TORONTO — Phoenix, Ariz.-based Best Western International hosted travel media at Toronto’s Malaparte event space yesterday to examine the steady growth of business travel.

Citing data from PKF, Dorothy Dowling, SVP of Sales & Marketing for Best Western International, said business travel is forecast to be up three per cent this year over last. However, Best Western is forecasting a growth of five to seven per cent, as 84 per cent of the company’s business travel accounts will remain comparable or up over last year.

Reporting on results from the Ottawa-based Hotel Association of Canada’s business travel survey conducted in January, Tony Pollard, president of HAC, said business travel is expected to increase modestly across the country. HAC is also predicting total overnight visits in 2015 to increase by 1.5 to two per cent, RevPAR to increase by 5.5 per cent, plus an occupancy rate above 65 per cent.

Technology continues to play a key role in business travel. More than 50 per cent of volume at Best Western is booked through the web today with the biggest change in mobile. “Mobile is more than 50 per cent of traffic in terms of the searching process,” said Dowling. “We’re in the average range in terms of the conversion process … but with a lot of processing improvements in the payment side, which still has a way to go, we are anticipating that the conversion over the next 18 months, most of what’s in desktop, will be in mobile.”

Free Wi-Fi continues to top the list of most desired amenities. “[Travellers] want it to work at a fairly rapid pace,” said Dowling. Pollard concurred, adding that 85 per cent of HAC survey respondents cited free wireless Internet as a top priority. “Millennials are coming into the marketplace more and they expect to be connected,” added Ian Race, SVP and account manager of Toronto-based Vision Travel Solutions. “They don’t think that managing the travel experience on a smartphone is a convenience; it’s a necessity.”

Pollard also updated attendees on the status of Connecting America, an initiative between HAC and the Tourism Industry Association of Canada for federal funding ($35 million annually over a three-year period) to promote Canada to Americans. “The government has come back to us and responded very positively, saying there will be some money in it for this year,” Pollard said, though an amount has not been disclosed. “The government is starting to realize that maybe there’s merit in promoting Canada so that some of those states that are diametrically opposed to [an oil] pipeline are going to start thinking differently.” Canada is more than just oil sands, he added.


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