Skift Take

We think there's plenty of opportunity for hotels to get more creative with the services they offer on their mobile apps, but they should also prioritize the basics: free, fast Wi-Fi and convenient, plentiful power outlets.

Hotel companies looking to get more customers to book through direct channels may have a not-so-secret weapon, at least with business travelers: free Wi-Fi.

According to a new report from the Global Business Travel Association’s (GBTA) research and education branch, a majority of business travelers — between 64 and 69 percent —  say they would book a room directly with a hotel if it meant they would get free Wi-Fi or high-speed Internet.

But travel managers who want road warriors to use approved channels are still concerned that hotels are using incentives such as members-only rates and extra-fast Internet to get more guests to book through a hotel website or app.

Of those travelers who responded to the survey, just 16 percent said they got free Internet because they booked direct, belonged to a hotel rewards program, or had special status on their last stay. Most, 61 percent, said they used a free Internet connection that was available to all guests.

“Yet despite the apparently lukewarm take-up of these incentives, the concern that they will lead to more out-of-policy bookings might still be justified,” the report says. “As more travelers learn about these incentives, they could book direct more frequently.”

Business travelers definitely spend a lot of time online: 73 percent connected to Wi-Fi or high-speed Internet in a hotel common area in the past year. And of those who went online in their room, 55 percent spent at least an hour a day using that Internet connection for work. Nearly half spent at least an hour a day online for leisure.

The report, based on a survey of 831 business travelers in the U.S. and Canada., was released by the GBTA Foundation in partnership with Best Western Hotels & Resorts. In addition to traveler sentiment about Wi-Fi, it examined the use of hotel apps and other technology in hospitality.

More than 60 percent of business travelers have at least one hotel chain’s app on their phone, and more than half have at least two apps. Business travelers most commonly use hotel apps for checking the status of a reservation, managing a loyalty account or reward points, and booking a stay. The least popular reasons to use a hotel app: contacting an employee or ordering room service.

Only about a quarter of business travelers had checked in to their hotel using a mobile app  during their last stay, but the report says that number is likely to increase as the option for keyless entry becomes more widespread.

Some hotel companies have been experimenting with new ways to use their mobile apps.   Just this week, Hilton Worldwide unveiled new features that make its app interactive and customized for guests at two pilot properties.

According to the study, the top five items on business travelers’ hotel tech wish lists are: more power and USB outlets, streaming services such as Netflix and HBO Go on TVs, chargers for laptops and phones provided in guest rooms, keyless or mobile room entry, and TV sets that can access the Internet.

“Hotels have room to expand the capabilities of their mobile app as well as promote increased awareness of those capabilities as the interest is there,” Monica Sanchez, director of research for the GBTA Foundation, said in a statement. “In the future, hotels could invest in innovative new technologies, but should also continue to focus on improving existing amenities, especially Wi-Fi as that remains most important for business travelers.”

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Tags: gbta, hotels, tech

Photo credit: An iPad streaming an album while plugged into a convenient night-stand level plug at the Weekapaug Inn in Rhode Island. Skift

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