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.