Chat apps are becoming more and more popular. Used by not only members of the public to talk with friends and family, they are also now being used by businesses looking to better connect their colleagues and share internal information. The social media giant Facebook has created a specific Work Chat app to be utilised by large-scale businesses, and the proliferation of new chat apps that are used by the public just goes to show how essential real-time communications are becoming.

But what about between consumers and a business? Already some companies are seeking more ways to connect with their customers – most businesses already have a social media presence and invest time and energy in responding to any questions that are sent their way via these channels. Similarly, every business has a comprehensive 'Contact Us' page on their website for people to either send an enquiry via email or call them up.

However, neither of these approaches are truly real-time, and that's what consumers are looking for. In the travel industry, some hotel chains are taking real-time communications to the next level and are using established chat apps, such as Whatsapp, to allow guests to make direct requests to hotel staff during their stay. Starwood Hotels have been trialling this approach and discovered that messages received via Whatsapp account for 85% of total communications between the hotel and visitors, with response times typically falling around the one-minute mark.

Along with Starwood another large-scale hotel chain, Marriott International, has also chosen to improve its real-time communications offerings, expanding its Mobile Requests service for guests to 46 of its properties across the globe.

This innovative approach to consumer-business communications feeds into the desires of consumers to "access their own technology on their own terms," Daniel Kerzner, the marketing vice president for Starwood hotels, said when speaking to Tnooz.

Whilst these initiatives certainly offer a unique communications strategy for those already checked-in to a hotel, what about those looking for real-time communications prior to booking? This is where chat apps on websites can help travel companies close more deals and offer a better experience for their customers.

When researching where to visit or stay, consumers can become agitated at having to search online for further details or wait for a response on social media from a travel brand. An in-built chat app on travel sites, however, allows potential customers to discuss with travel executives specific details regarding their hotel, its location, what activities are on offer and the services included, without the need to conduct the research themselves.

Plus, website chat apps can allow businesses to upsell products or services to customers that they may not have considered before – and it allows them to create a personalised package for each individual, truly taking their needs and desires into account.

With so many benefits and the popularity of chat apps ever expanding, will you be considering building a chat feature into your travel website?