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Tim Sander, research director, hotels and hospitality, BDRC
The hotels and meetings market has changed considerably with the advent of the internet and especially social media, and booking online is increasingly important. In 2009, 37% of bookings agents, 31% of corporate organisers and 26% of associations (trade bodies, not-for-profit organisations and charities) booked an event online, whereas just two years ago only 20% of agents, 20% of corporate organisers and 17% of associations booked online.
The way business travellers and events bookers compare and choose venues has been transformed. Search engines are the most popular way to find and select venues, closely followed by personal recommendations: 89% of agents and 75% of corporate bookers use search engines to find venues, with personal recommendations from business colleagues and contacts not far behind at 79% and 72% respectively.
ssociations, on the other hand, are more likely to use personal recommendations than a search engine (76% compared with 74% respectively).
Although use of the internet is on the rise, there’s a decline in the importance of hotels’ own websites for booking meetings. Over the last five years, use of this channel has waned more than 8% on average due to the growing number and importance of other information sources.
Not only are bookings for corporate customers moving online, business travellers are behaving more like consumers in the way they choose hotel rooms. Scouring the internet for recommendations is now standard procedure for business travellers, with 28% actively seeking advice on consumer review sites. Of those, 46% are influenced in their hotel selection by online reviews. Crucially, 41% have changed their original hotel choice after reading other travellers’ experiences.
With so many people referring to online reviews, hoteliers must offer a good service that will encourage all hotel guests, whether leisure or business, to leave positive feedback. The internet has given every guest the power to influence the future of a venue’s business.