There were a lot of happenings at this week’s La Quinta Global Business Conference in New Orleans. La Quinta touted several impressive numbers during its annual gathering. Its system-wide revenue grew 10 percent in 2011. Its rooms sold increased 7 percent. Its RevPAR gained 8 percent, and occupancy 5 percent. Perhaps its biggest announcement came with the introduction of its expansion into Colombia. Heck, the company even took time out to break a new world record for human mattress dominos with the help of Simmons Bedding Company. (Simmons donated the mattresses to help needy residents of New Orleans afterward.)
That all makes for a lofty presentation—and I’m not evening getting started on an opening act that featured company executives rapping to an “LQ-ized” version of Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger.” But not to be overlooked is its work to find an easier way for consumers to utilize mobile booking technology. What it has come up with is very promising.
From a branding perspective, it’s called LQ Instant Hold, a technology that allows users to instantly hold hotel room reservations at La Quinta hotels by simply typing in their phone number to the brand’s mobile website. That’s it. There is no credit card information to enter. No multiple fields of information to complete. For anyone who has purchased anything via a smartphone, you’ll instantly realize that the less entering of information the better, and the more that can be done with one hand or one thumb is much more enticing for a consumer.
“We started this project eight months ago and we looked at the way people use smartphones,” La Quinta’s chief information officer Vivek Shaiva told me at the conference. “People like to use one finger. So they can do that when only entering a phone number.”
The reservation is live. The room is taken out of inventory and held for a four-hour window when the customer must confirm with the hotel. La Quinta pulls up the reservation based on the phone number.
While the industry realizes that mobile booking is the wave of the future, La Quinta is going one step further and aiming to make the booking experience enticing and unique for the user.
“Mobile’s been growing for a while, and one of the key things we found was that it is too hard to book a hotel [via mobile],” La Quinta’s chief marketing officer Julie Cary told me. “We wanted to make it easy to book.”
And, they did. I got a brief demo from Cary on using the site. Using GPS technology, LQ Instant Hold, which is scheduled to debut today on La Quinta’s mobile site, finds the closest La Quinta for the potential guest. From there, a quick one-thumb entering of the phone number and the room is booked. Cary says an app for Android and iPhone is set to debut in about a month.
The site also serves a purpose of quickly securing the sale before guests have a chance to move on. For many travelers they may go to the nearest hotel, but if they book before they get out of their car, they’re more likely to continue on to their reservation location. “If you’ve booked your room already, you’re more likely to go another block or so to get to the La Quinta,” Cary said. “It’s that notion of we want to get the sale before they show up at the street corner to ensure we’ve gotten the sale.”
La Quinta took the added insurance of patenting LQ Instant Hold to ensure it would be the only hotel chain to have the technology.
Mobile booking technology is a new world for hotels. Since last summer it has grown by leaps and bounds. Thus, it’s a channel that is quickly developing new and exciting innovations. This week, La Quinta brings out what just might be a game changer.