SHERMAN, Connecticut—U.S. business travelers have more control of their own bookings than ever before, which means hoteliers should think outside of corporate travel policies and consider the end user, according to PhoCusWright research.
“You have to think of them as free agents,” said Carroll Rheem, director of research, during a webinar titled, “The U.S. Business Traveler: Managed, Unmanaged and Rogue.”
Whereas the focus in the past rested primarily on travel managers because they were the decision makers, today hoteliers must place greater emphasis on the travelers themselves, she said.
For one thing, unmanaged business travelers—those who aren’t constrained by a corporate travel manager—make up approximately 70% of the market, Rheem said, citing numbers from a recent special project PhoCusWright conducted.
For another, most business travelers lack a travel planning routine, which suggests hoteliers have an opportunity to provide a better booking platform to capture market share, she said.
Only 29% of business travelers have a booking routine. “Even among the managed group the response is only 32%,” Rheem said. “… This says there are a lot of opportunities for new development and openness to trying new business models and trying new features. It also says to me there are a lot of problems to be solved.”
Rheem focused on several travel segments during the webinar, including hotel, air and car rental.
“Ultimately, hotel is the area where we see the most rogue behavior (with managed travelers),” she said.
“When you’re in the decision-making process, there are two kinds of scenarios that really drive rogue behavior: Sometimes there are just too many options. … And other times there are just not enough options for you, especially in that mid-range company that doesn’t have a very comprehensive policy.”
The top driver of rogue behavior, however, is convenience, cited by 47% of respondents to PhoCusWright’s study.
Price also is an influential driver, cited by 30% of travelers.
“Also, loyalty programs are a pretty significant driver,” Rheem said. “One in five road travelers say they accumulate miles or status from a brand that’s outside of company policy. Those points are sticky, and business travelers love those points.”
Seven of 10 unmanaged business travelers said they used online travel agencies when researching travel. Websites for travel providers themselves (e.g., brand.com) was the second most popular, cited by 61% of unmanaged respondent.
When it came to actually making bookings, however, unmanaged business travelers (53%) were more inclined to book at brand.com than an OTA (50%).
“The hotel brand websites coming out on top is not necessarily what you would expect to see,” Rheem said. “… OTAs were far ahead of supplier websites when it came to shopping. But when it comes to booking, a lot of these savvy business travelers are doing the flip. …
“The savvy business travel is often making that switch often specifically for hotel websites because of points,” she said.
Rheem highlighted several other findings from her research during the webinar.
39% of managed travelers mix business travel with leisure travel; unmanaged travelers number slightly more than half.
30% of business travelers said Web-based presentation and video conference tools did not impact their travel plans. Of the remaining respondents, 25% said the tools impacted plans “very little,” while 30% said “somewhat.” Only 2% said the tools impact plans “dramatically.”
A “good website experience” trumped price when using particular websites to research travel.
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