When it comes to picking a hotel, it’s all about location, location, location.
That’s according to a new survey, commissioned by Choice Hotels International, that looked at the preferences and practices of business travelers.
Among the 529 travelers polled, 73% said hotel location mattered most when picking where they stay on the road, while 61% said the quality of the room was most critical.
Though free Wi-Fi came in third with 55%, Robert McDowell, Choice Hotels’ senior vice president of global distribution, says complimentary Internet access remains “an important amenity for the business traveler … More and more people are using multiple devices when they travel, and I think the expectation is, whether they’re in a hotel room or on an airline, you can access free Wi-Fi most anywhere you go.”
While many hotels are pouring money into sprucing up business centers and other common areas to appeal to corporate trekkers, many survey respondents said they would prefer to work in their rooms.
Among those surveyed, 84% said they preferred to stay in their room to work, compared with 10% who would rather work in a hotel’s business center and 4% who prefer working in the lobby or other common area.
“More hotel brands are looking at improving their common areas,” McDowell says, yet “most of these travelers are doing more of their work in their rooms, and the common area is likely more for social interactions with other guests.”
Newer technology appears to be more popular than older devices. Among those polled, 76% book rooms online, and 60% have checked in to a hotel with a smartphone or tablet.
Meanwhile, 51% use the microwave in their room to heat up snacks, and 53% take advantage of their room’s refrigerator.
Recognizing that many guests like using their mobile devices to handle travel transactions, Choice Hotels launched a process last year that allows customers to reserve a room with just three clicks on a smartphone.
“It takes away the (need) of entering your credit-card information, your home address, etc.,” McDowell says. “It’s important for us to be in the mobile space to allow guests to book when and how they want.”
Marriott’s Rewards program members can also use their smartphones to check in at many of its hotels. And Starwood has piloted a program that allows guests to not only check in with their mobile phones, but to use them as room keys.
Kevin Mitchell, founder of the Business Travel Coalition, says location and the ability to use mobile devices are particularly important to corporate trekkers.
“Most travelers have data plans from their cellular providers, so having Wi-Fi is not a must-have but rather a nice-to-have,” he says. “On the other hand, hotels are often used to meet with current and prospective clients, so their convenience is a priority.”
Meanwhile, “using a tablet or ‘phablet’ to book hotel rooms is important, especially among mobile-technology-savvy travelers,” Mitchell says. “More and more hotel rooms are being booked last minute while travelers are already on the road, and increasingly, these devices are what they have with them.”
Despite the popularity of newer gadgets, McDowell says that the Choice hotel company is not about to strip rooms of microwaves and mini-fridges.
“I think part of this is about choice,” he says. “They may have lower percentages, but 61% (of those surveyed) still use their in-room coffeemaker.”
The survey, conducted by Newlio between March 2013 and February 2014, queried 529 adults who took at least one overnight business trip in the past year.
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