How Hotels Can Win More Business Travel

Office Space at Courtyard It’s a tough time to be a hotel. I know this because when using Priceline, I’m finding that I can name a price more than 50% below threshold most of the time and get it. I think there are opportunities to make up for this, however, and that there are many ways that hotels can pick up business customers to help fill a few beds. Here are my thoughts:

How Hotels Can Win More Business Travel

Get Aggressive With Search- I just cooked up this Twitter search, which looks at where people are staying for the SXSW conference, and I found several people asking for lodging. If I were an Austin, TX hotel property with open beds, I’d go after each and every one of them with a rate quote and an easy link to make the reservation. You can do this ceaselessly. Twitter offers up all kinds of data from business travelers all the time for free.

Improve Your Concierge Service – How hard would it be to database your guests a little bit, and start to understand their recurring business travel needs? How difficult would it be to share them across properties? When I visit a property, I need a few things each time. I need to know where the nearest drug store is (in case I need medicine or some other travel supply). I need to know where a few types of restaurants are, including somewhere to take business colleagues, and somewhere to get healthy food for cheap. I might need to know where the nearest Best Buy or Apple store are, too. If you could learn what I need, then have that databased so that it’s fresh and relevant when I visit other properties.

Get Aggressive With Offers – Right now, there’s no reason why not to build incentives into property loyalty. Hotels.com has a book 10 nights through them, get 1 night free (without any loyalty required to any particular chain). It’s a really clever offer. It could be countered easily and retain chain loyalty fairly easily.

Seek Out More Events – Scour Upcoming.org and Facebook and other places where events are listed and see if there’s maybe potential for a tie-in offer. As events are cutting back costs, fewer conferences are booking an official hotel. There’s no reason hotels can’t step in and offer up group rates. The beds are just as empty, yes?

Add Business Value – Some places offer conference rooms. Others offer suites. In-room, some places have great desks for working with plenty of outlets, and decent office chairs (I recently stayed at an Embassy Suites hotel in Boston that had a great desk and office chair. I felt very comfy working there). The more ways my hotel room and the building’s amenities can offer up more and more business value, the better.

Why Go After Business Travel?

Vacations are being cut back, without a doubt. Those types of customers are looking for budget cutting measures all the way around. Though businesses are seeking discounts and cost-reduction as well, I feel that some level of business travel must continue to occur. I feel that hotels will benefit from courting niche markets, and by catering to classes of traveler who might react immediately to the attention paid to them.

What do you think? Would this impact your travel plans in either direction?

See also, USA Today’s 10 Travel Trends for 2009.

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  • http://www.providentpartners.net/blog Albert Maruggi

    Chris good post, but don’t throw leisure travel under the bus just yet. Michael Wardlow is right. The issue is profitability for business traveler is high, especially in airfares, e.g. it takes 3 or 4 leisure travelers to deliver the profit of one business traveler on average.

    Also hotels need to think regional for the next 6 months. If gas prices stay under $2.50 for the summer, you bet shorter (300-500 mile) vacations will be up. We are working right now with the top golf course in Minnesota to drive early bookings from a 4 state area.

    Now the interesting part of your post is the longer tail. While the actions you recommend today may not be enough to fight corporate nickel and dime watchers, as the purse strings let up, travelers will reward their sacrifices today with “I deserve it” accommodations later.

    Speaking of hotels, I have to book my room for San Fran’s InBound Marketing Summit see you there.

  • http://www.providentpartners.net/blog Albert Maruggi

    Chris good post, but don’t throw leisure travel under the bus just yet. Michael Wardlow is right. The issue is profitability for business traveler is high, especially in airfares, e.g. it takes 3 or 4 leisure travelers to deliver the profit of one business traveler on average.

    Also hotels need to think regional for the next 6 months. If gas prices stay under $2.50 for the summer, you bet shorter (300-500 mile) vacations will be up. We are working right now with the top golf course in Minnesota to drive early bookings from a 4 state area.

    Now the interesting part of your post is the longer tail. While the actions you recommend today may not be enough to fight corporate nickel and dime watchers, as the purse strings let up, travelers will reward their sacrifices today with “I deserve it” accommodations later.

