'Age of austerity' for business travel - study
Business travellers will make fewer, shorter and cheaper business trips this year, a new study shows.
Almost half (47%) of executives surveyed will be taking fewer trips in the next 12 months, and more than a quarter (28%) expect to downgrade from four and five-star hotels.
In addition, 63% expect their companies to use the economic downturn to extract the best possible rates from hotels.
A majority - 61% - said a trusted brand with uniform levels of service across locations would be a decisive factor when choosing a hotel in 2009.
When asked which features they simply could not do without, business travellers were devoted to productivity on the road: internet connectivity is indispensable to more business travellers (76% of respondents) than a quiet room (56%), good transport links (54%) or central location (52%).
One-fifth of the 354 executives who responded to the survey in Asia, Europe and North America thought an internet connection was more critical than a quiet room.
Respondents cited flexibility to change requirements (68%), efficient check-in and check-out (64%) and rapid resolution of problems (59%) as the best indicators of good hotel service.
Almost a third (29%) also appreciate hotels which remember their preferences.
"We are entering an age of visible austerity with regards to business travel," said Antoine Medawar, managing director, Amadeus Hospitality Business Group, which commissioned the Economist Intelligence Unit study.
"With the eyes of their organisations and shareholders upon them, executives are anxious to make business trips as productive as possible.
"Forget gyms and restaurants; instead concentrate on efficient check-in and check-out and internet access. Good Wi-Fi connectivity is now rated above any other extra. There is a flight to trusted brands and the expectation of a common level of good service no matter where you are in the world."
Bill Ridgers, chief analyst for travel and tourism at the Economist Intelligence Unit, added: "It is clear business travellers' expectations are changing.
"Economic pressure means executives care less about extras and are instead concentrating on whether hotels deliver on the simple things. In an age of increasing time pressures, security fears and greater bureaucracy - when the conventional wisdom sometimes seems to be that business travel has become something of a chore - perhaps the most heartening finding of the research is that executives still enjoy and see the benefit of travelling for work." Report by Phil Davies Travel Mole website.