Smart Devices, Smart Resorts

by David B. Goodrich

The first time I stayed at a resort was on my honeymoon. My wife and I were married in July, 1998. We spent our first few days at one of the top resorts in Central Florida and spent the remainder of our time at a bed and breakfast in St. Augustine. We have been married sixteen years now and have stayed in at least one resort every year. When we were first married we used large, boxy cellphones and used dial-up to access the internet. As the years passed we gradually traded our cellphones for flip phones and finally smart phones. Internet access of course moved from dial up to Cable and DSL. The way we access and consume information has changed greatly over the past 16 years. Yet during this time we’ve noticed that the presentation of information at the resorts we stayed at remained, for the most part, paper based.

We, as a society, have embraced mobile devices. This comes as no surprise since the modern smart phone is a combination communication device, game console, information service, and secure payment device. Due to the availability of information on the internet, accessible twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, not only do we expect to be able to make reservations online and from our devices but we expect to be able to access information about your resort, and to access your services, amenities and activities, interactively, in a customized manner, before and during visits.

So why have resorts not embraced new methods for presenting information? Since most resort visitors and those who purchase timeshares are older adults, there may be a belief that electronic information is not important since older adults are slower to adopt new technology such as smart phones / devices. This is not necessarily true; it is not only Millennials who are into mobile devices. According to a Pew Research study (Smith 2013) a majority (55%) of individuals aged 45-54 and over a third (39%) of individuals aged 55-64 own smart phones. While these percentages are smaller than the overall averages for Millennials (81% for individuals 25-34).

The same study revealed that when income is factored in, a different story emerges. Sixty-one percent (61%) of individuals in households making $50K - $75K and seventy-eight percent (78%) of individuals in households earning incomes above $75K own smart phones. Per U.S. census data (Short, 2014) the top earning age bracket is 45-54 year olds, the third highest is 55-64 year olds. These age brackets span younger baby boomers and Gen-X. Do these data look familiar? They should. The Shared Vacation Ownership Owners Report, 2012 Edition, as quoted by ARDA’s February-March 2013 Datashare, presents the average timeshare purchaser as being 51 years of age and living in a household earning $74K (ARDA February-March Timeshare Datashare). Your target customer uses smart phones every day to interact with and shape his / her world.

Between April and August of this year members of my team booked overnight stays at various main-brand resorts in Central Florida. Our goal was to gain a better idea of information presentation and flow within each resort. We spoke briefly to employees and management staff. We ordered room service and housekeeping services. We ate at restaurants, food shops, and pool-side bars. Each resort brand offered online booking and a brief blurb about each resort including a brief list of amenities. Beyond this none offered any online information. Upon check-in we were usually handed a packet containing some information about the resort (some resorts had this information in booklets in the room). Sometimes this packet included information about on resort activities and events; usually it did not. We were surprised that some did not include menus for room service.

Ordering room service or housekeeping was easy at every resort, as long as we were in our rooms. Outside of our rooms these simple tasks became much more difficult. To order food, snacks or drinks we had to stop whatever activity we were engaged in and walk to a location to purchase our food, snack or drink. To take care of housekeeping tasks, our only option (again while not in a room) was to visit the front desk. Then there are activities: At one resort we found out about early morning yoga, available to all guests, only because one of our teammates decided to go jogging at 6AM and discovered the class by accident. At one resort we were going to walk the half mile to the beach until one of our team members, who stopped to ask a resort employee the best path, was told that the resort offered a tram that ran every fifteen minutes. At one resort we found an open room with a couple of Ping-Pong tables and foosball tables but no balls or paddles. It turns out the paddles and balls were stored and readily accessible in a cabinet. Each of these activities and services could have been described in information handed out at check-in, but if they were, the information was lying on a table, back at the room and inaccessible. How much better if we could have found this information online, accessible from anywhere with our smart phones.

Your resort offers so much to each customer. Make your customers aware of it by taking advantage of the fact that your customers constantly use smart phones. Guests should be able to use their mobile devices to easily find information about events and activities offered by your resort. Better yet guests should be able to use their devices to RSVP to events and make reservations for activities and tee times. Menus with descriptions and prices should be available for preview. Making online ordering of drinks, snacks and meals is even better. Scheduling and tracking of housekeeping tasks such as linen service, restocking and room cleaning services would be more convenient for guests to perform from their phones instead of going back to their rooms or walking to the front desk to request these same services.

Not only do your customers expect to be able to make reservations online and from their devices but they expect to be able to access information about your resort, and to access your services, amenities and activities. By making services available for access through smart phones / devices you make access to your services more convenient. Convenience and ease of use translates into a more enjoyable stay, meaning you have done more to make your customer’s vacation dreams come true.


Smith, A. (2013, June 5) Smartphone Ownership 2013, retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2013/06/05/smartphone-ownership-2013/
Short, D. (2014, September 17) Median Household Incomes by Age Bracket: 1967-2013, retrieved from http://www.advisorperspectives.com/dshort/updates/Household-Incomes-by-Age-Brackets.php
February-March Timeshare Datashare Timeshare Owner Profile, retrieved from http://www.arda.org/aif-foundation/research/timesharedatashare/feb2013datashare.aspx