Mobile Apps vs. Mobile Optimization – Which One is Best for Your Hotel? (Part 1)

A mobile app or a mobile-optimized website? After some in-depth research, we here at Leonardo bring you a two-piece blog listing the pros and cons of each mobile platform and explain why one is the better choice for your hotel.

By now, every hotelier is well-aware of the prominence and significance that mobile has on the travel industry. According to Mashable, in 2013, 17.4% of all web traffic in the world came through mobile – and this number is expected to grow! It is no secret that for a hotel to stay successful and competitive, it must have a mobile-optimized site. The question has shifted from “Should I bother with mobile?” to “What is the best way for me to incorporate mobile into my hotel marketing strategy?”

Here at Leonardo, a common question that we get asked by hotel marketers is whether they should build a mobile app or make their website optimized for smartphones and tablets. While they are similar, they also have their own unique advantages and disadvantages.

People on mobile



While mobile apps and mobile-optimized sites are not the same thing, they share a few similarities, the first obvious one being that they are both accessible on smartphones and tablets. Another similarity between the two is user experience. They both make life much easier for the mobile travel shopper who is browsing around on their smartphone/tablet. Mobile apps and mobile-optimized websites look better, are faster and are much easier to navigate than viewing a desktop site on your mobile. But do you need to have both?

Mobile Apps


  • Accessibility – Since an app is downloaded onto a mobile device, you usually don’t even need an internet connection to access it. Therefore, a user can use the app any time they want.
  • Visibility – Once someone downloads an app onto their mobile device, it stays there and the user sees it every time they turn on their smartphone/tablet. This helps entrench the company in the user’s mind.
  • Reach – The app also appears in app marketplaces – such as iPhone’s App Store and Google Play (Android’s App Store). This helps distinguish your hotel from the competition (if your competition doesn’t have their own app in an app marketplace) and keep your brand prominent.
  • Easy to get – Apps are easily downloadable from app stores and can usually be downloaded within a matter of minutes or even seconds.


  • Not accessible on all devices – A mobile app must be specifically made for each unique platform, such as Android, Windows, iPhone, and so on. This can become very costly and time consuming.
  • Lack of flexibility – Every update for an app must be submitted and approved by the specific app store every time. This process can take weeks.
  • Costly – Mobile apps are a lot more expensive to create than mobile-optimized websites.
  • Lack of user participation – It may be hard to convince customers of the value in downloading your app (due to the sheer number of apps available – both the iPhone App Store and Google Play have over a million apps available for download).
  • Clutter – Many people actually do not like having a lot of apps which clutter up their phones. The average person has 41 apps installed on their smart phone (Network World).
  • Risk of credibility – Mobile apps are not as easy to optimize as a mobile website. Therefore, a poor mobile app can actually damage the perception of your brand to consumers if not done properly.
  • Separate marketing initiatives – It is not enough to use the marketing you are already using for your website. A totally different marketing strategy must be created and applied to your mobile app promotion if you want it to be successful. This may require additional help from a mobile marketing expert – therefore, increasing costs even more.

nokia smartphone


What’s the final verdict on mobile apps vs. mobile-optimized sites? Read Part 2 to find out!

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