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The Role of Hotel Loyalty Programs in Business Travel

by Jessica Collison
GBTA recently partnered with AccorHotels to conduct a study investigating the role of loyalty in managed travel programs in Europe with the goal of understanding how loyalty programs currently fit within company travel policy and what opportunities may exist in the future.

The majority of European business travelers (74 percent) report that their company uses preferred providers, and 63 percent say these providers must be used when available. Pricing and convenience play the biggest role for business travelers when they do book outside of preferred providers, while loyalty status poses less of a threat.
Regardless of the reasons, booking outside of preferred providers can cause issues for travel buyers. Nearly all European buyers surveyed perceive that hotels are encouraging travelers to book directly by offering additional benefits, greater amenities or dedicated rates. A large majority see this as a growing trend that will have a negative impact on their role as a travel manager.
How Loyalty Currently Fits into Travel Programs
Loyalty program membership is popular among business travelers and a majority of those with loyalty memberships say loyalty benefits are important when deciding to book a hotel for a business trip. Two-thirds (65 percent) of travel buyers say employees can use individual rewards accounts on a business trip, however, 18 percent of those do not allow travelers to use accrued points earned through business travel for personal use. Travelers are split on how they prefer to redeem accrued points whether it is for future business travel, future personal travel or on a combination of both.
While motivation for travel buyers to promote loyalty programs is currently low, many say they would be interested in supporting these programs if they increased travel policy compliance or increased traveler satisfaction.
Another area travel buyers should consider when it comes to loyalty programs is what amenities they provide. Travelers value certain amenities that buyers don’t currently include in their contract negotiations with hotels in their travel program. For instance, the top benefit of loyalty membership for business travelers is the ability to earn upgrades, however, only 20 percent of travel buyers say room upgrades are included in their contract negotiations. Similarly, business travelers prioritize earning free nights through loyalty programs while few organizations offer the ability to earn complimentary nights after a certain number of bookings.

Corporate Hotel Loyalty
Most organizations are not enrolled in a corporate hotel loyalty program, however there is interest from both buyers and business travelers. Buyers expressed an interest in doing so for lodging, and to a lesser extent for meetings and events. Business travelers expressed interest if it guaranteed better rates, earned rewards for both the company and the individual, and if the program were better suited for their business travel needs.

Key Takeaways
For travel buyers, incorporating hotel loyalty into preferred supplier negotiations can provide opportunities to be an active driver in how their travelers use hotel loyalty, which is something most travelers want out of their travel program. Enrolling in a corporate hotel loyalty account provides a potential option for motivating travelers to book with preferred suppliers while maintaining loyalty benefits and cost savings.
For suppliers, interest among those who offer corporate hotel loyalty accounts is high for lodging, while opportunity exists in promoting the benefits of corporate accounts for meetings and events.
The perception around loyalty and business travel is that it lures travelers away from booking within policy. However, this study reveals that opportunities exist for both buyers and suppliers in incorporating loyalty into travel policies. More discussion on loyalty and company policy during the RFP and contract negotiation process could be mutually beneficial, potentially increasing traveler compliance, satisfaction and loyalty usage.

An online survey was conducted of 156 travel buyers in Europe and was fielded between Sep. 4-13, 2018. Additionally, an online survey of 500 European business travelers using an online panel was fielded between Sept. 4-10, 2018. Respondents qualified if they were employed full-time or part-time and if they travelled for business more than once in the past year. The results in this post are based on the 337 who reported being part of a managed travel program. For this study, managed business travelers are defined as travelers who are required to follow an organization’s published and enforced travel policies or travelers who are encouraged to follow general guidelines.
About The Author
Jessica Collison

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