There are three main trends that are shaping corporate travellers hotel choice: loyalty programmes, the tightening of purse strings and new media. This was the view of Thabani Ndlovu, from Hilton Worldwide, who discussed the evolution of corporate travel buying behaviour at the GBTA Southern Africa conference in Pretoria. On each of the three trends, Ndlovu had the following to say:
- Loyalty programmes: There is a certain element of prestige involved in being a member of a loyalty programme, and successful companies are leveraging this in a way that drives new members to sign up while also encouraging existing members to maximise their benefits. Many hotels are also linking up with other travel suppliers and linking loyalty programmes, so that travellers can earn points on air travel as well as their hotel stay.
- Tightening of purse strings: Procurement managers are under pressure to manage spend better, especially as travel is one of the biggest costs for most organisations. Gone are the days where corporate travellers stay in five-star hotels – today, three- and four-star hotels are the more common choice. Many hotel groups have responded by developing “brand within brands” – each delivering a focused offering for a particular segment. In terms of corporate travel, mid-market brands can offer value-adds to make corporate spend go further, from free Wifi, to complimentary breakfast and use of laundry facilities.
- New Media: Attempts by hotels to gag travellers and block guests from saying what they want online have not only been unsuccessful – they have caused a significant amount of brand damage. Online reviews are here to stay and it’s up to hotels to decide whether they are going to engage on these platforms and enhance their service offering in response. New media has also seen the emergence of apps that give corporates more control – from making and modifying reservations to choosing the room they want.