Hotels are doing a much better job of providing personalized service than they have previously, according to results of a survey of business travelers released today by Accenture. Nearly one-third (31 percent) of the more than 1,100 U.S. business travelers surveyed said that hotels recognize them as frequent customers and tailor reservations to fit their basic preferences, from room location to pillow type.
This is a significant improvement from last Fall’s business travel survey, when fewer than one in five respondents (18 percent) said they were recognized as frequent guests and received customized service.
“Hotels know they must meet the needs of business travelers - their most profitable group of customers - and these results reflect the technology and process investments hotels have made during the past few years,” said Paul Chiu, managing partner, Accenture’s Transportation & Travel Services practice. “While there has been progress, the results also show continued opportunity for significant improvement.”
Unused Miles and Points
According to the latest business travel survey, 40 percent of respondents have not redeemed any points from airline reward programs and 56 percent have not redeemed any hotel reward program points. Half (50 percent) of those surveyed have not used hotel rewards because too many points are required. For airline travel, 42 percent of respondents said they have not redeemed any miles because of restrictive blackout dates. When asked what they would use airline miles for, 51 percent said they would redeem them for a free flight, while 32 percent said they would request a seat upgrade.
When business travelers dip into their points, most of those surveyed said they use them the same way they earned them, frequent flyer programs for free airline tickets and hotel reward points for free hotel stays.
Online flight bookings continue to soar as 76 percent of those surveyed said they use the Internet as their primary method to make airline reservations, up from 57 percent in the 2003 survey.
Business travelers continue to expand their use of the Internet to book hotel reservations. More than three-quarters (83 percent) of respondents said they had used the Internet to book a hotel room, up from 76 percent in the previous business travel survey.
“As use of the Internet becomes second nature for travelers, they will expect capabilities well beyond simple rate search and reservations, ” said Chiu. “These include features such as electronic folio access, virtual concierge and integrated trip planning.”
Other key business travel survey findings include:
—Top destinations. Chicago remains the city most respondents plan to visit, but its popularity is slipping, as 27 percent of respondents in the most recent survey cited it as their primary destination, compared with 32 percent in the previous survey. Close on its heels are New York (24 percent), San Francisco (21 percent) and Washington, D.C. (20 percent).
—Travelers embrace kiosks. Among the 89 percent of respondents using airport kiosks, more than two-thirds (68 percent) said they find it more convenient than checking in with an agent. Of those who have not used kiosks, 33 percent say they use online check-in instead, up from 22 percent in the last survey.
—Close quarters. Proximity to business meetings trumps price as the top factor influencing where business travelers stay. Respondents report that reward point accumulation is the least important factor.
—Convenience is key. More than half (59 percent) of respondents said that convenient schedule is the top influencer in choice of airline, while one-third (34 percent) cited frequent flyer programs as most influential. More than three-quarters (79 percent) said they would increase their use of low-cost carriers if those carriers offered more flights into main airports.
The Web-based survey of 1,128 U.S. business travelers who traveled more than 300 miles in the last six months was fielded in March 2006.