The GBTA Foundation conducted a new study in partnership with WWStay to understand how travel programs approach their need for extended stay accommodations. This is a follow up to a 2015 study showing nearly half of U.S. international business travelers have used extended stay accommodations in the past 12 months, with 72 percent of Millennials having used one – more than any other age group.
These numbers clearly demonstrate that you need to be thinking about extended stay as an important part of your travel program.
What Defines an Extended Stay Business Trip?
Just over half (51 percent) of North American travel buyers who responded to the survey said they consider an extended stay trip as one that falls between 5+ to 10+ nights, while 15 percent said it is defined as 30 nights or more. Almost a quarter of respondents mentioned they did not have a set definition. While there is no set timeframe all companies must follow, what is important is that your organization create a definition for what is considered an extended stay trip. This is the first step in managing this part of your travel program. The definition you set and the needs of your travelers will make it easier to understand who owns this piece and when other departments either take over or can collaborate with your group.
Challenges Faced Fulfilling Extended Stay Accommodations
The most commonly cited challenge among travel buyers when fulfilling extended stay accommodations was finding the right type of lodging for their travelers when the destination was not one they had previously visited. Without the benefit of established relationships with lodging suppliers and on-the-ground knowledge, the process becomes even more labor and resource intensive. Even with those relationships in place, there is an inevitable back-and-forth process with extended stay accommodations to find the right solution for the traveler that also fits within the parameters of the travel program.
Travel buyers also find with extended stay accommodations in new parts of the world their travelers haven’t been to before, that it can be difficult to properly vet the quality and safety of the lodging in advance. This is where partnering with a TMC or third-party service provider can be helpful to ensure the property truly does meet all the needs of the traveler and the standards set by the travel program.
Additional challenges encountered by travel buyers include minimum night stays, limited number of properties in certain locations, labor intensive search process and price negotiations.
Duty of Care Implications
In general the various types of extended stay accommodations including traditional hotels, extended stay hotels, community rentals or serviced apartments can meet all of the duty of care standards in place for an organization as long as a proper vetting process is in place to evaluate the safety of the accommodations. Challenges arise when the property has not been vetted by the travel program or partner to the program and when travelers do not book through approved channels.
The 2015 study found 60 percent of North American based business travelers who travel internationally book extended stay accommodations on their own outside of their travel department. This poses a number of potential challenges including lost visibility, increased likelihood of poor decisions as a result of limited knowledge, and reduced productivity. When a travel buyer has no visibility into a traveler’s itinerary, there is very little that can be done to offer support if needed. The duty of care implications can be more severe in the case of an emergency such as weather, health or security-related issues. Booking through approved channels in conjunction with regular communication between travelers and their travel program minimizes these risks.
TMCs and third-party service providers that manage extended stay lodging for a travel buyer along with third-party security companies can all help coordinate and manage the safety of the extended stay traveler. At a minimum, travel buyers should have tracking capabilities to know where their travelers are staying at all times. Duty of care initiatives should be no different for transient trips than for those traveling for an extended period of time. If anything, those away from the office for longer periods of time should be acutely aware of and have at their disposal all information needed in case of an emergency.
Travel buyers wear a lot of different hats, and in most cases, managing extended stay trips for their travelers is one of them. Understanding the unique needs of their travelers in terms of extended stay business trips, as well as available resources, will help you determine how to best manage extended stay in your travel program. This new study is a valuable resource for travel buyers, and GBTA members can access it for free on the GBTA Hub.
Methodology: The GBTA Foundation study, Extended Stay Accommodations: What Travel Managers Need to Know, conducted in partnership with WWStay included 273 respondents to a short questionnaire sent to Canada and U.S.-based travel managers in March of 2016. An additional 16 in-depth interviews were conducted from March 14-29, 2016, with travel managers who had participated in the survey mentioned. The interviews conducted by the GBTA Foundation Research team varied in length from 30-60 minutes.