How General Travel Websites Can Entice The Business Class

Business travellers have no interest in general purpose travel websites, it seems. Deloitte released the results of a business traveller survey this week, and it shows that less than a third of the business traveller market uses that type of travel website at least frequently. Of course, the business traveller is among the most coveted customers in the industry, given constraints on travel times and places, not to mention a bit more flexibility on price.

A mere 31 per cent of the 1,001 respondents to the Deloitte survey indicated that they use these sites always or frequently, with another 31 per cent using them occasionally. Meanwhile, 38 per cent of respondents said they don’t use general purpose travel sites at all when booking a hotel room for business travel.

Now, the numbers may look a bit dramatic, because business travellers at large companies use internal corporate travel teams or have relationships with travel agencies (I remember this from my days in the Big Four). And at the lower end, value-conscious business travellers are probably scrambling for the absolute cheapest prices they can find.

So, what can general travel websites do to capture more of the business travel wallet share? Obviously, brand visibility is an issue, as there is a portion of the market – the 31 per cent that uses these websites occasionally – where more market penetration is possible. Further, 30 per cent of business travellers, Deloitte found, said “they would stay at that hotel brand even if it were not in the most convenient location.” To sweeten the pot, loyalty is a trait of the well-off, particularly respondents making at least $150,000 a year.

In addition to a brand play that will retain more business traveller relationships and attract more opportunities, technology may provide an opening for general purpose travel websites that want to pick up a bit more of this lucrative sector. Close to half of business travellers have a web-enabled smartphone – a lower number than I expected, frankly, given that a BlackBerry feels like it’s general issue in Corporate America. But, there are two target groups in here worth keeping an eye on.

Business travellers age 18 to 29 are most likely to own a smartphone (84 per cent), and business travellers earning more than $150,000 a year own these devices at a rate of 63 per cent. 20-six per cent of business travellers have downloaded a hotel app, and 54 per cent of them have “used it primarily to book a room.” For general purpose travel websites, mobile device use could yield an opportunity to turn the 38 per cent of business travellers who don’t use these sites and the 31 per cent who do occasionally into regular, loyal customers.

There’s always an angle – even in the crowded online travel space. Give business travellers what they want, and they’re more likely to spend with you. It really is pretty simple.