Tech-savvy travelers with smartphones are transforming the travel business.


It would be hard to find someone that remains untouched by the effects of the mobile Internet. In fact, the communications industry has been hard at work getting everyone to lead untethered lives which is especially attractive to early adopting road warriors. Beyond online maps and travel guides, travelers are turning to their phones to look up aircraft seat configuration, track taxis, reply to early hotel check-in requests, order room service and locate nearby colleagues… a LOCiMOBILE specialty both here and abroad.

Entrepreneurial software developers are rolling out new services daily, such as “location-based” apps that tap into a phone’s GPS to determine the user’s location presenting unique options and opportunities.

The apps are making a difference. As of mid-February, Southwest Airlines became the first U.S. airline to introduce an iPhone app last year, betting that an easy-to-use application could generate an untapped base of customers who might otherwise avoid surfing the Web on the phone. Southwest’s app was the most popular travel-booking download in the iTunes App Store, according to Michael Van Houweling, Southwest’s director of online marketing. In a survey of frequent business travelers conducted by PhoCusWright in 2008, 71% said they have used a smartphone for business during their trips. Such third-party applications remain the most popular services among travelers. But with smartphones representing a new sales channel, the travel industry is aggressively migrating to the mobile platform.

Starwood’s Aloft Hotel in Lexington, Mass., is testing a keycard using radio frequency identification, or RFID, technology. The hotel has distributed RFID keycards to some loyalty program members, who receive text messages on the day of arrival that disclose the room number. Guests can go directly to the room and tap their assigned card through the sensor on the doorknob to unlock the door.

 GPS enabled mobile apps not only offer more convenience, they filter and focus targeted and relevant  location aware promotions and ads. Mobile search ad spending in the U.S. is expected to grow to $531 million this year, up from $242 million in 2009.

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