February 18 2009 by Chris McGinnis
If you've been following my blog, you know that I traveled to New
York last week to lead a panel discussion at the Best Western Business Travel Summit, saving at least 100 jobs in the process.
Now, I bet you're wondering what we covered in a our revealing conversation that included Linda Rutherford, VP of communications and strategic outreach for Southwest Airlines, George Zilvetti, VP at MasterCard who oversees business development and co-branding, and Best Western's Dorothy Dowling, senior VP of marketing and sales.
Here are some of the nifty nuggets of knowledge I picked up from the panel and how they will affect you:
If you haven't flown Southwest lately, you probably will soon. Despite claims about the humongous size of the newly merged Delta+Northwest, Southwest carries more passengers per day in the U.S. than any other carrier. In March, Southwest will invade the historically high-priced Minneapolis market and hopes to have new flights into New York - La Guardia by this June.
Even low-fare airlines are wooing business travelers. Southwest's business/leisure mix is now 50/50 and over the last 12 to18 months, the carrier made big overtures toward business travelers with new amenities like access to priority security screening lanes, early boarding and bonuses in its Rapid Rewards program.
We are all cutting back on travel spending. MasterCard's most recent "Spending Pulse" report reveals that spending for air travel tanked 15.8 percent in January compared to the previous year. Spending for hotels declined similarly, dropping 15.5 percent year-over-year. Ouch.
If you haven't stayed at a mid-market hotel lately, you probably will be soon. Best Western is the largest global hotel brand, with more than 4,000 mid-market properties worldwide. The company has increased its marketing spend by 25 percent this year as it sees an opportunity to secure more market share from business travelers shifting to brands that represent better value. The hotel chain is already seeing results with the higher number of businesses inviting Best Western into their RFP selection process.
Best Western is spiffing up to welcome new business travelers who may be giving it a try for the first time. Over the last 2 to 3 years, Best Western separated from more than 600 hotels that didn't meet brand standards in its quest to improve quality and consistency. At the same time, more than $1.5 billion has been invested in new hotels and existing property upgrades.
That's enough for this entry, but next week I plan to pick up on a few other topics from this enlightening discussion! Stay tuned...