With fall around the corner, the hospitality industry is getting ready to welcome more corporate travelers as the peak business travel season heats up. The business travel market is a lucrative one; business travel spending in the U.S. is expected to reach $302.7 billion by the end of the year — an increase of 4.9 percent from last year. Even Airbnb is directing more attention toward business travelers, recently announcing a new product suite for its Business Travel program, which has enjoyed a 700 percent growth since it was launched a year ago.
If your hotel is busy on weekends but quiet during the week, business travelers could be your ticket to improved occupancy and ADR. But just how can you attract them to stay at your property?
Just like leisure travelers, those traveling on business are looking for a comfortable and convenient stay. But, unlike leisure travelers, business travelers are also looking for an office-away-from-the-office (as well as a home-away-from-home). Your business guests want amenities and services that help them work efficiently, and perks that lessen the burden of a corporate life on the road.
For some tips on how to attract business travelers to your independent property, read on.
A Mobile-Optimized Website – A mobile-optimized hotel website gives busy businesspeople easy access to your property information on the go and is more likely to rank higher in mobile searches than non-mobile sites. For the business traveler or travel planner, make sure your website features your property’s location (pinpointing major companies and conference venues nearby) and amenities clearly, and no more than a single tap or click away. Consider a dedicated Business Travel page that highlights all relevant amenities, services and packages geared toward business travelers — this is not only helpful to prospective corporate customers, but is a great way to boost SEO.
Online Bookings – Businesspeople are busy, efficient types, and they demand convenient services that save time. Hello, online bookings. A smooth, simple online booking process that provides access to corporate rates (via access codes) is much appreciated by those organizing business trips.
Targeted Communications – Generic emails that promote amenities, services and local attractions geared toward your leisure guests are irrelevant and unhelpful to business travelers. Pre-arrival communications with your business guests should offer assistance and highlight services that will help make their stay productive and efficient; Would they like to reserve the meeting room? Do they need restaurant reservations? An airport pick-up?… Likewise, post-stay communications with corporate clients should target their specific needs by offering them special business packages and discounts, and informing them of any new amenities or services that will improve future stays.
Speedy Check-in & Check-out – Time is precious to us all, but business travelers tend to have even less tolerance for inefficiency. Start off on the right foot with your business guests by ensuring your check-in (and check-out) process is a swift one. Some cloud property management systems (PMS) like WebRezPro offer paperless check-in via mobile device, allowing front desk staff to check guests in and out on the go for maximum efficiency — without sacrificing personal service with a smile. Self-service check-in and -out via hotel app or kiosk is also increasingly in demand, especially by millennial travelers.
Flexible Check-in and Check-out Times – Speaking of check-in and check-out, a recent MainStreet article revealed that a number of hotels are becoming more flexible in regard to check-in and check-out times as part of their service personalization efforts. Some properties charge an extra fee for this request, and some offer it to loyalty members for free. Flexible check-in and check-out times couldn’t be more relevant to corporate travelers, who often arrive to their destination in the morning, needing to freshen up before their 1 o’clock meeting, or don’t fly out until later in the afternoon. While offering early check-in and late check-out can complicate housekeeping and room allocation, modern property management systems provide the departmental integration and transparency that helps to keep operations running smoothly. And the convenience to your guests will go far in earning their loyalty.
CONNECTIVITY – Notice it’s typed in CAPS? That’s how important it is. In fact, perhaps no other amenity is more important to business travelers than reliable Wi-Fi and 49 percent of business travelers consider free Wi-Fi a deciding factor when it comes to their choice of hotel.
Well-Equipped Business Spaces – If your property features a business center, but the technology (computers, fax machine, printer) has seen better days, it’s worth investing in some new hardware if you want to increase (or maintain) your corporate clientele. Remember, time-saving technology and services are very important to the business guest and if your temperamental printer gives them a hard time, you’ll likely never see them again.
Properties that don’t have a dedicated business center can entice corporate guests to utilize communal areas, like lounges and bars, by offering comfortable spaces for guests to work informally in a social setting, if desired. That means providing comfortable seating, plenty of power outlets and access to Wi-Fi, of course. Offer access to a printer, too, whether you set up a printing station in a quiet corner, or allow guests to utilize the front desk’s.
In-Room Conveniences – Are your guestrooms conducive to office work? Do they offer ergonomic desks and chairs, good lighting, reliable Wi-Fi and easy access to all power outlets? Other in-room amenities that business guests typically find handy are hair dryers, ironing boards and irons, coffee makers and full-length mirrors. You can really impress with thoughtful extras like the ability to easily sync their devices to the TV, pillow menus and black-out curtains. Needless to say, quality bedding for a good night’s sleep is crucial.
If outfitting all your guestrooms with work-conducive amenities is a bit of a stretch to your budget, consider offering a limited number of “business suites.”
Wellness – Because business travelers are on the road a lot, staying healthy while traveling is important to them. If your property offers onsite dining, review your menu for healthy options. Do you provide gluten-free and vegan meals for guests with food allergies and intolerances?
Whether your property features a restaurant or not, both business and leisure guests will appreciate the availability of healthy snacks (how about a lobby fruit bowl?) and breakfast — it doesn’t have to be a cooked one; think fast, healthy and convenient, like self-serve toast, cereal, yogurt and fruit.
When it comes to fitness, consider partnering with a nearby gym to offer guests complimentary or discounted passes, if you don’t have fitness facilities on site. Some properties are even offering in-room fitness kits comprising the likes of yoga mats and resistance bands. Or how about offering a Corporate De-Stresser Package that includes a relaxing spa treatment?
Transportation – Waiting for taxis, taking public transport or renting a car can all be bothersome for a tired traveler who’s just flown in. On the contrary, an airport pick-up is a convenient, hassle-free welcome to your property. And during the guest’s stay, offer to make arrangements for transport to and from nearby venues and meetings.
Billing Itemization – For expensing purposes, the ability to itemize charges on the same or separate folios makes life for both the traveler and their company’s accounting department much easier. Does your PMS do this?
Loyalty Programs – While companies love loyalty programs that offer free nights and discounted stays, the actual guest appreciates perks that make constant business travel a little less tiresome — like free transportation, complimentary beverages, discounted spa services and more personalized service. A loyalty program is not only a great way to attract corporate clients, but it provides the opportunity to gather guest data that can be used to personalize service and target marketing more effectively.
While not every hotel will be able to implement every idea on this list, any property can cater more effectively to business travelers by focusing on convenience, efficiency and technology. Powerful core systems like cloud PMS and CRM will set you off on the right foot by supporting efficient processes, personalized service and targeted marketing.
It’s also important to note that although you are catering to the business traveler, you are typically marketing to their companies, which are organizing travel on behalf of their employees. Get the word out to business travel bookers by advertising your business-friendly amenities, services and packages on your (mobile-optimized) website, and running targeted ads on OTAs. And be sure to keep corporate clients updated about relevant special offers and new amenities and services through targeted email communications and social media.