Technologies such as online booking and self-service kiosks have become a large part of business travellers' everyday experience, with most now using the internet to organise their flights, according to a recent survey by Accenture.
The semi-annual survey found that almost three-quarters (74%) of the more than 500 US business travellers surveyed said they book trips online, up from 61% in the 2004 survey and 57% in the 2003 survey. Additionally, the majority (90%) of respondents said they use the internet to research flight times and availability, and two-thirds (65%) now check themselves in through the airline's web site. And this increasing use of self-service technology continues at the airport, with 89% of business travellers reporting they use self-service kiosks there to check in or get their boarding passes.
Paul Chiu, partner in Accenture's Transportation & Travel Services practice, said: "Consumers today go online to arrange travel the same way they do to bank, shop and chat with friends. Smart travel companies will make meeting their customers' demands for online services a top priority, not only to satisfy their guests but to help cut operating costs and improve efficiency."
The survey also found that almost all (95%) of the respondents expect to restrict their travel to domestic destinations during the next six months. The three most popular US destinations cited were Chicago, New York and Washington, DC, selected by 32%, 26% and 21% of respondents respectively.
Focus on costs
As Accenture's previous surveys have shown, cost is almost always a concern for respondents, and nearly three-quarters (73%) of respondents in the most recent survey said they expect their use of low-cost air carriers to remain the same or increase during the coming six months.
Slightly more (76%) said they would use these carriers more often if the carriers had more flights into main airports. But even so, 82% of respondents reported having used major carriers this year (up from 72% in last year's survey).
And, perhaps with an eye on costs, more business travellers are booking ahead: 50% of respondents said they make arrangements more than 14 days in advance, compared to 46% of respondents in the previous survey (February 2005).
Hotels could do better
In terms of business travellers' experiences in hotels, 30% said their preferred hotel does not recognise them as a frequent customer, 15% reported their preferred hotel recognises them but does not offer special services, and 37% said their preferred hotel recognises them and fulfils some of their basic preferences.
According to Chiu, hotels that cater to the profitable business traveller must tap their customer data and use it to gain insight into preferences and trends, as well as finding ways to nurture loyalty among the most profitable customers.
Other key findings from the survey included:
- Price trumps location for hotels.
In a change from Accenture's last survey, respondents reported that price - not location - is the top influencer in their choice of hotel, followed by proximity to business activity, service from staff, and brand or reputation of the hotel.
- Maintenance-related delays are still a problem.
More than half (60%) of respondents said they have experienced maintenance-related travel delays or cancellations in the past six months - a significant increase from 48% in 2004.
- Mid-range hotels still popular.
While 2004 saw an increase in the number of business travellers staying in budget chain hotels, 84% of this year's respondents reported using mid-range chains (up from 72% last year).