With corporate travel spending expected to grow 6% by end of year (its highest annual growth rate since 2011), hoteliers should be specifically working to improve this guest experience. But their approach must adapt to meet the needs of a quickly changing market; one in which professional travel bloggers and social media influencers now earn as much as CEOs.
Far and few between are traditional working professionals checking into hotels with briefcases. We’re instead seeing people like Matt, a full-time travel blogger making six figures per year. Or Chris, a surf and adventure photographer with over 2 million Instagram followers. These autonomous, experiential roles have redefined the idea of corporate travel, and it’s imperative that hotels keep up.
As these working trends grow (up to 50% of the U.S. population is expected to be freelancing by 2027), it can be argued that the number of annual U.S. business trips will far exceed standard calculations. Combined with generational changes (nearly half of all U.S. business trips are made by individuals nearing retirement age, according to the Bureau of Transportation), hospitality leaders can gain a clear view of what the future of business travel will look like.
So, how can hotels evolve to meet the needs of a new working world? Here are some steps leaders should be thinking about…
• Deliver a personality-driven experience: This goes for every guest but especially new-aged professionals who, literally, make a living off experiences. I elaborate on this topic in a feature article for the Hotel Business Review: the idea of delivering everything under the sun is becoming increasingly irrelevant as guests seek special attention from brands that individuate. We’re seeing this shift across major industry players like Hyatt (Andaz Hotels), Hilton (Canopy by Hilton), and Marriott (Autograph Collection). Next-gen business travelers want to stay at a hotel that they feel reflects who they are as a person.
• Make every moment count: While you’re considering the big picture of guest experience, don’t forget the importance of close-ups. Be cognizant of your business travelers and their unique ways of thinking and living. Authenticity is paramount for these individuals, so it’s incredibly important that you work to establish genuine trust and train your teams to do the same. The guest experience extends across the entire hotel organization, meaning every associate needs to bring their A-game.
• The devil is in the details: Over 90% of people read online customer reviews, with 47% saying they’ve avoided a company because of its online reputation and/or negative reviews. There is perhaps no review more influencing than one from a professional who has built his or her life and livelihood on the idea of sharing incredible experiences. Studies show that negative guest reviews are typically longer and focus on specific issues, so work to secure incredible reviews with detail-oriented service.
Today’s digital, connected world has introduced seemingly endless possibilities for business travel. One of these next-gen professionals can check in at your hotel today, and I guarantee they’ll have higher expectations that your traditional corporate traveler.