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MTS Recap: Hotel Tonight’s CEO Designed an App for the Ski Industry

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A couple weeks ago I cruised over to Aspen for a quick, 36 hour Mountain Travel Symposium whirlwind. Now that the lessons have sunk in a bit more, here are my thoughts on what was shared.

Sam Shank is CEO of Hotel Tonight. Hotel Tonight is a slick little app that gives last minute travelers, people in a bind, or folks looking for a quick escape a way to grab a good deal on a room and hotels a channel to reach them.

Their app is pretty dang successful and, even more importantly, Sam knows why. This was my favorite session. Not because he solved our problems, but because he went beyond the typical vague generalities and used the principles that led to his success to design a possible solution for us. He didn’t just share principles, he shared ideas to apply them.

The Secrets
The reasons Hotel Tonight works can be chalked up to three aspects of a mobile app:

  1. Simple & focused: can describe what you do in 5 words or fewer
  2. Efficient task completion: 3 taps and a swipe to book
  3. Limiting selection: 3 options with links to corner cases

So, on top of those principles, Sam designed the app he’d build if he was in ski.

Resort Remote Control
Sam’s app went a little something like this:

You are pulling up to the resort. Your phone knows this and recommends the best parking lot. After parking, it lets you pay for parking (With your license plate and CC# already in the DB) with a swipe.

As you walk to the lifts, your phone knows this and gives you a “swipe to purchase” prompt for your RFID lift ticket load which is in your pocket from last time.

Your phone prompts you to head to a different lift with shorter lines. You say no, and if offers you a one-time $4 express line pass for the long lines ahead of you. You swipe to buy and if offers you an upsell to get an express line pass for the rest of the day.

You’ve been skiing for 3 hours now and the phone asks if you’r ready for lunch, with a “swipe to buy” option of one of three popular lunch menu items that will be waiting for you at the lodge to pick up.

There’s a photo worthy event or view that is best at 1:30, it prompts you to switch to Instagram (so you use the best app for the job rather than a redundant, lower quality feature in your own app) to take a picture.

An instructor finished early and asks you if you’d like to book her for a 50% off lesson. You say yes, and a map appears tracker her progress to your location.

The phone prompts you to preorder apres or make a reservation at a restaurant.

The Good the Bad
Clearly, that’s a lot of interaction with your phone during a day when it may be bitter cold outside. I think the idea here is the idea, not the exact copy. These are a half dozen ways a phone could both provide a service to skiers and drive revenue at the same time.

Well done, Sam. Great stuff.

About Gregg & SlopeFillers
I've had more first-time visitors lately, so adding a quick "about" section. I started SlopeFillers in 2010 with the simple goal of sharing great resort marketing strategies. Today I run marketing for resort ecommerce and CRM provider Inntopia, my home mountain is the lovely Nordic Valley, and my favorite marketing campaign remains the Ski Utah TV show that sold me on skiing as a kid in the 90s.

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