Technological advancements have fundamentally changed the way buyers make business travel bookings. Much like the leisure traveller who expects to control every aspect of the trip, corporates are now coming to expect similar levels of flexibility, as well as instantaneous real-time access to content when it comes to travelling for business.
The exponential growth in mobile bookings looks to rise further with the latest data suggesting that by 2017 50% of HRS’ annual turnover will come from smartphones, tablets or other digital devices.
In fact, 2014 saw mobile bookings increasing by almost one quarter (24%) from the second half of the year compared to the first. The percentage of total turnover generated by mobile bookings also showed significant growth in comparison to the previous year, with one in five overnight stays now booked via a smartphone or tablet.
Further research from the global hotel solutions provider has revealed that different usage of smartphones and tablets is shown in the distribution of booking days. While smartphone users usually book on Mondays, tablet users do so on Sundays. Furthermore, smartphone bookings are more last-minute and for shorter stays than reservations made via tablets. Usually, the booking is made for the very same day and for one night only, whereas tablet users book their stay more than 40 days in advance.
We are finding that users are becoming accustomed to book or cancel at anytime and anywhere via smart devices, a trend that will only continue to grow. In particular for business trips, mobile channels are a great help because last-minute changes to the schedule can often call for new travel planning to take place.
The development of apps or similar innovations then can have huge benefits for the traveller by providing a seamless, supported travel experience, as well as increasing productivity and minimising stress levels. Assuming businesses work with employees to ensure they are using approved programmes that comply with the travel policy, the potential for leakage should be minimal.
Consumer travel apps effectively provide travellers with more personalised systems that can instantly match the needs of the user to recommended hotels, and other requirements such as mode of transport or flights. As the functionality of booking engines continues to improve within the business travel industry, bookers will find that they start to have more personalised experiences similar to the consumer travel apps.
We found that bookings made through HRS’ Corporate App doubled in volume last year which offers features such as the hotel search based on pre-set corporate locations, maps, as well as displaying the negotiated corporate rates and their availability at the selected hotel. Meanwhile for payment, all company-specific options are available, including pre-defined payment and billing methods up to departmental level. In addition, business travellers retain flexibility because standard bookings can be cancelled free of charge until 18:00 on the day of arrival.
With the adoption rates of mobile travel apps only looking to rise next year and beyond, corporates will need to review the latest solutions that will best manage the risk of leakage from travel policies. There is an obvious demand from travellers for businesses to incorporate mobile into travel programmes and as long as there is a clear mobile policy in place, businesses will reap the benefit of a more streamlined process.
It’s therefore time for TMCs and OTAs to up their game to ensure their services meet the needs of corporate users.