Corporate travel is making a comeback as the U.S. economy has shown signs of a slow, but modest rebound. While that provides the tourism and hospitality industry with something to smile about (along with welcome relief) hospitality business leaders need to realize they’re now likely dealing with a new breed of business traveler and adjust their strategies accordingly.
Business travelers are expected to take as many trips as they did this past year—if not slightly more—in 2011. With airlines and hotels vying for their business, seasoned travelers have the choice to stay loyal to their favorite brands or try a competitor’s service if what they’re selling is more attractive.
During the recession, travelers enjoyed a steady diet of travel deals, including extra hotel perks at reduced rates. They also monitored how they spent their travel dollars as companies’ tightened budgets and as air fares increased. According to a recent survey, as corporate travel picks up, those same conscious-spending business travelers are eager to find brands that offer them the greatest incentives to stay at their hotel, fly their airline, or eat at their restaurant.
As hotels work to entice business travelers and boost occupancy rates, they must look for new ways to differentiate themselves and provide value to customers, while remaining competitive. This is especially true when it comes to full service and luxury hotels. In the past, the economy/mid-scale hotel offering was generally about value for travelers, while the luxury/full service sector was about brand recognition and loyalty programs. In this downturn, business travelers who are paying premium prices are thinking beyond loyalty points and expecting added value and more complimentary services for their money.
According to the same survey, at hotels, travelers now want more than just the basics. A clean room and comfortable bed is expected. Likewise, additional incentives such as free in-room high speed Internet service and free parking provide customers with more benefits from the standard reward points and room upgrades. While these recognition points remain important to business travelers, they now seek value-added and complimentary services—with little to no-fare increases. And, with more travel options and a focus on quality service, they’re more than willing to shop around to find them.
With the holiday travel season here and the 2011 travel season around the corner, business and leisure travelers alike have the advantage to shop their brands and the competition to find the travel amenities they want—and at a price they’re willing to pay.
Hotels also have the opportunity to listen to their customers, re-evaluate their current offerings and policies, focus on quality consistency, and identify new and creative ways to provide alternatives to their guests for a better and more improved travel experience in 2011. Those that do are more likely to reap the potential rewards as will likely their customers.