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Expedia leverages mobile to bridge direct communication between hoteliers, guests

Expedia is fueling direct dialogues between travelers and hoteliers by enabling guests to reach out directly to properties via the PartnerCentral mobile application to request additional services or amenities, resulting in more personalized stays.

The new functionality, which resides on the mobile and desktop-accessible Expedia PartnerCentral Conversations platform, allows individuals to initiate conversations with hotel staff by asking a question or indicating a special request when booking a room. Conversely, hoteliers can open the lines of communication with their customers, facilitating opportunities to create meaningful first impressions and provide more information regarding on-site amenities.

?Expedia PartnerCentral Conversations is another tool available for our partners to use either from the desktop or with the Expedia PartnerCentral app,? said Kate Long, director of product marketing at Expedia, Bellevue, WA. ?The EPC App is a great way for hotel partners to manage their business with Expedia anytime, anywhere.  

?EPC Conversations, together with real-time feedback and guest reviews, provide our partners with a platform for improving guest engagement and experience from their mobile device.?

Bridging the gap
Expedia is encouraging direct conversations to take place between hotel staff and customers, and is differentiating itself from other mobile request services by being brand-agnostic.

Several major hotel brands, including Marriott International, have introduced their own standalone mobile platforms that allow guests to text in real-time with employees to ask questions or request amenities before and during their stay (see story).

Expedia believes that consumers will enjoy more personalized stays as a result of the PartnerCentral app. Additionally, PartnerCentral differs from standalone platforms by promoting two-way communication, instead of enabling only guests to begin conversations.

Hoteliers will be able to use the service to confirm and manage submitted special requests, provide customers with information about on-site amenities such as spas and restaurants, enhance experiences by offering check-in details and facilitate better first impressions.

Employees can greet new guests with a custom welcome message on mobile, and alert them when their rooms are ready.

This new way of bolstering consumer engagement will likely have an effect on properties? bottom lines as well.

According to a recent Gallup study, guests spend approximately $457 per stay at their most-frequented hotel over the course of a year, while engaged guests? average per-stay amount jumps up to $588.

Disengaged individuals typically spend $403 per stay, showcasing the significant financial difference between hoteliers who make the effort to learn their consumers? needs, and those who do not.

Employees using the PartnerCentral platform may have the opportunity to upsell room upgrades or spa and dining packages when speaking to guests prior to their arrivals.

Expedia?s PartnerCentral Conversations began rolling out to select properties in January, with the service expected to go live for all North American hotels shortly.

Promoting immediate visibility
An employee at the Chicago Westin North hotel admitted that PartnerCentral Conversations makes it easier to acknowledge special requests. When the staff member received a request for a special occasion, she was able to make that particular guest?s stay even more memorable by working in advance to accommodate the situation.

The guest then sent her a thank-you note after the stay was over, promising to return to the hotel in the future.

The real-time feedback tool also offers hoteliers immediate visibility into consumer sentiment by asking guests to offer feedback after the check-in process by answering three simple questions. This way, staff members can ensure they are fulfilling guests? needs while they are still on-site.

Additional PartnerCentral features include quick access to Expedia reviews, as well as the ability for hoteliers to thank travelers for staying at their properties.

A recent study by Expedia underscored how consumers? attachment to smartphones continues into their vacations, with many using mobile devices throughout their trips, providing an opportunity for travel brands to enhance experiences (see story).

?Overall, the goal of Expedia PartnerCentral Conversations is to drive increased guest engagement, improving the guest experience which drives increased loyalty and repeat bookings,? Ms. Long said.