Forget Travel Agents, Social Media Has the Power
Looking to attract the youngest generation of business travelers? A new survey suggests you should focus on social media.
Business travelers age 21 to 34 are twice as likely as any other age group to consult their Facebook friends before making work trip decisions, says an Embassy Suites Hotel survey. Nearly half of the young professionals surveyed turn to Facebook, as opposed to 26 percent of older travelers.
As for other social media consulted: 22 percent of young travelers looked at MySpace (compared to 13 percent of all other travelers), 17 percent went to Twitter (versus 8 percent of other travelers), 11 percent to Google Buzz (compared to 7 percent), and 9 percent to LinkedIn (compared to 5 percent).
Social media is particularly important for hotel choice, with 33 percent of all travelers turning to it for help with that decision. Sixteen percent of respondents said social media convinced them to book the hotel they had in mind, and 13 percent said it had the power to convince them to switch their hotel choice.
The annual survey – conducted among 700 Americans who'd taken at least one business trip in the past year – revealed that 43 percent of workers said they were traveling less for business this year because of the economy. That's a decrease from last year's 51 percent.
But nearly three-quarters of respondents (71 percent) said tough times had changed the way they traveled. Nearly a third of those surveyed said they now flew coach, 27 percent cut back on meals, and 17 percent even shared rooms with colleagues.
Not surprisingly, more than half of all travelers (56 percent) listed location and price as the top two factors in choosing a hotel. All things being equal, if respondents had to choose between free breakfast and a free shuttle service to the airport, twice as many would take the free food. The favorite freebies: 27 percent named the cooked-to-order breakfast, 26 percent the shuttle service to and from airports, and 19 percent the daily appetizers and drinks. The fitness center came in last on the list, with 15 percent listing it as their top choice.
An unrelated Hilton Hotels survey earlier this year revealed women secretly love business travel because they like having someone clean up after them – but the current survey suggests male travelers put more emphasis on luxury than women. The men showed a stronger preference for flying first class (29 percent to 16 percent) and staying in five-start hotels (33 percent to 26 percent).
Inc. contributing editor Courtney Rubin was for five years a London-based staff writer for People magazine. Rubin, a former senior writer for Washingtonian magazine, has written for the New York Times magazine, Time, Marie Claire, and other publications. She is the author of The Weight-Loss Diaries.