The Center for Hospitality Research recently held its second annual Cornell Hospitality Research Summit, which focused on the global hospitality industry and how it “sits at the nexus of multiple contradictory forces.”  These forces include evolving customer needs and preferences, rapid changes in technologies, ever-changing competitive dynamics and much more.

In a recent article in Hospitality Technology, Glenn Withiam, director of publications, Cornell Center for Hospitality Research, revealed that the most popular presentations at the Summit were those that focused on social media and mobile devices.

As we have discussed, SoLoMo (Social Local Mobile), otherwise known as location-based services, is the new frontier for hoteliers to enhance guest engagement and retention.  The term SoLoMo defines a new kind of mobile shopper and represents the intersection of behavior, technology and culture.

SoLoMo is not just another fad.  It has become a critical part of today’s marketing landscape, which has considerably changed since the introduction of smart phones.  The use of check-in services such as Foursquare, Google Places and Facebook Places, has risen significantly in the last couple of years.

At the Summit, Expedia presented its study that more Internet access occurs through mobile devices than by laptop or desktop. And also that, two-thirds of Americans sleep with their mobile devices close by.  Expedia anticipates that the current number of bookings via mobile device, currently about 16 million, will double by 2016.

Expedia also found that a substantial number of mobile bookings are for same-night stays. A majority of these people are under 30 – those numbers will only increase as they become older, start families and travel more for business. And for certain, a newer generation, even more tech-savvy, soon will be coming on the scene as well.

As Mr. Withiam discusses in the article, keeping tabs of customer reviews and interacting with guests via social media and other forums such as TripAdvisor is also critical for the hotel industry. One presenter at the Summit related the story of a recent trip to New Orleans. Things did not go well at the hotel, and she subsequently posted a negative review on TripAdvisor. She never heard from the hotel, even though this review received over 1,300 hits.

Hoteliers today must not only embrace mobile technologies, but also use social media as a key channel for guest communications. When done right, SoLoMo can support overall business objectives for hoteliers and provide an excellent engagement channel to reach out to guests. The time is now.