Business travelers are using technology like never before. But it’s where they come from rather than where they visit that influences their choice of gadgets, hoteliers say.
Smartphones, tablets and other gadgets have changed the way people travel. But according to hotliers, how travelers use technology, and what they demand when traveling, depends on the traveler’s destination and origin.
Brazilian business travelers, for example, are more likely to use hotel business centers to connect with the office, when compared with road warriors from the United States, United Kingdom, China, India and Germany. That statistic comes from Four Points by Sheraton, which recently conducted a survey comparing business travel habits among 6,000 travelers from those six nations.
The survey also showed that 45 percent of Brazilian business travelers carry three or four tech devices when traveling (that is the lowest percentage of the groups surveyed; nearly 64 percent of US respondents said they carry that number). Smartphones and tablets were the most popular devices for the largest number of Brazilians.
Latin Trade conducted an informal survey of general managers and hotel executives around the region. The aim was to provide additional insight into the use of technology by business travelers in the region.
“It is normal to see executives — especially from Brazil, Chile and Mexico — with more than one device,” said Álvaro Valeriani, the Mexico City-based director of sales and marketing for Hyatt of Latin America. “You can now see more people with iPads than laptops, however in most of the cases they have both. iPhones and Blackberries are also mandatory items. Chileans still use more Blackberries than iPhones, but Brazilians use more iPhones.”
The increasing popularity of Apple products presents its own challenges for business travelers and hoteliers, according to Valeriani, who noted that his company’s property in São Paulo recently invested in a technology upgrade. “Cables can be an issue, as only PC cables are widely available,” he explained. “So hotels are currently adding cables for Apple devices, available per request.”
Hotel technology capabilities may also be limited by local regulations, Valeriani added. “For example, in Brazil the online payment processes still have lots of red tape. There is a need for printed documentation, signatures, etc, as requested by the local government. ”
Pablo Veloso, general manager at the Buenos Aires Grand hotel, has also noticed that travelers from different regions use technology differently. “In my experience, I have found that Brazilian business travelers love tech,” he said. “They usually travel with their own devices such as tablets and iPads.” According to Veloso, relatively affordable roaming charges from the telecommunications company Claro makes it more likely that travelers from Argentina and Brazil will use their own phones while visiting his hotel. “On the other hand, Mexicans usually request cellphones at the front desk, since mobile plans are usually very expensive down here.”
Tablets on the rise
A number of general managers at Hilton properties around the region reported noticeable trends in how guests use technology to conduct business. “Definitely, laptops and netbooks are leaving the scene,” said Hector Concari, general manager at the Hilton Santo Domingo. “Tablets are the key players.”
Concari also reported that business centers are becoming less popular. “Guests prefer to work from their rooms or, in some cases, from the bars, and a few from the restaurants.”
Patricio Alvarez, general manager at the Hilton São Paulo Morumbi, agreed that “the use of tablets is increasing at a very fast pace.” He added that the use of in-room telephones has been in sharp decline over the past few years.
As travelers become increasingly dependent on tech gadgets, they are likely to need more help from the hotel staff, according to Tilo Joos, general manager at the Hilton Buenos Aires. “Requests we sometimes get are regarding the support they need in making their iPhones work in our country, i.e., selecting the appropriate carrier.”
Nearly everyone agrees that moving forward, travelers will use smartphones for even more processes related to the travel experience. “In the near future, we are looking at big technological changes for Latin America — and especially in Lima,” said Llaura Castagnini, general manager of the Hilton Lima Miraflores, “such as electronic guestroom key cards configured to the guests´ smartphones at the time of check-in.”
If anything shows the importance of technology to business travelers, it is the response to one particular question in the Four Points survey: When asked “If you could only bring one of the following to bed with you, which would you choose?” The largest percentage of respondents, from all six nations, ranked personal tech devices above their spouse or partner. Now that’s dedication to the job.
Mark Chesnut reported from New York.
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