In general, we believe it is better for most destinations, hotels or activities to invest further in a robust, content-rich and fully responsive website that will work seamlessly across mobile devices, rather than investing in an additional, separate mobile app.
From our experience, the added complexity, cost and maintenance required to keep apps updated is usually not worth the small (and decreasing) benefits of an app over a leading-edge mobile web solution. Exceptions to this would be destinations or hotels/venues who have significant and recurring events or conferences where apps can offer specific benefits for attendees and be re-used for future events — or for destinations and businesses where mobile connectivity is a challenge and travelers may value accessing content offline in an app. There may be other use cases, but consider carefully these benefits against the cost of developing, maintaining and, most importantly, marketing an app to your travelers and guests.
Partnering with Major Travel Apps
For all destinations and businesses it is critical, however, to look at your presence on major apps that are most widely used by visitors. The Google Trips app and TripAdvisor app offer huge reach and a range of ways to enhance your presence at no cost. Google Trips is part of the Google ecosystem and pulls its content from Google Maps, Google My Business Listings and the new Google Travel Guide content (see this example for Palm Beach County, Florida, USA) – so you will automatically benefit from reviewing and enhancing your business or destination presence across these platform. For DMOs, there is a range of opportunities to review and enhance your destination’s content across all of Google’s Platforms, plus educate your industry on expanding their own presence, as part of the Google DMO Content Program that Miles is working on with Google. More information is available here: MilesPartnership.com/GoogleDMOProgram
Research on Travelers’ Use of Apps
Research on app usage by travelers shows a smallish but growing audience for apps. In the Q2 2017 Technology Edition of The State of the American Traveler, we asked specifically about mobile apps used by U.S. leisure travelers in their trip planning and booking. Slightly less than 1 in 3 U.S. leisure travelers use apps in their travel planning and booking – up from just over one quarter in 2016. Of these, around 1 on 5 travelers indicated using an app from a destination – down from 2016.
We also sponsored research from Ryerson University in Canada, who looked at mobile solutions used by more than 230 DMOs globally over the 2015 to 2016 period. Investment in apps also saw decline in that study.
All this research highlights that apps should be a carefully considered additional option to the core mobile solution of a fully responsive website — one with content and features that works seamlessly across all mobile devices and connects with users at all points in their travel planning, booking and experience.