A growing generation gap among business travellers
Starwood’s new Aloft and Element hotel brands, both of which are designed to appeal to the younger set, offer self-service check in kiosks and touch-screen concierges.
As brand preferences and loyalty among younger business travellers diverge from those of older groups, travel suppliers are trying to find a middle ground, adding features and amenities that appeal to the up-and-comers while maintaining those favoured by the more discerning older generation.
According to a recent survey by Deloitte, a global consulting and auditing firm, 36% of 18 to 44 year olds said they enjoy working in more social spaces, like the hotel lobby or common area, while only 17% of those older than 45 reported doing the same. As a result, big hotel chains like Holiday Inn or Marriott are radically redesigning the lobby space, making it more conducive to vocational as well as social activities. At the same time, business class hotels are still focused on providing large desks, bright task lighting and internet access in the room to appeal to those who prefer to work in a more private setting.
Not surprisingly, when checking into a hotel, many younger travellers would rather interact with a computer than a human being. For the 18 to 44 bracket, 36% said they would favour an automated kiosk over a clerk at the front desk, whereas only 19% of those aged 45 and older said the same. That’s no surprise to the developers of Starwood’s new Aloft and Element hotel brands (both designed to appeal to the younger set), which offer self-service check in kiosks and touch-screen concierges. But perhaps the older generations know that a kiosk can’t help you book a better hotel room.
Younger business travellers are increasingly important to hotels because they tend to travel more frequently than their older counterparts. In comparison to 2011, the survey revealed that 85% of all business travellers expected to take the same number of, or more, business trips next year. But those aged 18 to 44 expected to increase the number of trips by 27% whereas those 45 and older planned to take 16% more trips in 2012.
The survey also revealed that younger travellers are much more loyal to specific hotel brands than their elders. When considering loyalty, nearly half (45%) of travellers aged 18 to 44 said that they preferred to stay at their favourite hotel brand, even if it’s not conveniently located. But only 28% of those 45 and older said they would do the same.
Finally, it seems that after years of complaints about steep fees for in-room wi-fi, travellers are increasingly satisfied with its availability in hotel rooms. While free wi-fi is important to 77% of the survey respondents, nearly two-thirds (63%) said they were satisfied with the availability of complimentary wi-fi in hotels.
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Chris McGinnis is the business travel columnist for BBC Travel