Adapting to Consumer Demands: The Hotel Booking Perspective

John Pelant, VP-IT, CWT Americas
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John Pelant, VP-IT, CWT Americas

Technology is constantly changing our environment and evolving consumer expectations, raising the demand for personalized offers that ultimately make life easier. This rapidly evolving environment challenges companies to stay relevant, particularly in terms of service delivery to customers which is now enabled not just in person, via the phone and online but also via mobile apps. Those companies that deeply understand the needs of wants of their customers who are quick to market will continue to win in today’s tech savvy consumer environment.

“Mobile devices offer endless options for travelers to book hotel rooms with the touch of a finger”

Like many service-based companies, Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT)–a leader specialized in managing business travel and meetings and events– is trying to figure out how to develop the best and most advanced technology to put in the hands of the traveler, who now expect access to information at their fingertips.

According to a 2014 study by CWT’s Travel Management Institute, more than 60 percent of business travelers carry smartphones so it’s no surprise that travelers have turned to their mobile devices and social media to research and book their travel– from flights to hotel rooms. And, just like most leisure travelers, business travelers expect to be constantly connected to personalized data and information that will simplify life on the road.

These trends have quickly evolved traveler expectations and are of particular interest to CWT and the travel industry as a whole. As a frequent business traveler myself, and as developer of our digital and mobile technologies, the intersection of service and technology is of particular focus. Mobile technology enables service-based companies to deploy assistance through multiple channels–in person, via phone, internet, and mobile–which is of the utmost relevance to travelers who live in a world where having information at their fingertips is imperative.

Business travelers rely on hotel ratings and reviews

Business travelers are savvy and they want to know that their essential needs will be taken care of while they are on the road, which is why they are invested in understanding what options hotels have to offer prior to completing a booking. There are many popular social media platforms and customer reviews sites that allow travelers to rate their hotel experiences, which allow travelers to select the most appropriate hotel for their trip.

The problem for business travelers is that most of these peer-review sites are geared towards leisure travelers, who have very different needs than those who are traveling for work. Business travelers value location, connectivity and all inclusive amenities like free breakfast, a coffee maker and an ironing board. While leisure travelers are generally more price sensitive, look for locations near vacation attractions and extra frills like fitness centers and restaurants, which make their stays more comfortable.

Because business travelers value different amenities, many hotels that cater to business travelers do not have the type of robust traveler reviews as leisure-focused properties. That’s why CWT launched CWT Hotel Intel, a review site for business travelers to share their hotel ratings and reviews with colleagues on hotels that are within their company’s managed travel policy.

However, regardless of the hotel travelers want to stay in, it’s important for travelers to book hotel rooms within their company’s travel policy. This ensures the company pays the best rate available and provides travel managers access to all trip details for safety purposes.

Mobile hotel booking abounds

Mobile devices offer endless options for travelers to book hotel rooms with the touch of a finger. CWT’s latest Travel Management Institute study found that the amount of hotels booked through a mobile device will double by 2017. There are dozens of aggregated booking sites that claim best rates and many hotel suppliers that offer mobile apps with direct booking capabilities, so how can a traveler be sure that they are booking the most appropriate hotel for their trip that is in alignment with their company’s travel policy?

Booking hotels outside of the managed travel program can cause risk to the traveler and added expense for the company. When a hotel is booked outside of the program, data regarding the stay cannot be captured by the company or its travel management partner. This can cause an issue in terms of collecting data to enable better negotiations with suppliers and if the traveler runs into a disruption during their trip–severe weather, interruption in transportation, geopolitical event–and needs assistance.

This underscores the importance of booking all travel aspects in one place–that is also connected to your company’s travel policy. According to the CWT Travel Management Institute study, 80 percent of travelers want a single travel “power app” on their mobile device that they can utilize for all travel-related needs. CWT is committed to developing that power app, creating one point of contact for travelers through a mobile experience that supports all stages of the travel continuum–pre-travel, during travel, and post travel.

Our award winning CWT to Go app enables a truly holistic business travel experience. We’ve just rolled out hotel booking functionality within the app which allows travelers to book a hotel directly from their mobile device. Company-preferred properties and rates are highlighted and travelers’ loyalty numbers are automatically populated into the reservation. Peer review functionality will be incorporated in the near future as will flight and car rental booking capabilities. Creating one point of access to the travel program ensures that travelers are supported from end-to-end throughout their journey and companies are able to optimize their corporate travel programs.

Today’s digital, highly personalized and connected environment has created an opportunity for service-based companies to differentiate themselves with technology that fully supports the unique needs of their customers. Looking to the future, whether it’s through better traveler tracking, analyzing big data or creating robust mobile and digital experiences, it is imperative that the travel industry commits to providing a consumer experience that not only makes life easier for the business traveler, but also for their employers.

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