Hotels Focus on Luring Business Travelers

This week, three hotel companies -- Best Western, Four Points by Sheraton and Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott -- unveiled new campaigns and promotional strategies specifically targeting the business traveler. What makes these three brands interesting is that all are in the midpriced segment. That's a dead giveaway that hotel companies are keenly aware that the ongoing economic uncertainty will keep a tight hold on corporate travel budgets that may have eased ever so slightly in the first two quarters of this year, and that they are expecting the trade-down in hotel brands by value-conscious road warriors to continue.

This week I attended an event at the 334-room Best Western Plus President Hotel Times Square in New York City celebrating the Phoenix-based chain's "Back to Business Travel Season" promotion, which allows business travelers to earn double points with Best Western Rewards. Points can be redeemed for free nights globally, with no blackout dates. I expected the usual crush of media, but instead found a gaggle of very interested corporate travel buyers from the world of finance and entertainment. And why not? With reasonable rates, complimentary wireless, iPod-docking stations, 42-inch flat-screen TVs, a chic lobby lounge and a location that rubs elbows with trendy four-star players, this hotel (which completed a massive renovation in 2009 to gain the chain's new "Plus" standard) is a definite value player. "We do a lot of leisure business because Best Western is such a global name, but we are really going after the business traveler now," Troy Rutman, director, external communications, for the brand, told me. "Hotels that have earned the new Plus designation, like this one, are designed with them in mind."

Also angling for the business market, Four Points by Sheraton is betting that a recent $1 billion overhaul of its North American properties will corporate travelers swooning over its stylish new rooms, complete with specially designed work spaces and unique local brews from independent breweries. And its new "Four for Free" promotion allows business travelers to bundle popular amenities (full breakfast, Internet, bottled water and appetizer), completely gratis at participating hotels, for bookings through Dec. 31. "Four Points is a popular choice among business travelers, and this promotion ensures they have everything they need to succeed on the road," said Brian McGuinness, senior vice president of specialty select brands at parent company, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

Meanwhile, after six years of advertising solely in print and online outlets, Fairfield Inn & Suites took to the screen this week, launching a major new television campaign. "Let's Get it Done" touts the brand's dependability and value to the business traveler, with features like complimentary breakfast and Wi-Fi, rooms designed with work spaces, and courteous service. Expect to see commercials pop up wherever the brand can catch the gaze of road warriors on the move, such as CNN's Airport Network and Delta's inflight network. The tagline, "When there is a lot riding on your shoulders, there's a lot riding on ours," is designed to tug at the heartstrings, if not the wallets, of business travelers everywhere.