    Speaking of hotels, I have to book my room for San Fran’s InBound Marketing Summit see you there.

  • http://www.providentpartners.net/blog Albert Maruggi

    Rachel, what Hilton should know is whether you have a blog or you are an active commenter online. That is a key element that hotels are missing, I suggested to a provider of hotel software that such a metric would be a value add to their product. They are thinking about it.

  • http://www.providentpartners.net/blog Albert Maruggi

    Rachel, what Hilton should know is whether you have a blog or you are an active commenter online. That is a key element that hotels are missing, I suggested to a provider of hotel software that such a metric would be a value add to their product. They are thinking about it.

  • http://www.providentpartners.net/blog Albert Maruggi

    Rachel, what Hilton should know is whether you have a blog or you are an active commenter online. That is a key element that hotels are missing, I suggested to a provider of hotel software that such a metric would be a value add to their product. They are thinking about it.

  • http://www.providentpartners.net/blog Albert Maruggi

    Rachel, what Hilton should know is whether you have a blog or you are an active commenter online. That is a key element that hotels are missing, I suggested to a provider of hotel software that such a metric would be a value add to their product. They are thinking about it.

  • http://www.reddingtravelodge.com Stephen R. Jones

    Great post and equally great responses which I spent a huge amount of time gold mining. Chris shared many, and those responding shared even more nuggets. I operate a 41 room value added property in a North state community, I would say that the business traveler has become more internet and industry (hospitality) savvy than those of the past. We are linked to the economy sector because of our brand, but are approach and property exceed the rest of the properties in our sector.

    Too many operators fail to service the customer, watch their rates and find and meet the needs of their own unique niche. We offer one-price-pays-all, express check-in and express check out. No guessing what all those charges are when you check-out. Also, it speeds up the process and the guest is in and out of their room with limited time spent. The time the do have we use to inject information, suggests and ideas for eating and activities in the area. Get to know them and see if we can assist in their stay.

    As for WiFi, the economy chains got this a long time ago. They don’t charge for it. Mostly those hotels that think they’ll go under if they give needed amenities at no cost. Most economy properties (branded,) have introduced standards that make the systems work. It seems the larger hotels and resorts use it as a revenue income instead of a value added amenity.

    TripAdvisor, Facebook, Twitter and the host of other resources are there, it’s just that too many are content to complain that business is bad and they continue to the things they have always done and they wonder why they are not being successful. I daily use a gorilla marketing approach to my market. Even reading the post and… I said and the replies! Nuggets are found in hidden places. Rare one is just found in your pocket, search for them!

    When it is all said and done, the properties that work the business, keep their eyes open and take the time to maybe even “sleep” in their own rooms and see what they’re guests are experiencing – they will grow regardless of business. As for us, Business is Good !

    Yours in Service,
    Stephen Jones
    540 North Market Street
    Redding, California 96003
    1-800-243-1106
    http://www.reddingtravelodge.com
    “Redding’s Best Kept Lodging Secret”

  • http://www.reddingtravelodge.com Stephen R. Jones

    Great post and equally great responses which I spent a huge amount of time gold mining. Chris shared many, and those responding shared even more nuggets. I operate a 41 room value added property in a North state community, I would say that the business traveler has become more internet and industry (hospitality) savvy than those of the past. We are linked to the economy sector because of our brand, but are approach and property exceed the rest of the properties in our sector.

    Too many operators fail to service the customer, watch their rates and find and meet the needs of their own unique niche. We offer one-price-pays-all, express check-in and express check out. No guessing what all those charges are when you check-out. Also, it speeds up the process and the guest is in and out of their room with limited time spent. The time the do have we use to inject information, suggests and ideas for eating and activities in the area. Get to know them and see if we can assist in their stay.

    As for WiFi, the economy chains got this a long time ago. They don’t charge for it. Mostly those hotels that think they’ll go under if they give needed amenities at no cost. Most economy properties (branded,) have introduced standards that make the systems work. It seems the larger hotels and resorts use it as a revenue income instead of a value added amenity.

    TripAdvisor, Facebook, Twitter and the host of other resources are there, it’s just that too many are content to complain that business is bad and they continue to the things they have always done and they wonder why they are not being successful. I daily use a gorilla marketing approach to my market. Even reading the post and… I said and the replies! Nuggets are found in hidden places. Rare one is just found in your pocket, search for them!

