Business travel is coming back in a big way, but in order to be successful with this growing customer segment, hotels must embrace a flexible, seamless, and personalized mobile-first guest experience.
By Priya Rajamani
Business travel has recovered significantly as pandemic fears wane and employees return to the office. According to a recent survey by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), over three-quarters (78%) of travel managers expect business trips to increase in 2023, even as the global economy continues to slow. Business travel will also increase in the medium term, with the global business travel market expected to reach $791.9bn by 2026. This article will examine how hotels can leverage mobile technology to appeal to business travelers and capitalize on a digitally savvy customer segment that values convenience and efficiency.
Structure Your Offerings to Appeal to Business Travelers
The first step is to develop a set of offerings that appeal to business travelers. Of course, business and bleisure travelers need a place to stay for overnight trips, but your hotel can offer much more than just a single room for a single night. For example, airport hotels have leveraged hourly bookings to deliver a quiet room to sleep, work, or freshen up to business travelers facing long flight delays or layovers. Hourly bookings can also provide space for remote workers trying to escape the monotony and distractions of teleworking from home or bleisure travelers trying to complete some work during a vacation.
Forward-thinking hotels can also enhance the guest experience during extended stays. Travelers working on location for weeks or months need more than just a standard suite upgraded with a kitchenette. They need the privacy and convenience of apartment-style living, a place to work and meet with teammates, and a space to relax, socialize and build friendships and community. Replacing the front desk with discrete guest-facing smart kiosks can speed up check-in, while a staffless check-in can deliver a more “apartment-like” welcome experience. Kiosks can also transform the purpose of your lobby: from a purely liminal space for check-in and check-out to a welcoming guest-centric space for dining, socializing, and co-working.
Your hotel should also make it easy for companies to book group reservations for conferences and events. Your booking engine should be designed to streamline the group booking process for guests and your PMS should facilitate group arrivals by automating room assignments, check-in, and allowing for bulk room imports to efficiently serve larger groups.
Create a Streamlined, Mobile-First Guest Journey
Delivering a digital, mobile-first approach to the guest journey can significantly streamline and personalize your guests’ stay. Integrating a PMS with mobile check-in to a digital payment gateway, an ID scanner and facial recognition module, and a keyless entry allows guests to check into their room from anywhere using their smartphones. Instead of waiting in line at the front desk, your guests can check in on the ride from the airport, enter their room, and either decompress or get a head start on work.
Mobile check-in also allows travelers to select room upgrades or amenities directly from their smartphone, giving them the power to enhance their stay while giving your hotel a valuable stream of ancillary revenue. Monetized early check-in and late check-out can be especially useful for business travelers facing gaps between your standard check-in/check-out times and their arriving or departing flights.
Integrating with a mobile guest messaging platform and a cloud-based point-of-sale (POS) system can carry this mobile-first experience throughout your guests’ stay. Mobile POS systems offer many of the same conveniences of mobile check-in, allowing your guests to order on their phone or through a table-side kiosk, while also posting dining charges to guest accounts on the PMS. Mobile guest messaging delivers an instant connection between staff and guests using the messaging platforms your guests use most 一 SMS, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, etc. This allows your guests to receive instant responses to questions or requests without waiting on hold for a front-desk associate to finish serving other guests.
Maintaining a robust guest profile in your hotel’s PMS is also crucial for winning guest loyalty and streamlining and personalizing future visits. A mobile PMS gives staff members instant access to a guest’s entire stay history, spending habits, and custom requests and preferences. Similarly, a PMS with robust chain functionality can eliminate data silos between individual properties in a hotel chain, allowing guest preferences and loyalty perks to travel with them as they visit different properties in a chain.
Deliver Hyper-Efficient Operations to Ensure A Smooth Guest Stay
A hyper-personalized mobile guest journey is only as good as the operations infrastructure that backs it up. Offering early check-in or mobile ordering might appeal to business travelers, but not if their suite is out of order when they check in or if their room service never arrives. And with today’s high employee turnover and persistent staff shortages, even slight lapses in service can quickly compound into a truly negative experience.
The solution is to deploy efficient mobile technology which can streamline operations and empower small teams. Mobile and kiosk-based self-check-in can already alleviate many of the pressures on your front desk staff, but the combination of robust automation and instant mobile communication can streamline operations even further. A mobile PMS can even automate housekeeping task management by employee workload to ensure the most efficient room turnover and instantly relay when a room is ready or out of order to the front desk. An intuitive user interface can also allow staff to quickly complete common tasks such as check-in without becoming a distraction from their guests. A more intuitive interface is also easier to train on, allowing a new front desk agent to complete their onboarding process in days rather than weeks.
Efficiency and Convenience are the Keys to Winning Business Travel
Business travel is returning, but to be successful in this market, hotels must provide a guest experience that is seamless, mobile, and can adjust to the changing demands of their customer base. Mobile technology gives business travelers the ability to craft their stay on their terms, so they can spend more time focused on their work, and less time focused on the administrative minutia of travel.