Corporate travel buyers have more choices than ever for hotels to host their business travelers. The largest hotel companies in the world—including Marriott International, Hilton, Hyatt, Wyndham, and AccorHotels—have more properties than ever after acquiring new brands or creating their own.
Business travel makes up a large bulk of a hotel’s revenue, and corporate travel buyers have more leverage than ever to ask for specific amenities, technology, booking options and more.
Hotels also have to think about appeasing Millennials, those in their 20s and early 30s who are gaining more clout as business travelers and tend to be more demanding than other age groups.
According to a recent survey by Hilton Hotels and Resorts, 75 percent of 1,200 business travelers and 400 prospective business travelers aged 23 to 35 see traveling as a significant work perk. Sixty-five percent consider it a status symbol. Thirty-nine percent went as far as to say they wouldn’t take a job that didn’t allow them to travel for business.
Now hotels are working to differentiate themselves to attract those eager business travelers.
Travelers are “looking for a more personal touch than ever before. In years past, you could go to a hotel and get the same thing anywhere you went,” said Jermaine Anderson, general manager of the newly opened dual-branded Hilton Garden Inn Chicago Downtown South Loop and Homewood Suites by Hilton Chicago Downtown South Loop.
One of Anderson’s hotel’s unique amenities is a deck on the 8th floor where guests can barbecue. Business travelers have refrigerators for long-term stays and can get groceries from high-end markets such as Trader Joe’s.
Guests also often like to be able to take some of the comforts of their home while on the road. Technology has advanced enough so guests can stream their favorite Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and other shows onto the flat-screen TVs in the room, Anderson said.
High-speed Wi-Fi continues to be a huge request from corporate travelers, hotel executives said.
In a recent La Quinta by Wyndham survey of business travelers, 64 percent said it would be harder to go without high-speed Wi-Fi than clean water on a business trip.
Charlene Nigaglioni-Gang, senior director of global sales for Wyndham, said business travelers also request easy booking options such as same day cancellation allowances, last-room availability and limited black-out dates.
“La Quinta is using these insights to help guests succeed while on the road with the signature amenities they need, including free high-speed Wi-Fi, free breakfast, 24/7 coffee and tea, comfortable bedding, modern fitness centers, spacious in-room work areas with charging stations and social gathering spaces,” Nigaglioni-Gang said.
Easier booking is also important to Hyatt travelers. Gus Vonderheide, vice president of global sales at Hyatt, said business travelers want tools that improve ease of use, such as all-in-one booking tools. They also increasingly want more choices throughout different touchpoints of their stay. Now World of Hyatt members can select early check-in and late checkout at participating Hyatt Place hotels.
“With this new offer, members are able to reserve an extended stay window before departing on their trip, giving them more flexibility with their stay and schedule,” Vonderheide said.
Travel buyers, he said, are increasingly interested in alternative pricing models, such as dynamic or multi-year pricing, or bundling all business travel opportunities including meetings. Negotiating loyalty status for key travelers is also important.
Corporate travel buyers have to juggle negotiating the best rates and amenities while also keeping their travelers satisfied.
The Global Business Travel Association released a survey late last year in partnership with RoomIt by CWT, in which nearly 70 percent of 265 buyers in the United States and Europe said enforcing policy compliance is among the most challenging aspects of their job.
“Business travelers want to find the right room in the right place with the right amenities – and stay within the rules set by their hotel program,” said David Falter, president of RoomIt by CWT. “At the end of the day both the travel manager and traveler ultimately have similar goals to save money. Travel buyers can do so by offering travelers more choice and increasing compliance.”
Travel buyers said their goal for this year is to reduce program costs and increase policy compliance and traveler satisfaction. Most business travelers said they were satisfied with their rate allowances for booking hotels. But two-thirds of 750 surveyed said they would not mind a higher rate allowance to stay at preferred properties.
Earning loyalty points is also important to business travelers. Nearly three-quarters—71 percent—said that if they have to give up their time to travel, they should have the ability to earn loyalty points.
Travelers also want to use amenities that are not always allowed in their travel policies. Very few travel programs allow for bundled rates that include multiple amenities but more than three-quarters of travelers said they would want them. Bundled rates, however, don’t always lead to cost savings.
When asked which amenities they would purchase while on business travel if they had no limits with their policies, the most popular ones were premium Wi-Fi, in-room dining and snacks, laundry or dry cleaning, food delivery services, gym passes, and in-room entertainment.
Many hotel guests also increasingly ask for healthy food options on room service and restaurant menus. Forty-four percent of Hilton Hotels and Resorts’ business travelers said they have gained weight while traveling.
Hilton Hotels and Resorts has added wellness-focused amenities as a result. They have a “Five Feet to Fitness” program in which fitness equipment and accessories can be included in the guest room.
Herb N’ Kitchen, Hilton’s in-room delivery service and casual dining concept, serves healthy grab and go items.
They have a “Meet with Purpose” program that allows meeting professionals to choose from a variety of health-conscious menu packages. They include “Yoga and Yogurt,” which offers yoga classes followed by a gourmet yogurt bar, and “Cut & Create,” which allows meetings attendees to customize their meal from a wood display of fresh greens and accompanying items.