Business travelers, particularly millennials and their younger Gen Z colleagues, are increasingly choosing nontraditional stays. Corporate travel programs must keep up by offering alternative accommodations within the travel program, said BCD Travel accommodations expert Marwan Batrouni.
A quarter of business travelers prefer nontraditional accommodations, according to an Accenture survey of 2,500 travelers in five countries. “It’s not uncommon for travelers outside the U.S., especially in Europe, to book independent and alternative properties, but we’re now seeing that trend extend into new markets,” said Batrouni, the travel management company’s vice president of Supplier Relations for the Americas.
“Often, business travelers today are looking for an experience that traditional big-box hotels can’t provide,” such as living like a local in a high-rise apartment in Tokyo or a boathouse on the river in Paris. “It’s smart for companies to offer these options within the corporate travel program,” Batrouni said. Doing so brings outside spend in by wooing back business travelers who’ve been booking nontraditional stays outside the program. That boosts savings; allows the corporate program to more accurately measure traveler preferences; and increases traveler safety.
Batrouni has some advice for travel managers weighing whether alternative accommodations are right for their programs:
- Embrace the trend alongside your travelers. “The worst-case scenario—from savings, data capture, supplier management and duty of care perspectives—is to have travelers go outside of the program to book the alternative accommodations they want,” he said.
- Review and refresh your travel policy to remove outdated restrictions and clear the way for alternative bookings.
- Educate travelers about the availability of alternative accommodations. Use traveler engagement strategies to promote the fact that these kinds of sought-after properties are in your program. “Travelers will appreciate being part of a program that’s changing with the times and gives them more choices,” he said.
BCD’s accommodation supply has more than 1.4 million unique properties, both hotels and alternative accommodations from many sources, including well-known sites like Booking.com and Expedia. “We offer more accommodation content than any other TMC by combining these partnerships with our proprietary hotel content, as well as content in the global distribution systems,” Batrouni explained. In 2018, about 9% of the Booking.com properties booked by BCD clients’ travelers were alternative accommodations.
“Business travelers want their business trips to reflect their preferences—whether that’s traditional hotel stays or the unique experiences that alternative accommodations provide,” Batrouni said. “Corporate programs need to meet that demand.”