Business vs. Leisure Travelers: What Makes them Book?

By Cihan Cobanoglu | October 08, 2010

Hotel operators often seek to know the occasion for which their guests are traveling (business, leisure, or possibly some combination of both), with the hopes of gaining insight into when and how to provide more customized services, and potentially uncover additional revenue opportunities. By digging deeper into a recent study from the University of Delaware, we can determine how these two groups feel about their hotel experiences, and shed some light on priority areas for hotel operators.
 
The guest satisfaction study is based on responses from 615 travelers and rates their satisfaction during a recent hotel stay with various in-room amenities and hotel offerings. In the original report (which was the subject of the August 2010 "Last Words" column), University of Delaware researchers analyzed the results of the entire sample, regardless of respondents' reported reasons for traveling. This month's column reports on the differences between business and leisure travelers.
 
Factors under evaluation
Of the 615 responses, about 70 percent were basing their answers on a leisure trip; a percentage that's in line with reports stating that about 70 percent of all travel is for personal reasons. The survey listed 50 hotel attributes, from cleanliness of the hotel to easily accessible electrical outlets, and asked the travelers to rate their levels of satisfaction. These 50 attributes were grouped into six main factors: Essentials (e.g. hotel location, cleanliness of hotel, price, on-premise parking, comfortable mattress and pillows, friendly service); In-Room Amenities (e.g. free long distance telephone calls, universal battery charger, flat-panel high-def television, in-room gaming system such as Wii or Play Station, complimentary national newspaper); Best Price/Website (e.g. informative hotel website, fast online reservations, best price from hotel website, price of accommodations); High Speed Internet Access; Business Comfort (e.g. good lighting to read/work, adequate desk/work space in room); and Breakfast/Location. In addition, it asked travelers if they were satisfied overall with their stay, if they would come back to this hotel and brand, and finally, if they will recommend this hotel to others.
 
Examining hotel satisfaction is important; the 2009 American Customer Satisfaction Index revealed that customers saw "satisfaction" as one of the most important factors when selecting a lodging property. This index further revealed that there is a positive correlation between consumer spending and satisfaction. In other words, when a consumer's overall satisfaction with products and services increases, his or her spending levels increase, too. Similarly, when the overall satisfaction of consumers decreases, their spending decreases significantly.
 
Business vs. leisure: Are they different?
In comparing the satisfaction scores of all 50 hotel attributes, there are only three that reflect significantly different satisfaction levels for business versus leisure travelers: best price from hotel website, easily accessible electrical outlets, and guest control panel (lights, temperature, blinds, etc). In each of these attributes, business travelers reported being significantly less satisfied than leisure travelers.
 
Although satisfaction levels with only three out of the 50 attributes are significantly different between the two groups, there are significant differences in what leads them to be fully satisfied with the overall experience and return to the hotel. For business travelers, the most significant factors are best price/website and high-speed Internet access. For leisure travelers, it's essentials and sports facilities (on-premise workout room, pool, etc.). These results are very significant. We can now report with confidence that, for business travelers, having high quality and free Internet access throughout the hotel and accessing the best prices from the hotel's website are a must. It will cause them to be more satisfied and, moreover, return to that hotel and brand. These factors came in front of even essentials (e.g. cleanliness, comfortable mattress and pillows, etc.).
 
On the other hand, for leisure travelers essentials are still a must. They need a comfortable bed and pillows, a clean room, etc. In addition to that, they also value sports facilities significantly. Having a quality sports facility in your hotel including a pool will impact their overall level of satisfaction significantly. One possible explanation for this is the increasing focus on healthy eating and living. Leisure travelers do not want to sacrifice this during their vacation.
 
Please let me know what you think about the findings of this study: cihan@cihan.org.
 
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