Who Owns the Business Traveler Hotel Booking Experience?

By Joe Currie District Sales Manager, Egencia | June 18, 2017

Who is in Control?

In the leisure world, the role of an organization such as Expedia or a hotel property website is to inspire a traveler towards the purchase path. The current business travel hotel booking experience includes influences from a variety of sources, from travel managers and TMCs to hotel properties and personal recommendations. In order to take ownership of these hotel booking decisions, business travel technologies should be focused on providing the value of a curated and personalized transactional experience that will keep a property occupied Monday Thursday of every business week.

Is Brand Loyalty a Dead Concept?

The 2016 report, Traveler Friction: Insights from U.S. Road Warriors indicated that the average road warrior takes 26 business trips per year, and spends 86 nights away from home.(1) In the past, the idea of seeing the same person at the check in counter, ready to provide the same room, at the same hotel, in the same city every two weeks for a year, was appealing to many travelers. However, todays world of business travel and hotel booking is being influenced in different ways. Between the ongoing movement towards organizational globalization, the increasingly evident demographical changes of the business traveler, and the influential technologies available in the leisure marketplace, business travel hotel booking is shifting accordingly.

A 2017 Harvard Business Review discussion on globalization illustrates the global shift stating, Back in the 1980s General Electric earned 80% of its revenue within the United States. Today, GE earns more than 70% outside the US(2). With this shift in customer base carrying over to the business travel world, it is more likely that the formerly clockwork trip to the same domestic city is now going to transition to include international destinations. This shift results in the increased chances that a traveler will begin to sacrifice brand loyalty in an unfamiliar city, instead gravitating towards what is convenient and reliable based upon the suggestions of others.

The road warriors of the past, those generations dedicated not only to their career, but also to their company and the brands they are familiar with, are being rapidly replaced by Millennial workers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted that Millennials (arguably those born between 1984 and 2004) would make up the majority of the workforce by the end of 2015. According to Forbes, Millennial workers are very growth focused and the average length of time spent at each company maxes out at two years, in contrast to five years for Gen Xers and seven years for Baby Boomers.(3) With the bulk of the workforce maintaining a much shorter relationship with their employer, it is not surprising that brand loyalty is often sacrificed. For the Millennial business traveler, perks offered by being a valued customer often pale in comparison to the experiences and up-to-date amenities that competing brands can provide.

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Coming up in February 2018...

Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.