The changing business traveller

Business travellers are no longer just suits carrying briefcases.

E.S. Brits, 2016 – Bloggers, networking events, conferences and face-to-face meetings are the driving forces propelling business travel into a new era.  Recent surveys have found that Millennials are twice as likely to plan and undertake business trips when compared to Baby Boomers. New apps are introduced daily, catering to the unique needs of the corporate traveller, and travel programs now offer everything from expediting the boarding process to assisting travellers in avoiding flight delays.  As travel requirements change and new rules and legislation is implemented, the travel industry should also adapt and grow to account for the increased demand for specific business travel trends and needs.

Technology enables us to be in constant contact with our friends, and family. Between Skype and Google hangouts employees, colleagues and business partners can connect even when they are continents apart. But still, the good old-fashioned face-to-face meeting remains hard to substitute. The face-to-face meeting is however busy changing.

Changing business traveller

Changing business traveller (Image from: Skift.com)

For hotels, guesthouses and other travel destinations, business travellers are a very appealing market. If they want to successfully reach this lucrative market they have to stay ahead of the trends. The new business traveller’s needs have evolved; they are now looking for a temporary home-away-from-home paired with a fast, efficient and seamless experience that will enable them to work on-the-go. This new trend goes hand in hand with the following needs:

  1. Business travellers want a seamless experience through apps

In order to attract the growing market of corporate travellers, accommodation establishments need to make use of multi-screen bookings, allowing travellers to adapt their plans in an instant – to change bookings, book in or out, or even cancel bookings. Even better if the app can also link the traveller to local restaurants and coffee shops, transport, weather forecasts, and for the bleisure travellers, a sight or two to visit while on their trip.

  1. Enable the business traveller to maintain their workflow

When travelling for business, efficiency is key. Companies expect their employees to work, even if it is from a hotel room. Therefore, hotels and other accommodation establishments should offer Wi-fi and charging stations in the room and printing and other business facilities on-site – preferably open after hours. No matter who the traveller, Wi-fi remains an expense that most travellers would want to avoid, giving travel destinations who offer it free of charge a definite competitive advantage.

  1. Consistency

Corporate travellers often prefer to book with accommodation chains and hotel groups with a known brand. Surveys have found that business travellers rated hotel chains as a safer bet when travelling to different countries or locations. But that does not mean that independent hotels should be dismayed. They can compete in this market by making sure their marketing advertises exactly what the traveller can look forward to, and then deliver on that promise. Show off the amenities that will really matter to this group of travellers, e.g. your big rooms equipped with a work desk, displaying the free Wi-fi sign. But make sure all the rooms look like that picture. Remember, consistency builds trust and not delivering what you promised breaks that trust.

  1. Location, location, location

Business travellers prefer to book their accommodation close to key locations, where there are reliable transport and dining facilities in close proximity. Pair this with stable connectivity and facilities that will ensure a workday without frustration and there you have it! Advertise accordingly, emphasising safety, comfort and productivity.

  1. Loyalty and rewards programs

Incentives can be a successful motivator to ensure repeat business and return guests. For a corporation making a booking for their employees’ business trip, incentives that have proven to be effective include a reduced corporate rate for small businesses, loyalty packages for large businesses, and special business services that will ensure continuous workflow.

  1. Keeping everything in one location

Conference facilities, space to have face-to-face meetings, work space for group sessions and breakout rooms are indispensable for any business traveller. Having these facilities in the same location is ideal.

  1. Going cashless

Exact record-keeping is one of the headaches of travelling on the company’s dime. Going digital makes the whole process easier, allowing travellers to pay directly from their mobile devices while saving an exact record of the expense.

  1. Shorter lines and no waiting times

The old saying, “time is money”, rings very true for corporate travellers, who require fast and seamless check-in and check-out experiences. They will look for destinations that go digital, allowing guests to check in and out on their mobile devices and apps, as well as key-less entry to their rooms.

  1. Different is sometimes better

Some business travellers consider the somewhat unconventional accommodation options when going on a corporate trip – anything from bed and breakfasts, self-catering apartments, cabins, lodges and even tree houses! Although the demand for traditional hotel rooms is still high, this growing trend indicates that business travellers are willing to be adventurous and to think out of the box. That means you should too. Accommodation establishments should highlight what makes them unique. Never be afraid to show what else, over and above the business centre and workspace, you offer.

  1. Healthy travellers

The global health trend has extended to the business travel market. Hotels and other accommodation establishments, airports and other business facilities have started to offer new services that focus on the well-being of the traveller. These services include relaxation areas, exercise classes, and juice bars.

Business travel is an ever growing market, and if tapped into successfully, can be very rewarding.

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Tips from experts in the travel market

And so the first month of 2014 is already behind us and February is well under way. Many experts have had a look at the travel market‘s stats from last year and here is what they were able to identify:

  • According to a survey done by American Express Travel, one of the most popular reasons for travelling is arts and crafts.
  • This is the year for up-selling. With the weakening of the Rand, international travel to South Africa has become even cheaper. Broaden your horizons and up-sell in international countries rather than domestic.
  • According to the ITB World Travel Trends Report 2013/2014 there has been a tremendous growth in international travel in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. If you want to start marketing internationally, I suggest you target these countries first.
  • Leisure travel is outgrowing business travel according to the ITB World Travel Trends Report.
  • The ITB World Travel Trends Report says that city holidays and holiday tours have been the main driving factors in tourism growth worldwide for the last four years.
  • 2013 was finally the year for mobile according to SocialMedia Today. We can expect an increase in enquiry and booking traffic from smartphones and tablets alike.
  • A study done by Expedia Media Solutions have shown that travellers visit at least 38 websites on average before they purchase an online travel package2014’s challenge will therefore be to keep websites updated, easy to navigate and with all the information a guest might need.
  • With TripAdvisor now offering meta-search capabilitieshotels will need to have a look at this additional distribution outlet in 2014.
  • Social media has an increasing influence in the search and planning stages of travel. Keep an eye on visual search sites like Instagram and Pinterest this year.
  • There’s a definite growing importance of Google+. Don’t miss out on this one in 2014.
  • Keep a lookout for Millennials (18 – 30-year olds). According to Chris Fair, Resonance Consultancy President, this is a much more ethnically diverse group, making them more interested in international travel. Other characteristics include their interest in urban rather than resort destinations, their likeliness to travel  in pursuit of a favourite interest or activity and the likelihood that they would rather travel with friends in organized groups.
  • The use of social media with widespread sharing of holiday photos has fostered a new trend. Travellers now want unique experiences which they can share with friends and family via social media ports.
Creative Travel - Interacting with locals

Creative Travel – Interacting with locals

  • There’s also been growth in creative tourism as Chris Fair calls it. This speaks of travel that provides a connection with those who reside in the destination. Travellers want to interact with locals.
  • Another travel trend to keep in mind in 2014 is the growth in multigenerational travel. The older the baby boomers get, the more family travel they do and most of these travels are planned around milestone events. These travellers are all about trading memories, convenience and value. Another challenge for destinations this year is to be able to cater for both 6 and 66-year olds.