TravelBiz Monitor

Guest Column

Tuesday, 16 May, 2017, 16 : 59 PM [IST]
Making the most of business travel

Today, business travel has become part of the routine for many corporate workers. Business travel is considered an investment to grow the business further, business travellers therefore are conscious of their productivity and seek business ready spaces 24x7 to stay connected with their associates globally.

Business travel spending in India will account for USD 36 billion in 2017, which will grow to USD 45 billion by 2019, according to the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA). With the increasing demand from corporate traveller, the hotel options are also increasing for them. This puts the corporate traveller in ‘buyer’s market’; one could shop around to find the most optimal ‘offer’ each time one travels.

However, loyalty to a brand dwarfs such cost savings. For example, InterContinental Hotel Group’s loyalty programme for business travellers, ‘IHG Business Rewards’, includes everyday spends such as dining and car rentals in earning and redeem points, not just on bookings and stay; this allows for more ‘earnable’ and ‘redeemable’ points, translating to more savings on the amount spent during travel. For the CEO of a ‘start-up’ or of a smalland- medium enterprise (SME) who needs to travel often, the amount thus saved makes a substantial difference on the balance sheet.

Coming to the point I alluded to in the beginning, making the most of one’s time while travelling, while optimising travel related expense, carries utmost value whether one is with a start-up or an SME or a multinational corporation. Many hotels and resorts are designed for business travellers, and have infrastructure and services which are in keeping with their needs. Facilities such as complimentary wireless internet access in the hotel and guest rooms, convenient access to electric points throughout the hotel and facilitating easy unwinding and rest to preempt any tiredness induced errors at work. For example, IHG’s Crowne Plaza hotels offer ‘Sleep Advantage’ programme which includes premium bedding, aromatherapy using natural essential oils to alter one’s mood in a positive way and ‘Quiet Zone’ floors where floors are made completely noiseless floors for a certain duration.

A loyalty programme is actually best positioned to deliver experiences that are customised to travellers’ tastes, and it is this kind of ‘recognition’ and warmth that someone who has been away from home appreciates a lot. IHG’s 2016 report on trends exhorts brands to engage with consumers by offering both ‘customisation of stay experience’ and ‘belongingness to a community’, by enabling experiences that are tailor-made for the travellers’ preferences and providing an opportunity to be part of a like minded group. ‘IHG Rewards Club’, the world’s first and largest hotel loyalty programme with currently over 99 million members globally, allows us to do just that which, together with various privileges and financial benefits, helps delight the traveller.

"Business travel
spending in India will
account for USD 36
billion in 2017, which
will grow to USD
45 billion by 2019,
according to GBTA"

A loyalty program should be accompanied by choices in locations for stay for the loyalty club member. For example, IHG has a portfolio of nearly 5,100 hotels across 100 countries, allowing for a wide choice in destinations where the loyalty benefits could be availed.

Some loyalty programmes extend their redemption options beyond free rooms and upgrades, giving members the chance to trade points for gift certificates, concerts and movies, music downloads electronics and sometimes even airline tickets. Indeed, ‘IHG Rewards Club’ survey of more than 10,000 of its members across 13 countries has found that 37% have organised their holidays purely on reward points and 62% felt that the benefits were ‘like a dream come true’ when points from their loyalty programme were redeemed all in one go.

Business travel in India is being driven by its fast growing economy, which an opportunity as well as responsibility for the hospitality sector to facilitate productivity of business travellers and have the sector become an integral part of the economic growth.

The views expressed within this column are the opinion of the author, and may not necessarily be endorsed by the publication.