we do have to chat with no one any more during our next trip, not even with any locals around to find the way back: the closest taxi nearby is called simply and automatically by clicking on "Mytaxi", and that brings us back to our hotel. Or to the airport. Or to the train station. Strange: Travelling without any contacts. Obviously very modern. Even cool? "Look darling, I did my vacation without talking to anybody! Bet you are speachless, aren't you?"

You can pull through that consistently – like the Asian traveller, whom we recently observed buying at a snack point in a major European city's central station: She shot a piece of pastry with her Smartphone and showed the photo to the seller – wow, the here-and-now-order was ready. However, the bill became not cheaper by this funky way of ordering. But we will not wonder if there is already an app under construction for this kind of very last minute bakery bookings...

This is strictly an exclusive feature, reprints of this article in any shape or form without prior written approval from 4Hoteliers.com is not permitted.

Roland Wildberg is Travel Writer and Correspondent based in Berlin, Germany. He started as an Editor for the National daily 'Die Welt' (tourism section), later on switched to a freelanced career and nowadays mainly publishes on the Web. Observing the hospitality industry always has fascinated him as it looks like the perfect combination of sleeping and writing – work-live-balance as its best.

Roland also heads the annual 4Hoteliers ITB Berlin news micro-site journalist and video/photo teams. For more info:

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