Business travel, like many service sectors, has not been
experiencing a very friendly climate since the economy took a turn
for the worse. According to travel industry research company
PhoCusWright, U.S. corporate travel is expected to decline 15
percent this year.
The U.S. travel industry as a whole is projected to drop by 11
percent, and the corporate travel sector, which currently makes up
40 percent of the entire market, is expected to drop to 35 percent
by 2010. Along with airlines and other popular forms of
transportation, the hospitality and meetings industries are also
seeing similar declines.
However, Susan Steinbrink, senior researcher and corporate market
analyst at PhoCusWright, suggests the situation could lead to
sparks of innovation in everything from videoconferencing to
optimizing value in travel. Illustrating the point of how creative
businesses have become, Starwood Hotels & Resorts is taking 4
percent off the master tab for any companies that book a meeting
requiring 10 or more guest rooms by August 31 (1).
But that's not all. The hotel chain is also throwing in a
complimentary morning or afternoon refreshment break sponsored by
PepsiCo, and the chance to win a free private concert by pop
songstress Natasha Bedingfield with the proceeds going to a charity
of the company's choice.
"We created this initiative to strike the right balance between
providing value for meetings in today's tough economic reality and
supporting philanthropic efforts that are important to our
customer's local communities," says Dave Marr, senior vice
president of brand management, North America for Starwood Hotels
Some hotels are going in the opposite direction by playing up the
mantra of "less is more." The Rancho Bernardo Inn, a luxury resort
in San Diego, offers guests the option of cutting out amenities
such as linens, toilet paper, pillows, and towels in exchange for a
A room for two, which starts at $219 a night, can go all the way
down to $19 if you are willing to sleep in an unfurnished room with
nothing but a tent. The deal runs from August 16-31, and is called
the Survivor Package (2).
Rancho Bernard general manager John Gates says the idea came about
as a way to make the best of the current financial situation and
give customers a unique and unusual experience.
British Airways offered an essay contest called the "Face of
Opportunity" last month to award a free business trip to 1,000
people (3). The contest was based off of the results of a Harvard
Business Review readership survey in which 95 percent of 2,211
professionals reported that face-to-face meetings were the key to
long-lasting, successful business relationships.
In the coming months, selected winners will travel from New York,
Los Angeles, or Chicago respectively to London aboard one of three
flights to network and establish a wider presence for their
In London, opportunities such as a networking forum with top
business leaders and presentations and discussions on how to do
business in the United Kingdom and abroad are available. The return
date for the trip is flexible, and the airline will also cover
flying to any other location British Airways flies to for any
additional meetings with new clients.
Sometimes being in a slump is the best motivation to adapt and evolve a company's brand.