‘Road Warriors’ Stay Connected While Traveling

business travel - laptopsToday’s business traveler carries between three and four mobile devices with them while on the road, states data from a new survey from Four Points by Sheraton. This Starwood Hotels and resorts brand surveyed 6,000 global business travelers to find what devices they are most likely to use while traveling – and what hotels can best do to help these tech-savvy travelers.

Business travelers are “connecting” to friends and colleagues while on the road more than ever, with 55% saying that they travel with three to four devices. Brazilian travelers are the heaviest packers, with 27% saying they travel with more than five devices at one time. We’re not even sure how one gets to that many tech items, unless you’re traveling with multiple telephones. Germans were the least device-dependent, with 33% reporting they travel with only one or two items.

Smartphones #1
Not surprisingly, smartphones (74%) are the number-one device used by travelers, although tablets (65%), music players (43%) and laptops (32%) are also popular. Chinese respondents were the only group to bump laptops out of the top four, in favor of cameras (30%).

Business travelers are also glued to those smartphones. After landing, the majority (54%) turn on their smartphone while the plane is still taxiing on the tarmac, while 12% admit to never turning it off in the first place. The remaining respondents wait until they’re in the terminal or settle into their taxi/car (17% each).

Given our tech-obsessed society, some of these stats may seem mainstream, but checking their smartphone is also the first thing respondents do when they wake up in their hotel (36%). Only 19% turn on the TV first and 18% take a shower. Checking Facebook (12%) ranks fourth, while checking Twitter and calling home share a distant fifth (7%).Business Travelers Prefer Tablets
Tablets are quickly gaining market share among business travelers, with 68% of respondents saying they use their tablet more often than their laptop, and accordingly a similar number (69%), if told they could take only one of the two on the road, would choose to travel with their tablet.

This is in line with the business goals of travelers – many use mobile devices to keep up with email (90%), although many use devices for Internet browsing and social media (75%). Keeping up with the office is important too, but less so – only 73% of respondents cited this as important. Either these travelers still prefer books or they aren’t reading for pleasure – only 43% use mobile devices to read.

Business Centers Still Rule
In addition to all their hand-held technology, the majority of respondents report that they have visited a hotel business center (66%). They mostly do so to print business items (93%). They are also inclined to use the business center to print personal items (87%), check social networking (87%) and check email (86%).

What do you think? How many devices do you travel with, and which do you use most frequently?

[Flickr via magerleagues]

Find hotel deals with new booking site Guestmob

hotel deals guestmob collectionsThe Internet has brought us many ways to research and book hotels at prices much lower than the hotels’ published rate. Aggregate sites like Kayak and Orbitz give you the best available rate (BAR) without pre-payment on a specific hotel, while “opaque” sites like Priceline and Hotwire allow you to bid for a room below BAR but the actual property remains hidden until after you book and the purchase is non-refundable. Now a new booking site offers you hotel deals well below BAR while ensuring consumers flexibility and a standard of quality.

Guestmob differs from other hotel booking sites by combining high-tech algorithmic pricing and expertly curated properties hand-picked for their high user ratings. The site works by grouping hotels into collections of four to eight properties in a given category and neighborhood. You enter your travel dates and can immediately see a room rate of up to 50% below BAR for each hotel collection. The Thursday before you check in, the exact hotel is revealed but you are guaranteed one of the specific hotels in the collection. Best of all, unlike other opaque booking sites, you can cancel your reservation up to three days before check-in.hotel deals guestmob booking pagePreviously, some savvy travelers have tried to “game the system” with sites like Bidding for Travel, a forum that tries to guess winning bids and participating hotels on opaque sites by sharing successful bookings. Guestmob removes the need for this research by specifying hotels in each collection and immediately offering a deeply discounted price. While room upgrades, frequent guest points and other requests are still at the discretion of the hotel upon check-in, it’s still a great option for travelers with flexibility.

