Opinion

How hotels can leverage on the corporate travel sector opportunity

By Alwyn Burrage, global hotel programme director at the ATPI Group

As some markets around the world rebound to strong levels of domestic travel and vaccine      distribution brings fresh hope to harder hit regions, it is not too far-fetched to plan ahead for attracting the corporate travel sector. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, hotels in certain locations have found new ways to maintain corporate business for essential workers and those who have suffered with zero occupancy are now looking for recovery approaches.

Travelling in some sectors of industry, such as crew moving to join ships or work in the energy sector, has continued throughout the pandemic, albeit not without challenges. For hotels located in hubs relevant to these industries, or even airport hotels, this has meant offering different services, including the new government-sanctioned quarantine hotels for UK arrivals. While not on the list of facilities that hotels thought they’d be adding to their portfolio, testing units and even quarantine support are just some of the changes hotels are making.

Covid new normals

Being able to host travellers working in a bubble in one place is appealing for some areas of corporate travel. For example, sports teams, media crews, oil rig crews, essential project construction teams and more, commonly have regular testing procedures and the need to only come into contact with each other.

When talking to corporate travel buyers, hotels should consider what they can do to accommodate bubbles, for example housing all bubble occupants across one floor of a hotel, and how they can make quarantine stays as safe as possible for everyone.

Onward journey considerations

Hoteliers should also think about changes in how guests might travel and the added-value extras that will make a corporate stay more attractive. Car hire use over trains or domestic flights is expected to have a resurgence, so hoteliers could consider including car parking in the price of a package in order to be the most attractive option. 

Flexibility

Corporate travellers of the future may not have an office location to work from as global businesses reduce their real estate footprint. Plus, travel policies may recommend travelling outside of peak times in order to avoid the busiest planes and trains. Hotels should consider having more flexible check-in and check-out times – particularly while demand is depressed – to allow corporate travellers to work from their hotel room for longer with earlier check-ins or later check-outs.

Contact free services

Many large hotel chains have great contactless check-in procedures, and the ability to open a hotel room door with a mobile phone for loyalty scheme members using a dedicated app. While TMCs are recommending apps and shortcuts to ensure access to these enhanced service measures, hotels can appeal to the corporate travel market by adding these extras to business travel stays. Hoteliers can also let travel buyers know what additional services are available that might ensure that a stay is above and beyond compliant with their new enhanced duty of care policies.

 

Accurate and timely

For all businesses, one of the major challenges of the pandemic is the speed at which lockdowns and new regional restrictions are imposed and what the nature of those restrictions are on a local level. For example, a corporate might have people travelling in Europe and be unaware of newly introduced tiers, curfews and more, because the hotel booking was made via an out of policy booking channel. Out of date and inaccurate information is an absolute no-no in managed corporate travel – hotels should ensure they are communicating regularly and as openly as possible with TMCs to ensure information about restrictions and changes remains up to date, using technology and booking systems to efficiently manage inventory changes.

There is a long way to go until hotel occupancy levels will return to levels even close to pre-2020, but some areas of industry need to continue to travel, with a select few even thriving during the pandemic. Ensuring that hotels are ready to go when the corporate travellers begin to move will be essential when taking steps towards recovery and operating in a new world.

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