By catering to today’s business traveler with the right offerings, hotels can generate a stable revenue stream.
By Elaine Kennedy, Vice President of Hotel Market Planning at Pegasus Solutions
Reports indicate that the number of business trips each year has increased by 38% since 2009. In fact, direct spending on business travel by domestic and international travelers, including expenditures on meetings, events and incentive programs totaled $307.2 billion in 2016 alone.
So it begs the question, what are the guiding principles hoteliers should adopt to ensure they attract their share of business travelers?
There’s no such thing as a “traditional” business traveler anymore
Business travelers often come with expectations that are rooted in a need for efficiency. But delivering on efficiency for those guests can’t be achieved if their varying needs—and who they are—aren’t understood. Business travelers are no longer the age-old, traditional, mature man. Instead, they are increasingly diverse in age, gender, nationality and career type.
And, business travelers are increasingly millennials. In fact, Boston Consulting Group forecasts that by 2020 millennials will account for close to 50% of all business travel spending. And what are millennials looking for? Often it’s big lobbies, and shared spaces. Being close to entertainment (or an easy way to get there) is key. They’re on the go, in an Uber ride, texting on a mobile device to your staff about what they need prior to their stay.
Now, naturally this is a generalization. But the point is that guest service needs aren’t “traditional” anymore. We need to understand the ‘who’, the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ that makes up their travel profile – and their person.
Remember that time is money
Efficiency is paramount for business travelers, and often they’re meeting tightly scheduled agendas. They are often acutely aware of their time. This being the case, real-time service and effective integration become more important than ever. For example, business travelers expect a simple, fast and incredibly responsive booking process. Whether they book their trip online, from their mobile device or through an app, your corporate guests will expect their booking, check-in and check-out process to be entirely mobile-friendly, easy to navigate, highly visual and with the functionality to offer corporate rate logins, upgrades and loyalty options. They also expect prompt staff responses to any inquiries or issues that come up during their stay.
Don’t underestimate free high-quality Wi-Fi
It may seem simple, but a primary factor in booking decisions of business travelers is the availability of free wi-fi. In fact, a Research+Data Insights study found that 7 in 10 travelers say that fast, accessible Wi-Fi is more important than a hotel’s location, parking facilities— or even free breakfast. That’s because a majority of business travelers carry three devices; usually a phone, a tablet and a laptop. Hotels today must be wired.
It’s all work…but some play
The latest trend taking shape is the rise of combined work and leisure trips, to satisfy increasing work-life balance needs. As hoteliers work to understand and embrace their millennial guests, it’s important to remember that millennials have seemingly led the “be-leisure” trend, frequently adding personal days into their business trips. While not all business travelers are millennials, your hotel could offer work-life balance options such as complimentary health and fitness options, built-in packages catering to both business and pleasure, local travel advisories, tours for local hot-spots, tourist attractions, and a range of dining and entertainment options.
The future is mobile, and automated
Virtual kiosks, mobile check-in, mobile keys and concierge, automatic alerts and specially curated offerings, AI technology—guest preferences continue to indicate an increased desire for automated services. According to a 2017 survey by Northstar, business travelers are optimistic when it comes to technology’s role in improving their business travel experience: 48 percent would like to use text to update their travel arrangements.
Not only do automated features allow for improved efficiency, they provide a critical opportunity for the collection of guest data. If you control the data, you can control the guest relationship and service. And the automation frees up your staff to interact with each guest, shaping a more personalized guest experience—all the while learning about the needs of each unique business traveler.