Thursday, February 19, 2009

Marriott, Hilon and Omni reporting growth in sales via mobile - but I still believe that 2009 is not the year for mobile

Advertising Age's Rita Chang has a story in Advertising Age on increased mobile distribution for hotel chains called "Mobile Hotel Bookings Show ROT in Recession". Highlights from the story are:
  • Marriott reporting US$2million in sales via mobile from Aug 2008 to 31 Dec 2008;
  • Omni Hotels claiming 85% growth in traffic to the mobile in just six months - with conversion rates of 25% (compares to 3.5%-7% on the web version of their site); and
  • Hilton Hotels talking about a 22% "return on investment" (whatever that means) including $1.4 million in bookings "in an average 100-day period" (again not sure what that means)
In my predictions post for 2009 I said that 2009 will not be the year for mobile in the travel industry because most distribution players will focus on their core products rather than new distribution ideas. This is not a popular prediction. PhoCuWright (respectfully) don't agree with me both through their Trends for 2009 report where they predict that "Mobile Arrives (finally) - and Gets Contextual" and in Norm Rose's reply to my prediction is here. My former Cendant colleagues at Hudson Crossing also don't agree in their Trends in Travel Investment 2009 report (pdf) where Mike McCormick predicts that Mobile will begin to "emerge, converge and finally arrive in travel". More than half of the commentators in Travolution's Predictions for 2009 also disagree with me.

The beauty of this Advertising Age report is that each of us can use the numbers to support our case. I can say that the results are so small and off such a low base that they show that mobile is still a year or more away from having the impact we have been waiting for since 2000. The pro-mobile camp can use the growth rates, the penetration of smart phones and the return of the last minute model - all before the end of Feb 2009- as proof that mobile is picking up speed and headed for victory in 2009.

So where do you stand? Am I mad to swim upstream against the other commentators on mobile in 2009?

Update - Jakob Neilsen has an interesting post on the usability on Internet via mobile called Mobile Web 2009 = Desktop Web 1998 that (I think) supports my view (found it at

Hat tip to nakedbearmedia for sending me the Advertising Age link

thanks to Matthieu :: over at flickr for the photo

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