Qualitative Research: Understanding Business Travelers' Behavior Toward Hotels

By Johnna Freud Qualitative Research Moderator, Saul Cohen & Associates | March 06, 2010

Obviously, business travelers today have many hotel choices. In fact, in many instances, these choices are within walking distance of one another. So, why do some business travelers choose to stay at your hotel while others stay at the one across the street? How can you drive more traffic to your property? Understanding what motivates them can greatly influence your bottom line.

Determining A Study's Objectives

We know that certain business travelers value some hotel features over others. These might include location, personal service, and/or amenities. You could readily conclude the hotel that can satisfy the greatest number of needs and wants on the business travelers' list has the best potential to retain current customers and acquire new ones.

However, does "convenient location" mean downtown or near the airport? How is personal service defined? Are the desired amenities WiFi access, the fitness center or complimentary toiletries? Qualitative research can uncover the business travelers' meanings behind these needs and help identify their relative importance as they relate to how they decide where to stay.

Gaining insights into the most important features for business travelers is one example of what could be accomplished in a qualitative research study. However, a study can fulfill multiple objectives simultaneously. For example, the same study could be used to test whether the features offered by a hotel fit with the way consumers perceive its image.

A hotel can position itself as an upscale and relatively expensive property aimed at attracting business travelers who appreciate top-shelf service, luxurious accommodations and fine food. It can work hard to deliver on these goals and still not enjoy the benefits of repeat visits from business travelers or new guests from their personal recommendations, but why?

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.