Dominated by a meteoric technological evolution, the business travel industry has been undergoing a period of change for two decades now. In the 90s, the concept of the mobile business customer slowly appeared on the market. At the dawn of the new millennium, its profile has become pretty well-known to businesses. Now, the X Generation is living with the "Digital Natives", the young ones born after 1980 who have grown up in the computer age. This new, entirely techie Y Generation, which is very much at home with digital technology is defining new employment codes, relentlessly aspiring to achieve a work-life balance. The result is that industry players are constantly reinventing themselves in order to meet the needs of this demanding clientele in search of innovation.
The business traveler today
The study conducted in 2015 by the Aparthotels Adagio® (AccorHotels) in cooperation with the Easy Panel Institute sketches out a portrait of today's business travelers. While the over 45s still account for 32% of business travelers, the X Generation (aged between 30 and 45) accounts for 45.5% of them whereas the Y Generation represents 22.5% of this clientele. Predominantly male (64%), this target group shows itself to be largely urban (23%). Young, dynamic, mobile and urban, today's business customer defines comfort and simplicity as the top priorities of a business trip. But now, their needs go well beyond easy organization. The major watershed of the 2010s highlighted connectivity as an essential criteria for business travelers. Increasing productivity is important as well today, but keeping in touch with friends and family is too. Technology is clearly playing a more and more essential role in business trips. The major trend is the gradual fading of the boundary between work and leisure. Today, 66% of business travelers use their work trips to combine professional duty and pleasure. This figure was just 40% five years ago.
The emergence of "blurring" - describing the blending of one's professional and private life - is fueled by technological innovation. The huge increase in mobile devices (tablets, smartphones and connected watches) further accentuates this phenomenon. WiFi has become the essential service for any business trip and the number one criterion for travelers. Everything must be connected and WiFi access is therefore uppermost in the mind of professionals, whether we're talking about accommodation, transport or additional services. Eurostar announced the installation of free WiFi on its Paris-London route in March, while Thalys increased the availability of its WiFi at no extra charge in early May, to the delight of corporate clients. Access on the rails but also in the air; after pioneers like Etihad, Emirates, Lufthansa and American Airlines, Air Europa will now install a wireless connection on board its A330 by July.
In this vain, the objective of the AccorHotels group is to provide a constant connection to all its customer groups with the WiFi Travel innovation. This ad-hoc, mobile internet solution is aimed at international clients: establishments are thus responding to the needs of the new 2.0 customers by optimizing the time they are staying with them and allowing them to make savings on roaming charges. At the Viva Technology Forum taking place from June 30 to July 2 at Paris Porte de Versailles, customers will be able to discover this technological innovation in the AccorHotels lab.
With the increasingly widespread availability of WiFi, solutions for facilitating business travel are increasing all the time. Payments are easier, the process is quicker, and there's absolute connectivity between different tools; companies have no shortage of ideas for winning over business clientele. Now, apps are gaining ground in all areas, from bookings to transport and travel accessories. The Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai "spoils" its business passengers with an interactive app that makes all information available in real time, using, in particular, Beacon and augmented reality technology. And to perfect the customer experience, the first connected suitcases have also appeared on the French market; Pluggage, with its dedicated app, has been designed to assist the corporate traveler throughout his/her trip.
The hotel industry and digital transformation
In the hotel sector, the trend is following the same pattern. The behavior of the business customer has changed completely, boosted by several key factors. "When we compare the behavior of the corporate customers of twenty years ago with those of today, we immediately notice that reduced work time has disrupted business practices" explains Mark Watkins, founder of Coach Omnium, a marketing and economic studies company for the hospitality industry. A new pace, a high workload concentration between Tuesday and Thursday, but also new expectations; the behavior of business travelers is moving towards more flexibility and responsiveness but also interactivity. "High-speed WiFi is an essential criterion for this clientele" Mark Watkins tells us, adding that the digital revolution represents significant potential for hoteliers. Entering the room using a recognition system or opening the door with your smartphone are just some of the technological innovations that the business traveler might welcome: "Time savings are invaluable to the business customers of today. Although the Big Brother element might divide travelers, the personalized approach with dedicated messages and interactivity is valued enormously by this target group" explains the founder of Coach Omnium.
The AccorHotels group is banking on this niche, as evidenced by its "Leading Digital Hospitality" plan. It is based on a global approach to digital issues in order to meet the challenges of the market undergoing a full digital transformation. To get to know its customers better, as well as giving them a better welcome and serving them better, the group's investment needs to reach €225 million between 2014 and 2018.