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Business traveller: Home is where the Wi-Fi is

Hotels compete for market share with tech, loyalty programs
For business travellers, research before departure is key to ensuring a match between booked accommodations and technology needs at the destination  | Sergey Nivens/Shutterstock

For business travellers, research before departure is key to ensuring a match between booked accommodations and technology needs at the destination  | Sergey Nivens/Shutterstock

Today’s business traveller has specific needs, particularly when it comes to technology, and hotel chains have adapted to the demands of their clients’ busy schedules.

Opinions vary about which hotel chains offer the best options, and business travellers have a wide range of choices to suit all budgets and lifestyles.

For no-frills travellers watching their budgets, mid-market hotel chains offer consistency in customer service, comfort, location and price.

With location, price and comfort in mind, Chris Aconley, a business adviser with Cultivate Advisors, prefers Staybridge Suites, part of InterContinental Hotels Group.

“I usually prefer a suite,” said the Port Moody resident. “I like to have a fridge for healthy snacks. Some locations even offer a catered meal during the week.”

According to David Burton, Flight Centre Travel Group’s corporate product manager for Canada, happy corporate travellers are more productive.

Comparing hotel chains can be challenging, but Burton said that asking the advice of a travel management company (TMC) can reduce the homework. TMCs offer a wide variety of options available through a consortia discount program provided by a range of corporate-focused chains.

And which hotels are the best for business travellers, according to Burton?

“If you are looking for global coverage, Hilton [NYSE:HLT], Marriott [Nasdaq:MAR] and Radisson are hard to beat across the breadth of brands they each offer,” he said.

“Fairmont and Le Germain are fantastic Canadian prestige brands, located downtown in most of Canada’s major cities.”

Many chains offer a range of properties from value to luxury, so regardless of budget or location requirements, membership with a couple of the major chains can land travellers in a hotel of their preference.

In terms of technology, Hilton is working on a pilot project to allow guests to pre-select rooms and is testing another to help guests who lose their room keys.

“Hilton is closest in the race to using your smartphone as your room key,” said Burton.

Through recent mergers and acquisitions, many large chains have amalgamated loyalty programs that provide added bonuses. For example, Marriott International is now the parent of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, which includes Westin, Sheraton, the Luxury Collection, Four Points by Sheraton, W Hotels and St. Regis.

“This offers more choice for the traveller to book any of the subsidiaries and still get their loyalty points,” said Nazir Hirji, president of Vancouver-based HB Travel Corp.

Loyalty program benefits might include early check-in and checkout, room upgrades, complimentary breakfast, free Wi-Fi, access to meeting rooms, free stays and other perks. Depending on budget and location needs, Hirji recommends corporate travellers stay at Marriott/Starwood, Hilton and Hyatt hotels and their subsidiaries. For added luxury and high-end clients, he suggests Four Seasons, which offers “consistently great service in all their properties and a culture where the staff are trained to provide service excellence and a personalized experience for all guests.”

And for those watching their budget, Best Western Hotels & Resorts fits the bill.

For technology-savvy guests, premier chains are offering more options including mobile self-check-in services, while others have virtual personal assistants Alexa and Siri in hotel rooms.

Internet access and Wi-Fi in rooms is vital, according to Marley French, Inspired Travel Group’s operations team leader, and some hotels offer on-site business centres.

French said the leading hotel chains for business travellers are Marriott/ Starwood, Fairmont, Hilton and Hyatt.

Benefits of staying at Starwood hotels include access to legal secretaries, translators, notaries, butler service, concierge team and upgraded Wi-Fi.

Many hotels offer advanced technology, allowing guests to be more connected via smartphone apps. This includes being able to order room service or contact hotel staff via texts, and checking in ahead of arrival through apps.

For Eric Sakawsky, co-founder and CEO of Vancouver-based Worldgo Travel Management, Fairmont and Marriott hotels top the list due to their selection of global properties and loyalty programs.

“The [Fairmont] President’s Club program is one of the better ones. We love the standard they uphold as a hotel chain.”

A selection of hotel chains and amenities

Best Western Hotels & Resorts

The Best Western Rewards Business Advantage loyalty program includes discounted rates, free internet access in rooms and public areas, newspapers, computer stations, early breakfasts, fast checkout, safety boxes for laptops available in rooms or at reception, and battery chargers for mobile phones.

Fairmont Hotels & Resorts

The Fairmont President’s Club loyalty program offers free high-speed internet access, broadband and wireless in meeting rooms and public spaces, a 24-7 technology help desk, business work centres with fully equipped workstations at many locations, photocopying and secretarial services, private lounges and boardrooms, complimentary printers for in-room use, 24-hour fax service, express checkout, in-room desks equipped with office supplies, and fitness clubs.

Hilton Hotels & Resorts

The Hilton Honors rewards program includes free Wi-Fi, points, best prices, room choice and digital keys. Gold- and diamond-status members enjoy room upgrades and continental breakfast; diamond members get executive lounge access, elite status gifting and 48-hour room guarantee. Benefits include discounted, changeable and refundable rates, digital check-in, complimentary in-room and lobby standard internet access at many locations, quick reservations and check-ins based on room preferences, and late and express checkout.

Hyatt Hotels

The Hyatt Company Travel Program offers special rates and services and online booking at, where qualifying companies get immediate access by registering online. Business plans offer various amenities at many locations.

InterContinental Hotels Group

The IHG Biz loyalty program, a preferred-rate travel program designed for small and mid-sized organizations, offers discounted room rates and rewards to use toward future stays.

Marriott International

Includes Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis, Starwood, Delta Hotels, Sheraton, Westin Hotels & Resorts and others. Under the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) program, guests earn, redeem and enjoy benefits at more than 1,500 hotels and resorts across 11 brands around the world. Benefits may include free-night awards and VIP access to special events. Marriott Rewards program members enjoy many benefits, and the chain offers amenities including Wi-Fi, overnight package delivery, dry cleaning services and fully equipped on-site business centres.

Radisson Hotels & Resorts

Business Class amenities include complimentary breakfast, spacious work areas, upgraded rooms, 1,000 bonus points per night, membership in the Radisson Rewards loyalty program and newspapers. Radisson Blu hotels specifically cater to business travellers.

Sandman Hotel Group

Sandman’s StarPlus Corporate Advantage Program offers preferred fixed corporate rates, flexible rates offering discounts, restaurant discounts, access to the StarPlus Lounge at select locations, late checkout privileges, upgrades, newspapers and free local fax and phone service. After 12 nights, the 13th night is free.