Consumer technology is the bellwether for the enterprise. The expectations gap between consumer and business technology is virtually non-existent. So the imperative for B2B technologists to adopt a complete consumer-first mentality is clear. There’s simply no way forward any longer: business software and hardware must act, think, and feel like consumer software and hardware. Enterprise users are no longer willing to sacrifice usability or functionality simply because it’s a service or tool they use at work. Rapid experimentation and implementation of successful experiments — is the way to stay relevant with today’s consumer. This means staying current and always paying attention.
Hotels must fully grasp the latest consumer technology trends to both effectively serve the fellow business clients, as well as to surprise and delight the travellers and guests that support the travel and hospitality industries. It’s an exciting time, where small moves create lasting impressions in the minds of travellers given that each experiment costs resources — not just time and money, but opportunity costs as well.
Today, the travellers are in constant need to be connected; personal technologies – such as smartphones and tablets – are increasingly important. Although a maximum of business travellers can use desktop corporate booking tools to plan and modify their trips, only a third of them have access to mobile booking tools. Business travellers now more than ever require flexibility, while adjusting their plans once they’re on the move having to amend their flights or change the routes.
Additionally, convenience is prioritised by business travellers above cost and comfort. These business travellers are fine examples of the ‘self-centered’ generation – a deviation seen in the hotel industry itself – one in which a guest assumes the world revolving around their wants and needs. For the business traveller, this could be anything from having an integrated, one-step booking process through their Travel Management Company (TMC) or corporate travel planning tool, to having access to a boutique hotel in a local destination close to the work meetings.
Supporting the ‘self-centered’ generation as well as the growing trend towards Bleisure (Business + Leisure), the business travellers like to extend their business trip to include self-funded leisure travel along with miscellaneous information about the local sights.
Connection of Hotel Experience to Technology
A Technology Powered Booking Experience
In many ways, technology has cut-short the travel booking process immensely – making methods such as booking through travel agents or calling airlines and hotels directly a thing of the past. Travellers, today expect speed, instant confirmation, access to real traveller reviews, diverse places to stay and price transparency – demands which traditional booking methods simply cannot fulfil or keep pace with.
Maximum business travellers experience some level of stress during their trip, where most of them claiming they are always or frequently stressed throughout. By making travel apps, gadgets and tools an essential part of their travel process, executives on the go can simplify travel and get rid of those stressful aspects of the journey.
The impact of technology does not stop when business travellers leave the airport. In fact, this is where it becomes even more interesting. Accommodation providers are increasingly recognising that the sweet spot in customer service excellence lies in a mix of self-service technology and human interaction. That’s why interest in things like Artificial Intelligence (AI) or machine learning is elevating.
As human beings crave personal interaction, travel technology providers are now trying to mimic this through cutting-edge innovations. This includes uplifting the check-in experience to make it more intuitive, seamless and personal, as well as providing app and gadget recommendations to help travellers navigate their neighbourhoods while in town on business. From language apps such as ‘Duolingo’ to learn while on-the-go, to foodie apps like ‘Yelp’ which take the hassle out of finding places to get local cuisines – technology is enhancing the full horizon of the travel experience, well beyond flights and accommodation.
The Blow-Up Hall 5050 hotel in Poznan, Poland, for example, combines innovative technologies with luxury to create a modern and intuitive experiment. Photos of guests are captured on camera as they enter the hotel, and stylised images of their profiles are projected back. Instead of traditional key fobs, guests are handed iPhones at reception which are linked to specific rooms and use digital recognition software to guide users to the correct room and unlock the door on proximity. This takes out the hassle for business travellers – one in five of who opined that checking in and out is the most annoying part of a work trip.
Connectivity is the Key Factor
Providing basics such as free Wi-Fi and high-speed internet access is also a simple way to appeal to this business traveller who needs to be connected all the time. Given that business travellers generally use multiple devices during their stay, it’s also worth investing in extra USB and power outlets, along with in-room chargers to ease up their life.
As it is a demographic era predominantly made up of millennials, offering access to streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and HBO will also increasingly be seen as a point to attract more travellers.
The Ability to Socialise
There’s also an opportunity to appeal to business travellers by helping them network while they’re on the move. Just recently, Accor Hotels released Business Check with LinkedIn, a feature that helps guests find people in their professional network who are based in the destination they’re visiting.
Finding creative ways to help guests socialise like this clearly has its perks. But hotels can also use LinkedIn to promote themselves to the business community, publishing branded content, and sharing videos and images of desirable amenities or previous networking events.
Aiming for Today’s Business Traveller
A constant raise has been seen in a number of business trips being extended to include leisure time, and this time is usually being spent exploring and finding out sights in the destination. The fact that millennials now take more business trips than any other generation also looks to speed this trend up.
Compared with “bleisure,” the phrase “workventure” certainly seems to do a better job of describing the modern approach of what mixing work and leisure is all about. Considering this, hotels need to consider the new trend within their marketing strategy.
Finally, appealing to the business traveller of today needs a combination of strategies, from devising tactical offers and administering essential technology to actively promoting the attractions of the destination.
Tactical Offers and Calculated Package Deals
Given that additional cost is one of the biggest reasons for extending a trip, hotels can promote discounted packages, such as reduced weekend pricing to help business travellers to stay longer.
Today’s business travellers also want to explore the destination, so package deals could also prove popular when combined with discounts to major attractions or sightseeing tours.
To a demographic that actively seeks out events in the destination they’re visiting, offering tickets to festivals, theatre productions and music concerts can also prove highly attractive.
Keeping the Human Essence in the Travel Industry
Technology doesn’t mean that customer experience can only happen online and through devices, check-ins and online comments. All of these experiences need to be part of an integrated, dynamic system so that the guests’ experiences are at the forefront of the marketing and operational team’s mind. If a guest leaves a comment about their stay when they check-out of the hotel, for example, the right people need to reply and acknowledge this type of communication. If a guest leaves a complaint about not being able to stream mobile content during their stay, then processes should be put in place to ensure the right person follows up by communicating with the guest and solving the problem at the hotel.
Marketing, management and hotel developers can no longer work behind the curtains. Instead, they should utilize these technological trends that are giving them the opportunities, tools and solutions required to create memorable experiences which will lead to a positive change and further growth in the industry.