by John Hach, TravelClick In addition to recent mobile technological enhancements, search engines and online travel suppliers are rapidly evolving. Within the past six months Google has continued innovation and development of its hotel advertising platform, Expedia has purchased Travelocity and announced plans to buy Orbitz. Amazon is also testing the online travel arena with early plans to begin offering hotel reservation services within several major United States markets. These developments are creating a level of uncertainty and concern that hotels may incur higher distribution costs due to industry consolidation within the major online travel companies. This confluence of events makes now an opportune time for hoteliers to gain greater control over their inventory by investing in mobile design and mobile optimized reservation booking functionality. Ensuring your hotel is properly optimized for tablets and smartphones is now as essential as having a website once was back in the late 1990s. Hoteliers, especially independents, must become vigilant in shopping their local competition, not only for rates and standard inclusions, but also to ensure the mobile search and reservation process is quick, efficient and visually appealing, to gain a competitive advantage. The timing of this opportunity has never been more perfect; however, from my vantage point, I am surprised with the relatively small number of hotels seizing this rare moment to grow direct bookings, especially with the increasingly important millennial demographic. Millennials are glued to their tablets and smartphones, and they want an engaging and differentiated hotel experience with each and every stay. Without question, they are the most important demographic for hoteliers to embrace over the course of the next decade and beyond. Given their search and discovery process, coupled with their desire for instant gratification, hotels must provide a fully optimized mobile experience with easy to view photographs of their hotel’s best room types. The mobile visual environment a hotel must replicate includes beautiful photographs, easily viewed captions of amenities and inclusions; such as high speed wifi, along with food and beverage options. Smart hoteliers are designing these mobile optimized interfaces and marketing packages with the comfort of knowing this is actually an up sell opportunity, especially when there are improving market conditions and inventory is in tight supply. The business imperative within the new mobile horizon is to invest and take action now to create a client experience of digital differentiation for direct booking competitive advantage. Enacting this strategy early in 2015 is a proven and effective method to leverage premium room inventory for maximum RevPAR advantage. Plus, Millennials will be impressed. John Hach has more than thirty years of travel industry experience. He currently serves as the Senior Vice President, Global Product Management of TravelClick, a global provider of innovative cloud-based solutions that enable hotels to grow revenue.