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, today’s 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 1980’s 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 January 2018...

Mobile Technology: Relentless Innovation

Technology has become a crucial component in attracting and retaining hotel guests, and the need to enhance a guest’s technology experience is driving a relentless pace of innovation. To meet and exceed guest expectations, 54% of hotels will spend more on technology in 2018, and mobile solutions in particular will top the list of capital investments. Many hotels are integrating mobile booking, mobile keys, mobile payments and mobile check-in into their operations. Other hotels are emphasizing the in-room experience, boosting bandwidth and upgrading flat screen TVs to more easily interface with guest mobile devices. And though not yet mainstream, there are many exciting technology developments on the near horizon. The Internet of Things (loT) is taking form in some places, and can be found in guest room control systems, voice activation systems, and in wearable sensors that can be used for access and payment options. Virtual reality headsets are available at some hotels so guests can enjoy virtual trips to exotic locations or if off-property, preview conference facilities and guest rooms. How long will it be before a hotel employs a fleet of robots for room service, or utilizes a hologram as a concierge, or installs gesture-controlled walls that feature interactive digital displays? Some hotels are already using augmented reality for translation services, or interactive wall maps, or even virtual décor. This pace of innovation is challenging property owners and brands to stay on top of the latest technology trends while still addressing current projects. The January Hotel Business Review will explore what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in the mobile technology space.