Word-of-Mouth and Social Media Greatly Influence Business Travel Decisions

We’ve been reading about the woeful condition of the hotel and airline industries and hoping the turnaround is coming soon.  We did a “quick and dirty” survey of (mostly) American business travelers to get a feeling for what this key segment of the traveling public looks for, what sources of travel information are most important to them, and whether and by how much their travel budgets have been cut.

The survey results revealed a few interesting tidbits:

  • The source of travel information most valued by business travelers surveyed was what they hear from others, either people they work with, business colleagues at the destination, or comments made by other travelers online.
  • Most people reported that their travel budgets had been cut by less than 25 percent since 2008. Almost half said there had been no reduction.
  • When asked how they spend free time on a business trip, 14 percent said they never have any. Almost half said they stay in their hotels and work.
  • The three most important hotel facilities and services to these travelers are wifi, courteous and helpful staff, and a place to work in the room.

As a communications executive, I was struck by the responses to the question about what sources of travel information were most helpful and least helpful. At the bottom of the list – least helpful – were convention and visitors bureau visitor guides, print guidebooks and bloggers.  Perhaps C&V bureau materials are mostly not aimed at business travelers, most of whom say they use whatever free time they have to work or relax in their rooms! But the print guidebooks look like an endangered species.

I wasn’t surprised at the influence of word-of-mouth and online social media (such as comments and reviews left by others at Tripadvisor.com).  This conforms with trends in influence measured by Forrester Research.  A survey that Forrester did earlier this year revealed that the online influence that people have on each other rivals the impact of online advertising.

Many travel companies were a little slow to pay attention to and understand the impact of social media, but over the last year a lot of progress has been made.

I’d like to hear your comments about our survey.

Lucy Siegel

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