    When it is all said and done, the properties that work the business, keep their eyes open and take the time to maybe even “sleep” in their own rooms and see what they’re guests are experiencing – they will grow regardless of business. As for us, Business is Good !

    Yours in Service,
    Stephen Jones
    540 North Market Street
    Redding, California 96003
    1-800-243-1106
    http://www.reddingtravelodge.com
    “Redding’s Best Kept Lodging Secret”

  • http://amazingserviceguy.com Kevin Stirtz

    Chris – Love your comments about elevating the concierge offerings. This would take some effort but the payoff would be more than worth it. It's getting horribly difficult to compete on price in the hotel business. So what's left bu to compete of customer service?

    KS

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  • Pyro

    Being aggressive in offers and search really made the business of hotels more valuable. Also the points which are added to these ones are also very much important. I can easily guess how far u worked for this article.
    loyalty programs

  • Eirka

    In the hotel business everything varies from one day to another, one day you are upgraded and another time you aren’t, one time you have one price and other time another, it is all a question of availability (FYI), as for the price most of hotels and airlines are using yield management because there is always a high or a low season. After all it is a business, right? So they have to make money to keep their stakeholder, their staff and management happy.

  • Eirka

    In the hotel business everything varies from one day to another, one day you are upgraded and another time you aren’t, one time you have one price and other time another, it is all a question of availability (FYI), as for the price most of hotels and airlines are using yield management because there is always a high or a low season. After all it is a business, right? So they have to make money to keep their stakeholder, their staff and management happy.

  • Supercool

    There might some reasons for not to build incentives into property loyalty.. I accept that Twitter offers up all kinds of data from business travelers all the time for free…we have to use the sources whrever it is available..
    Business Travel Web

  • Matt

    I can get all business travel details in this blog and additional info about it.. I have been looking for a blog like this for past many months.. The points mentioned in this article are valid..
    Business Travel Web

  • Angelaric rickson

    We're going to be experimenting with cross-product promotion in the coming weeks – if a customer bough this or looked at this, then here's another gift idea on that theme etc. Hardly cutting edge or new thinking i know but with the realisation from our page stats that many visitors are landing on product specific pages rather than arriving at the main shop gift page, this makes good sense as we expand our personalised gift portfolio.
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  • Rowant01

    wow very good comment

  • smartbrains

    I live at Perry and MLK right around the block from the SD. I see it EVERY single day and it makes me sad to see it go to waste but I do not think to myself “that bitch Jennifer Granholm” everytime. She had NOTHING to do with the sale of the Silverdome but I will admit that the state should be more hands on with the situation.

  • Susan Hall

    Some hotel in Melbourne offer that kind of information but only if the client ask for it. This is because this can be interpreted by the client as an intrusion in their private life and most of them don’t seem to get the idea that the hotel staff just want to help them.

  • Drew

    Hotels need to watch themselves, we’ve seen a lot of them increasing their prices as business travel picks up again. The fact is, alternatives exist. After I kicked up a stink about always being the one who was packed off around the world, my company looked into serviced apartments London, thinking I’d feel more at home. I didn’t but that’s beside the point. They served my purpose and so would many bed and breakfasts. There is such a thing as pricing yourself out of the market and there’s been a lot of belt tightening going on. Not many companies will just accept price increases, they’ll look elsewhere.

  • Anonymous

    These things are all what hotel managers would like but this doesn’t mean it will happen. Considering how things are going with the economy, more and more people don’t feel like traveling. Just look how many companies downsized and how many people got a salary cut. So, hotels miss their clients and the clients miss their vacations.
    Shirley Cletus @ Cheap Sydney Hotels

  • Jennie Burton

    My husband travels weekly for business, he is diabetic and breakfast is important and when he is in a different city each week it is often difficult to have the time to find a low carb breakfast.  Having egggs and low carb whole wheat bread for toast would help him alot.  I wish hotels would have some diabetic friendly rooms with refrigerators and microwaves, and advertise that breakfast has some low carb choices.  Better yet advertise that they are a  Diabetic friendly hotel.

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