Business Travel iQ
Many words have been written about how the accommodation market is changing because millennials have different tastes and priorities when travelling.
But try thinking about it from the opposite point of view — hotels are changing because their objectives may remain the same but their customers are changing.
In our understandable obsession to comprehend how and why sharing economy options such as Airbnb have become so popular among certain strands of transient business travel, we have almost forgotten to keep our eyes on what's happening with hotels themselves.
The typical analysis of Airbnb tends — in the interests of simplicity — to assume the hotels' model has remained rather stagnant while all innovation is elsewhere.
But no business remains stagnant and travel managers would be well advised to think of the changing uses of hotels in the context of their own changing areas of responsibility.
Hotel services have changed dramatically in the last few years. Breakfast buffets and cooked breakfasts have fallen in popularity as the portable coffee in hand has become de rigueur. Room service has fallen off as more hotels install mini shops. Business centres are disappearing as travellers now carry their own devices and are looking for the WiFi network not the business support.
So both Airbnb and hotel services are reflecting the new style of business traveller. But should travel managers be talking to hotels with only meeting venues or overnight accommodation in mind?
Probably not. Hotels are big providers of meeting and event facilities and strategic meetings management often calls for managers who use properties for both transient travel and meetings to use this leverage to gain price and benefit advantages when possible.
In addition hotels near a business's premises are often a good source of meeting space for overflow internal meetings.
But one-to-one meetings are often needed as much by employees as by self-employed entrepreneurs. IHG Rewards Club members are able to enjoy free WiFi at any IHG property worldwide. This is a tremendous benefit as it means that that when there is a spare hour between meetings, the employee who is also a member of the loyalty scheme can nip into an InterConti, access WiFi and continue working.
Hotels have adapted their space to recognise the growing demand of local people to use lobbies and coffee areas for meetings and working. These local people include corporate travellers.
Free WiFi access at any time for a company's employees so that they can work on the move is a benefit all travel managers might think about negotiating.