A Guestmob search for a hotel in Chicago on a weekend in mid-May yielded a price of $164 for a 3.5 star hotel on Magnificent Mile (such as a Courtyard or Embassy Suites), or $203 to bump up to a 4 star in the same area such as a W or Westin Hotel. The same properties ranged from $221 to $279 on other sites. Most Guestmob hotels are part of well-known chains such as Marriott or Starwood, or smaller chains like Kimpton and JDV.

Guestmob soft-launched last year in San Francisco and has now expanded to include New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando, San Diego, San Jose, Seattle, Boston, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Portland and Phoenix. The site is well connected to social media so you can get help, learn news or give feedback on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. You can also chat with them right on the site if you have questions.

Element Miami launches with eco-friendly amenities and options

element miami international airport openingPromising “Balanced Living on the Road,” Starwood Hotels & Resorts‘ newest property, Element Miami International Airport, opened this week with a hot pilot program to showcase its commitment to fitness and green design.

The hotel is putting pedal-powered generators on stationary bikes in its fitness centers, enabling guests to generate electricity and charge their own personal electronic devices as they work out.

As part of the opening ceremony, ten bicyclists, including Starwood President and CEO Frits van Paasschen, took to bikes and generated enough electricity to power laptops and flat-screen plasma monitors to create a “virtual ribbon cutting” on screen. A PR stunt for sure, but at least it was a cool one.

Element Miami offers a number of eco-friendly and fitness-oriented amenities, including a complimentary healthy breakfast, 24-hour fitness centers, saline pools and Bikes to Borrow.

Westin opens first hotel in Panama to the tune of $100 million

westin panamaPanama, ranked the number one travel destination by The New York Times and an emerging destination by pubs like Fodor’s and Travel + Leisure, has just gotten a little hotter with the opening of its first Westin hotel.

The newly-opened Westin Playa Bonita Panamá is 20 minutes outside Panama City, flanked by both rainforest and beach. The hotel boasts 611 luxury rooms and suites, six fine dining restaurants, four bars and an open-air VIP Lounge on the 19th floor, which boasts panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, rainforest and Panamá Canal.
While 600-something room hotels aren’t always our preference, it’s a great way to get a tropical escape on the calendar for a reasonable price or for a moderate number of SPG loyalty points.

This opening falls on the heels of other major hotel announcements in the fast-emerging must-visit destination, including the opening of Trump Ocean Club Panama earlier this year.

Starwood first to launch user ratings and reviews on its hotel websites

Reader-generated hotel reviews – and the sites that host them – have gotten a bad rap lately. But, it’s for a good reason. In July, TripAdvisor came under scrutiny when it was revealed that some hotels were paying TripAdvisor users to post positive reviews of their properties. There have also been concerns that hotel employees and management were posting positive reviews of their properties in order to improve their online ratings and, thus, improve their rankings and visibility.

Knowing that a few bad reviews can break a hotel, hotel companies understandably have been resistant to allow customers to post reviews on their websites. This week, however, Starwood announced that it will be the first hotel company to host reader-generated ratings and reviews on its websites. Starwood Hotels and Resorts, the parent company of such brands as Westin, Sheraton, W Hotels, St. Regis, and Le Meridien, will allow hotel guests to post both positive and negative reviews in order to provide a more honest and transparent relationship with its customers, particularly members of the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) program. In turn, potential reviewers must have verified hotel reservation confirmations in order to post a review. Customers will be able to post reviews and ratings on room comfort, staff helpfulness, cleanliness, and SPG recognition, among other factors, as well as provide context to their reviews, such as purpose and frequency of travel. Users also will be able to share Starwood reviews on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Starwood’s move to allow reviews on its websites is a way to bring more customers directly to the source rather than via third-party booking and review sites. Says Chris Holdren, Senior Vice President of Starwood Preferred Guest, “Our goal is to provide everything a guest needs to select and book their best hotel experience and there’s no better place to offer this information than on our own websites.”