Business Travel Your Way
The Hottest Trends of 2007
Written by Michael Roney
“More” seems to be the operative word in describing the top business travel trends of 2007, whether we’re talking about choice and control, comfort, efficiency, loyalty or social consciousness. The “mores” in these cases have resulted from the heightened expectations of frequent travelers and how airlines, hotels and car rental companies are employing innovation and technology to better meet them.
In surveying the top travel trends of the year, we’ve noticed that the savviest business globe-hoppers are expertly orchestrating the traveloptions available to them. They are building relationships within alliances to maximize personal preferences and personalized services, tapping into the latest comfort and convenience offerings and leveraging technology to save precious time and maximize productivity on the road.
More Choice and Control
Perhaps the biggest trend of all is the increasing demand for choice and control, which traverses the range of personalization, comfort, efficiency and those overall higher expectations. It’s easy to understand: At home, people want exactly what they need, when they need it, and they expect the same experience when they’re on the road.
“I think the top trend we’re seeing is the impact of ‘the iPod Effect,’ says Robert Radomski, vice president, Brand Management, Extended-Stay Brands, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG). “Guests are demanding more flexibility, choice and control in their lives, and we’re seeing hotels making changes to accommodate this higher level of expectation. Customers now want to control all aspects of their own stay instead of having it programmed by the hotel.”
The biggest trend of all is the increasing demand for choice and control, which traverses the range ofpersonalization, comfort, efficiency and those overall higher expectations.
“From a business traveler perspective, we’re seeing this as an overarching theme,” confirms Robert Machen, Hilton Hotels Corporation’s vice president of corporate and brand solutions. “Whether it’s entertainment, how I want to check in, or how I want to engage and interact with hotels, choice and control is the resounding theme for us. It has driven us to give more choices and options to our customers, based on the purpose of their travel.”
The enhanced options in choice and control are generally enabled by technology. For example, Homewood Suites by Hilton offers advancedcheck-in from outside the hotel up to 24 hours in advance of a stay. Gold or Diamond HHonor members can log onto homewoodsuites.com or the sites for any of its family of brands, select from whatever rooms are available, and actually get their room number. And in April of this year, Homewood Suites by Hilton rolled out Suite Selection, an Internet-based program that allows Hilton HHonors Gold and Diamond members to view a floor plan and select a suite based on their personal preferences — whether they prefer to stay on a high floor, by an exit, away from the elevator, by the lobby and much more. By the end of this year, the extended-stay brand anticipates making this tool available to anyone with an HHonors profile.
Hilton also offers travelers selfservice check-in kiosks in the lobbies of more than 450 of its properties, with the capability to print boarding passes for 30 major airlines at more than 450 properties. The kiosks are currently available in its Hilton and Embassy brands, and Hilton is continuing to roll out the program further.
“While it’s our desire to provide every one of our guests with a warm and friendly welcome, some just want to get to their room as quickly as possible, and they’re not willing to wait in line for that welcome,” explains Machen.“Now they can approach the kiosk immediately, get their key, select from a variety of room types and then go right up to their room.”
In communications and entertainment, IHG’s Staybridge Suites epitomizes a major trend among hotels with its “Wireless Anywhere” service that lets guests connect with the Internet anytime and anywhere on hotel premises just as they would do in their own homes. In the air, transatlantic business class flights are now rolling out extensive entertainment options. British Airways (BA), for example, features over 200 channels of ondemand video on select routes. Now that’s choice!
Top-notch comfort and service is expected among business travelers these days.
Greater Efficiency While in Transit
Technology-enabled choice and control extends to trains, planes and automobiles, making getting from Point A to Point B more efficient than ever, notwithstanding airport security checkpoints. Lufthansa allows elite club members holding e-tickets to check in with a mobile phone while they’re on the way to the airport, sending back a confirmation with the deadline for pickup of boarding pass, departure gate, boarding time and seat number. Passengers can then pick up their boarding passes at any Quick Check-in machine or check-in counter.
Like Lufthansa and other major airlines, British Airways offers automated check-in kiosks in its U.K. airports and at select airports in North America, including JFK. Customers can also check in at www.ba.com, provide the necessary passport details, select seats and print their boarding passes at home or in the office up to 24 hours before departure.
Car rental companies such as Hertz have also gotten into the act, using technology to enable more efficiency.“Some of the trends we’re seeing in business travel include the increased use of in-car GPS systems and the utilization of automated toll payment systems,” says Frank Camacho, the company’s staff vice president of marketing.
Hertz’s NeverLost GPS system boasts features such as preprogrammed destinations, including over 80,000 hotels, 100,000 gas stations and 480,000 restaurants; AAA ratings of numerous hotels, restaurants and local attractions; directories of popular leisure and business destinations in more than 100 markets; simple shortcuts to previous destinations and Hertz airport return; and 24/7 technical support. Hertz also offers its customers PlatePass for highway tolls, an electronic toll payment system that allows renters to bypass cash toll lanes and use E-ZPass, Fast Pass and other popular systems on major toll roads throughout the Northeast corridor from Virginia to Maine, as well as in Florida and Houston,Tex.