Who Owns the Business Traveler Hotel Booking Experience?

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

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.  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 '. 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. 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.

A March 2016 article from travel consultant firm nSight for Travel states, 'For the travel industry to be successful long term, it needs to understand the millennial first.' The article goes on to explain how a travel provider needs to understand that 76% of the younger generation of business travelers trust the opinion of their friends over a travel agent, 49% use smart phones when planning trips, and 55% will not book a hotel room without Wi-Fi. For this emerging demographic, there is a desire to immerse themselves in foreign places they visit, and they have grown up with the "pay for more" approach to travel. As a result, the notion of shelling out for extra leg room or additional features that make their experience more beneficial begin to take center stage over the potential benefits of brand loyalty.

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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.