Experts speak of a "leapfrog," for the phenomenon that can currently be observed in China. Because with one enormous leap, the "Middle Kingdom" has jumped to the pinnacle of the mobile world. In 2016, almost one in every two Chinese online users will book travel on a mobile device. This is the forecast of British travel research company Phocuswright. In 2011, only one percent booked on mobile devices. Thus China is the first country in the world where the mobile trend has more or less skipped the online trend completely, before the online trend could really take hold at all.
The momentum in China is also being reflected at HRS. "We have several corporate customers here who book a huge amount on mobile devices," says Dirk Schmidt, Director of Sales for Germany, Austria and Switzerland at HRS. A trend which shows the general development at HRS. Whereas in 2012 only 6 percent of all hotel bookings came in from mobile devices, this share had already reached 12 percent by 2013 and had already hit 20 percent at the end of 2014. And although no final figures have been analysed for 2015 yet, one thing is already clear: The upward trend is continuing. According to Schmidt, this development is also being propelled by the demands of Generation Y, who grew up in a digital world and have been familiar with smartphones, fast internet and social media from their earliest childhood. Their share of the working population is already at 30 percent today, and surveys indicate it will reach 50 percent by 2020, and 75 percent by 2030. The sheer force of this demographic change will compel companies to do a rethink. Schmidt is convinced: "Anyone who still confronts their travellers here with cumbersome corporate booking tools and denies them adequate mobile support will simply provoke these people to circumvent travel guidelines with booking channels they prefer for strategic reasons."
Bookings are made differently on a smartphone
However, it will probably not enough for online travel providers to simply transfer the solutions they have crafted for desktops onto mobile devices, as Phocuswright analyst Bob Offutt warns. "The mobile world needs its own solutions," in the expert's conviction. Because needs and user behaviour differ markedly from those of stationary users. This is shown, for example, by the HRS statistic that hotels are booked at significantly shorter notice and for shorter periods on mobile devices. Three-quarters of all smartphone bookings are received by HRS for the same or the next day, and predominantly for only one night. The heaviest booking day is Monday. In contrast, tablet users are most likely to book on Sundays, and generally more than 40 days in advance. Thus smartphone users are more likely to be business travellers, and tablet users are more likely to be on private trips.
Mobile bookings are cheaper
HRS has reacted to the special mobile needs of corporate customers, who have to book at short notice because of unforeseen trips or postponed appointments, for example, with its own corporate app . This permits hotel searches using preprogrammed company locations which are then displayed on maps. The individual corporate rates are available, as are the predefined payment and settlement procedures. Branch offices, departments and invoice addresses are pre-set, and the booking is automatically linked to the smartphone calendar. Thus travellers can book with a maximum of comfort, travel managers retain a complete overview of all transactions and the accounts department benefits from perfect invoice data. Another aspect is also likely to be of interest to those responsible for travel: "The average price in all star categories is lower than for non-mobile bookings," HRS expert Dirk Schmidt explains.
This is probably due in no small measure to the "HRS Mobile Special Tariff", which has been available since 2014 – a special rate which is bookable exclusively via the HRS app and through which hotels market their vacant rooms to last-minute bookers. This can give corporate customers direct discounts of up to 30 percent.
The number of hotels offering the Mobile Special Tariff tripled in the second half of 2014 alone, Schmidt says, and booking volume doubled in the same period. As expected, the "mobile avant-garde" is most active in the big cities. In Schmidt's conviction, the mobile channel is a particularly large benefit on business trips, because when appointments change unexpectedly, business travellers can use it to book accommodation quickly and conveniently. Alongside this, further technological solutions are already pushing onto the mobile world stage and jockeying for top position there. These include wearables, like for example the Apple Watch or the networked car. Apple Watch users can already use many of the features of the HRS app, for example to view their active bookings, the most important hotel information and also the geographic location of a hotel.