Survey: Business Travel to Increase in 2016
Business travelers report they will once again be on the road more often in 2016 than last year, according to a new Frequent Business Traveler research report. A copy of the complete report is available by clicking here.
Four out of ten business travelers surveyed said they plan on taking more trips in 2016 as compared to 2015, while 51.9% said they anticipate taking more trips in 2016 than they did two years ago in 2014. The number of travelers who say they will take fewer trips in 2016 is the second lowest we’ve seen, at 14.3%.
The annual survey was conducted by Frequent Business Traveler in association with FlyerTalk, the world’s largest online travel community, and Expert Flyer, a leading air travel information tool, during the last quarter of 2015, and garnered responses from approximately 1,900 respondents.
The findings translate into a significant increase in travel given a business traveler population in the United States that takes a minimum of 450 million domestic trips a year.
Loyalty to both airlines and hotels has changed only slightly over the past five years. In the most recent survey, 73% of travelers say they prefer to stay at a particular brand of hotel, a drop of 2.3 percentage points over last year’s figure. The number of travelers that prefer to fly with a particular airline or alliance, 93.2%, is up by one point.
On the other hand, hitting the gym has become more important to travelers. More often, this is factoring into the traveler’s choice of hotels. Over 40% say they work out while on the road, a figure similar to prior years. More importantly, over 25% of travelers say that the quality and/or size of a hotel’s gym or fitness facility influence their choice of a hotel when planning trips, a substantial rise of 7.6 percentage points over the prior year.
Technology and Internet connectivity continue to be high on road warrior’s radar at a time when more hotels are offering complimentary service and airlines are rolling out more in-flight Internet-enabled aircraft. While most travelers have high expectations regarding connectivity given what they are used to on the ground, the business traveler needs this connectivity for work. This translates into looking for hotels with fast and reliable, as well as complimentary, Wi-Fi as well as flights with Wi-Fi service.
“Nothing is more frustrating than poor Internet service in a hotel room,” said one conference executive who spends some 125 nights a year at various properties and books ten large events a year. “Wi-Fi is close to a basic need, at least for the business travelers I know and, over the past year, we have cancelled large events at properties that demonstrated they could not support this need.”
Internet is consumed far more than almost any other service at a hotel, including television (remember those neon motel signs promising rooms with “Color TV”?).
Business travelers are avid users of technology and virtually all respondents report having done all of the following over a twelve-month period:
- Researched information about flights
- Researched information about hotels
- Checked a flight’s status
In addition, nine out of ten say they also made a flight reservation or booked a hotel room via an app or website.
Meanwhile, the use of social media for customer service remains limited. Thirty percent of respondents said that they had interacted with an airline to solve a customer service issue via a social media tool, while only half that number did the same with a hotel.
The start of 2016 brings with it a travel industry that has been largely in turmoil. While the wave of airline mergers turning the big six into the big three – American with US Airways, Delta with Northwest, United and Continental – is largely over (given that anti-trust regulators will be loath to allow any of the country’s largest airlines to gain even more control over the market), that is not the case on the hotel side. Hotels are more hospitable than ever to mergers, as evidenced by the late 2015 announcement that Marriott would acquire Starwood and Accor’s planned acquisition of Fairmont, Raffles, and Swissôtel’s parent, FRHI.
The combination of these large hoteliers is yet another significant turning point for business travelers as well as the travel industry.
For the business traveler it will be an interesting year, as airlines, having apparently decided that their customers are loyal enough, disembowel their loyalty programs while adding services and amenities for those paying top dollar for long-haul first- and business-class seats,.
Still, the rate at which hoteliers and airlines are announcing new properties and new routes is unparalleled in history. This opens up new opportunities for travel managers and unmanaged business travelers to find new and creative ways to lower costs while improving the overall business-travel experience. This will make it possible for those in the travel industry to leverage the changes in the air and offer new options, recognize their best customers and, most importantly, find ways of listening to and learning from what their customers have to say.
To paraphrase a quote I’ve seen attributed to several different individuals, “In the game of travel, we all receive a set of pieces that comes with variables and limitations. We can either focus on the limitations or use the variables to create a better experience once the game begins.”
A complete copy of the 40-page report, 2016 Frequent Business Traveler Business Travel Outlook Report, is available online here.
(Photos: Accura Media Group)