Mobile Apps a Must-Have for the Hospitality Industry

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Hotel and destination mobile apps are a great way to create space for travelers to learn more about where they’re going and plan their vacations accordingly.  Exploring an actual (non-mobile friendly) site on a smart phone can be burdensome when it’s not mobile-optimized as the user is forced to zoom in, read tiny print, then attempt to click on tiny links with big fat fingers.  Mobile apps, on the other hand, are specifically designed for smartphones and tablets, and, according to PhoCusWright’s U.S. Corporate Travel Report: Market Size and Technology Trends report, 51% of US travelers access travel content on their phones, while four of every five travelers access hotel and airline information.

One solid example of a city that has been keeping up with mobile trends in the hospitality space is the Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors Bureau, the destination marketing organization for Santa Barbara.  They released their mobile app early this year and just revamped it this past week. They hope the app will create an enhanced interest in the central California city and provide a more effective tool for travel planning.

With more and more people accessing data from their smartphones, this is a great maneuver in making vacation-planning easy for travelers. User-friendly capabilities include click-to-call dialing, Google map directions, “What’s Near Me” features, general maps and photos. Businesses can be searched by geographic location, type of activity or retail genre.

NEXT Santa Barbara was designed both for those pre-planning trips to Santa Barbara as well as those already visiting. It includes detailed listings for restaurants, wineries, vineyards, events, arts and cultural offerings, accommodations, outdoor activities, retail shops and more.  The app covers the entire Santa Barbara region, including downtown and the harbor, plus surroundings areas such as Santa Ynez, Santa Maria, Montecito, Carpinteria, Goleta, Lompoc and Summerland. It also includes many regularly-updated local deals.

The NEXT Santa Barbara app is FREE to download and is available for Android devices, iPads and iPhones. The app is also perfect for guests coming into town for specific events, plus the location detection feature reveals real-time information directly to the mobile device, and also aids in navigating experiences, attractions, restaurants and more, while the events calendar keeps users informed of local happenings.

The Santa Barbara CVB definitely does a great job of displaying value with their mobile app. An app is somewhat unnecessary if it doesn’t make the experience easier offer “more” than what their mobile website already provides.

Here, by virtue of the diverse array of functionality the app allows, Santa Barbara provides a ton of ease to visitors and locals alike.

What other destinations or hotels have caught your attention with their mobile app?

Debbie Miller
Debbie Miller contributes a monthly column on Social Media for the Hospitality Industry. Debbie is the Founder of Social Hospitality, a blog which outlines the ways businesses in the hospitality industry are using social media. She works for HyperDisk Marketing managing social media accounts, writing website copy and executing SEO strategies for clients. Prior, she was with a destination marketing organization where she maintained the website along with launching and managing their social media presence. She is very active in the social networking community in southern California, has enjoyed watching social media emerge over the past several years and is fascinated by its continuing evolution. +Debbie Miller
Debbie Miller


Covering trends related to hospitality and social media, technology, marketing, branding, customer service, engagement, SEO, blogging. Founder: @TheBigDebowski
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Debbie Miller


  1. says

    This is a great article – kudos to Santa Barbara for forward thinking! This app will also come in handy for tired, weary travelers who have had plans cancel at the last minute and don’t know where to go for hospitality. Great idea, great use for a mobile app!

  2. Joseph Ruiz says

    Thanks for providing a great example. Mobile is growing incredibly fast sounds like Santa Barbara has taken this way beyond a tactic.

  3. says

    We’ve worked with the tourist board in the Lake District in the UK, creating an app has helped them promote sustainable tourism and also generates a desire to return to the region to see the other sites they didn’t have time to see. Local businesses promote the app as well, knowing that it helps the in the long run too.

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