Frequent traveller loyalty programmes are still influencing 80% of business travel decisions, along with brand reputation and budget pricing, according to a recent business travel survey by Accenture.
From the survey of 1,600 US business travellers, four out of five respondents said they take hotel reward and frequent flyer programmes into consideration when making their travel decisions.
Among other influences, respondents also identified technology as an area of growth and opportunity in the travel industry. For example, more than half (58%) said they book their business travel online, with 44% citing internet access as a 'must have' in their choice of business accommodation.
"The choices for business travel are blurring as price, brand and loyalty begin to intersect," said Julian Sparkes, a partner in Accenture's transportation & travel services industry group. "Airlines and hotels must make sure their loyalty programmes are fully integrated in the way they do business on a daily basis."
The survey also revealed that, despite global health, economic, and geopolitical concerns, business travel is showing signs of growth in the USA. Some 81% of respondents said they expect their business travel to increase or remain at the same level over the next six months.
The survey findings also indicate that the economy is having a greater impact on business travel than geopolitical or health issues. For instance, when asked which factors will have an impact on their business travel plans over the next six months, 47% cited the economy, while only 16% selected geopolitical issues, and 15% selected health issues, even including SARS.
However, the survey also showed that price is still a big concern for business travellers. Fully 60% said they have used low cost carriers for business trips in the last six months, of which group 94% said their use of such carriers will either increase (27%) or stay the same (67%) over the next six months.
In terms of accommodation, most planned to use mid-range hotels (82%) and budget hotels (11%) for business travel in the next six months, while only 5% said they expect to stay at luxury chain or boutique hotels.
Brands and relationships
"With a slow economy and an extremely competitive market, everyone is vying for the same customers," added Sparkes. "Hotels and air carriers must not only keep their prices competitive but also differentiate themselves by offering superb customer service. Our survey clearly indicates that the travel industry must better identify high value customers to build personalised relationships."
But, despite this emphasis on price, the survey's results indicate that brand and reputation, as well as a traveller's previous experience, are also significant factors when it comes to making business travel arrangements. Just under half (49%) cited brand and reputation of hotels as being important factors when deciding where to stay.