What business travelers want from hotels
29 JULY 2015 7:43 AM
Technology-related items top the wish lists for business travelers, with hotels in many cases already having the foundations in place to accommodate them, according to a survey from the GBTA Foundation.
ORLANDO—Business travelers have their eyes set on technology, but that doesn’t mean what they want from a hotel has to involve rocket scientists.
According to a discussion held during the Hotel Digital Technology Innovations session at the Global Business Travel Association’s annual conference, business travelers are pretty specific about knowing what they want from their hotel experiences.
Kate Vasiloff, research manager for the GBTA Foundation, said, according to a qualitative research project conducted by the Foundation in conjunction with AccorHotels, the three most exciting ideas with greatest market-wide use for business travelers include:
- Improving technology around the use of airport shuttle services;
- developing a text- or app-based concierge service that deals with problems in real-time; and
- integrating e-folios into expense reporting software.
The research project involved interviewing a handful of travel managers and is not projectable to the entire population of travel managers. But with respondents overseeing travel portfolios from $1 million to more than $500 million, the trends revealed could be useful to hoteliers, Vasiloff said.
“We wanted to understand technology currently being used by business travelers,” said Christine Kerr, senior director of global sales for AccorHotels. “Hotels are rapidly increasing their IT budgets but have no guidance. Business travelers have a valuable voice.
“Technology is becoming the cornerstone in driving customer service,” she added.
Kerr said industry-wide IT investment in 2014 amounted to less than 5% of total revenue—and that was double over what was spent in 2013. Two-thirds of hotels don’t have tech steering committees to aid IT in making decisions, she added.
Vasiloff said there weren’t a lot of surprises revealed by the survey’s results.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel with any of these; we just want to make it a little easier for the business traveler,” she said.
While technology is the top tool business travelers cite to improve their experiences, it’s important for hotels to not move too quickly and leave guests behind, Vasiloff said.
The research indicates that travel-management companies want more accurate and updated information flow to the GDS—often rooms that show up as unavailable on the GDS are actually available if via a phone call.
Beyond that, talk at the 28 July panel mostly focused on what business travelers are seeking during the entire hotel experience.
Communications tailored to a business traveler top the wish list. Too often communications are geared to leisure travelers who don’t need the same services a business traveler needs when on the road.
“Wouldn’t it be great if you can check a box that you are traveling for business and get emails that could be helpful to your business interactions, not leisure travel?” Vasiloff said.
While it might vary in use generationally, business travelers want to receive relevant push notifications via text or app to receive travel tips and better understand what the property offers. For instance, if road construction has slowed traffic to a crawl within blocks of a hotel, the hotel staff could offer a backup route to give to the taxi driver.
“It’s the little things that will go a long way,” Vasiloff said.
Audience members said a GPS tracking tool that notifies the hotel when a guest’s plane lands is something that business travelers should be able to opt in to.
In addition, business travelers are seeking the ability to sync hotel and reservation information electronic calendars.
Getting to the hotel
This is where the shuttle wish list comes into play, as the survey revealed that business travelers would like an app to see the location of the hotel shuttle so they know whether to wait or using an alternative mode of transportation.
“Knowing that allows me to make an informed decision whether I should jump in a cab,” Vasiloff said. “There’s a huge opportunity for cost savings (for travelers) if the shuttle process could be improved.”
In lieu of—or in addition to—that, an electronic estimated time of arrival sign for the hotel shuttle is high on business travelers’ wish list.
Checking into the hotel
As the digital age progresses and more guests check-in online, the top item on the wish list is a separate check-in line or kiosk for those guests who indeed checked in online—at least until keyless entry with smartphones is perfected.
“The differences are not just generational, but also experiential.” Kerr said.
Duration of stay
Business travelers are looking for less complication once they check into their rooms. Items on the wish list include:
- Not having to rearrange furniture to find enough electrical outlets for all of their gadgets;
- a text/app solution that allows the reporting of in-room issues and a real person messaging back when the task is complete;
- a remote printing solution with kiosk printing to maintain security and privacy;
- more environmentally friendly modifications; and
- being able to easily sync a personal device to the in-room room TV.
One audience member suggest posting in-room dining wait times on the TV or in an app so guests know if they should order in or go out for dinner.
Checking out and expense reporting
Making the post-stay process seamless is at the forefront of business travelers’ minds. Among the suggestions:
- A text check-out system;
- providing e-folios and integrating them with the industry’s most popular reporting tools to provide for an easy travel-and-expense report; and
- breaking down expenses into three ways (total sum, itemized list of charges by service and item lists of charges by item.)
“This is what the buyers want—it saves time in everybody’s life,” Vasiloff said. “It’s the expense side of it …where a lot of people are investing their dollars right now.”