Can you give our readers a brief history of Vamoos, and explain what it offers clients?
Vamoos was launched six years ago, but it was primarily launched for tour operators and travel companies. When you go abroad and you travel on holiday, you invariably have a plastic wallet full of lots of bits of paper which tells you about vouchers and directions and things to do.
The initial idea was to put all of that on an app, so that you’ve got a place that contains all the documents you need, a map that’s got a guide to local points of interest, a directory and more. That was the origin of Vamoos, and that’s how it’s grown from nothing to a market-leader in about six years.
How was the app shaped into something that benefited the hotel sector?
The original idea came from our users. Our tour operator clients were using it on holiday, and they were feeding back: “Look, it’s absolutely fantastic to have all the information about my holiday, but when I get to a hotel, why can’t I have the hotel information there as well?” An app for all that information would mean they wouldn’t have to read a room guide or go and ask reception, so that was the initial inspiration.
Did your background as a hotelier help to shape the app in any way?
Being a hotel owner myself, I knew the amount of work that was needed to keep room guides and guest directories up-to-date with constant changing recommendations of local restaurants and daily activities. So as soon as we got that feedback I thought, this will help any hotelier to increase the level of service they offer their guests and reduce the amount of effort, work and printing that is needed to provide that service.
Why is the app so successful in driving repeat bookings?
When you’ve done a trip with Vamoos and you have it all at your fingertips, then you don’t want to do another one without it. So you tend to book again with the same hotels or the same tour operators that you did before – because you know you’ve got that level of information.
The other thing that really caught us by surprise was that we designed the app to be used once you were on a trip. But almost instantly, the really strong feedback was that people used it before their trip too, as part of the planning and build-up. That was not in its design, but when we look at the monitoring figures, we can see that it is used just as much, if not more, before the visit than during it.
When does Vamoos for hotels go live?
It went live Monday this week. We’ve had it on trial for about six months and launched pilot versions. We’ve already got about 20 to 30 UK hotels signed up to it, so they’re building their information already and working out how to use it, so that they can be off to a flying start.
In addition, we’ve also made a policy decision not to charge for the app for now. Because we know how tight money is with the current crisis, we’re giving people who sign up six months free usage to help get them started. All we ask in return is for feedback, so that we can build into our future development plan.
Has the app had to adapt to meet the changes presented by Covid-19?
We haven’t changed anything in the specification in the last few months, but what has happened is that the focus has moved a little bit more. For example, we designed a virtual Do Not Disturb sign, rather than have guests use the ones that you put on your door.
This way, guests can set up their Do Not Disturb sign and a notification then goes straight to the reception notifying them that they would rather not be disturbed, for example, for the next two hours or before 9:00am. It has become one of the hero features within the feedback, but also helps hoteliers manage to not disturb guests, as well as get rid of items that can harbour infection and viruses, such as the traditional Do Not Disturb signs.
In what other ways will Vamoos help hoteliers to safely reopen their sites when lockdown lifts?
Putting aside features such as the Do Not Disturb sign, another great feature is the room directory – the ability to give people all the information they need, whether it’s how to work the tv, or what’s happening in the restaurants – and being able to update it at a moment’s notice as soon as things change.
For example, if you need to change your dining requirements to fit in with the latest government guidance, you can make sure people always have the latest information without having to reprint guides or call people up. That’s the real meat of the app. It’s a directory that is much more dynamic, with videos and pictures, and it has the ability to change in real-time.
You can also message people and keep them up-to-date. So, for example, if there is an outbreak of coronavirus in a local town close to your hotel, you can send a message to every guest at the click of a button to say the area is off-limits.
The guests can reply to those messages as well – they can order room service and do other things that they would typically have to go to reception or pick up the room phone to do.
And I suppose that also reduces touch-points as well as contact with other people, which is ideal for life after lockdown…
Exactly, and if you link that to a remote check-in, where people upload their payment details and passports, then you can even get to the point where guests can arrive completely touchless. This also works particularly well for apartment-like accommodations. You could use the app together with other technologies to make everything completely touchless if you so desired.
And are there any other unique benefits that Vamoos provides both guests and hoteliers?
Obviously, the focus now is how one can use this app to reopen safely within coronavirus restrictions. Beyond that, however, the app is ultimately about providing a better service and exciting clients. We provide such features as a countdown to your trip and image galleries, for example, which people love looking at before their trip and showing to friends. Vamoos helps hoteliers to not lose sight of the guest excitement aspect in the rush to make everything safe and secure.
What are your future plans for the app?
The next stage of the app will be linking it with other technologies. We’ll be doing live links to hotel PMS technologies and booking systems, for example, and will also look at turning the app into a door key, so that guests can use it to unlock their room.
We’ve got a good set of features on a standalone basis, but in the future we will definitely look to integrate it with other in-hotel technologies in order to make everything even more seamless. And we’ve designed it in exactly that way, so that it’s easy to link into other systems.
As a hotel owner yourself, what would be your one piece of advice to other hoteliers right now?
I think the message has got to be: stay positive. This has made people look very carefully at the way they do things. Whether it’s housekeeping procedures, operational procedures or using digital technology, people can use this time to improve service. That’s the message for all of us, whatever business you’re in. Use this opportunity to reinvent and reinvigorate.
To find out more, please visit the Vamoos website.