Business Tourism: Niches for Developing Countries

Article excerpt

Business tourism is a lucrative, fast-growing segment of the world's largest industry sector.

Good niches in business tourism exist for developing and transition economies. These countries can market themselves as cost-effective, yet exotic locales, where corporate objectives can be met in a rejuvenating setting. The challenge is to identify the competitive trends, and meet business travellers' needs for both efficiency and relaxation. ITC consultant Dorothy Riddle outlines major trends and specific niche opportunities for developing and transition economies.

Tourism is the world's largest industry, responsible for more than one in ten jobs globally. in many developing and transition economies, tourism has emerged as the dominant tool for economic growth. There will be 700 million international travellers by the year 2000 and one billion by 2010, according to the World Tourism Organization. The industry is expected to generate over US$ 5 trillion in economic activity and 245 million direct and indirect jobs worldwide by the year 2000.

Business travel accounts for approximately 9 % of all international travel. Business tourism is defined as leisure activities in conjunction with business travel. Business tourists are less cost-sensitive than leisure tourists, spending on average twice as much per day. Their purchase decisions are influenced primarily by their ability to use time efficiently within business travel schedules.

As two-thirds of business travellers extend their business trips for pleasure when they can, there is enormous potential in this market. Business tourism is expected to be one of the hottest growth markets for travel industry providers in the years ahead. Developing and transition economies interested in expanding revenues from business tourism need to focus on both the individual business traveller and the meetings and conventions market.

Attracting business tourists

Business travellers typically have some free time when they are away from home. They are most likely to participate in tourism activities if the effort required is minimal and the risks are low. Hotels typically serve as the starting point in terms of providing information and tourist options. Longer-staying guests at new extendedstay hotel properties will also be looking for evening and weekend tourism options.

Opportunities exist to work with hotels to develop an in-house TV channel that features activities appealing to business tourists such as weekend tours, theatre, golf options, restaurants, special cultural and recreational events and flight departure information.

Extend hotel access

Extended hotel room access can encourage business travellers to extend their stay before or after their business meetings. The standard industry practice of delaying check-in until after 15:00 and requiring check-out by noon discourages business tourism add-ons. Some United States hotel chains now routinely offer check-in times as early as 7:00 and checkout as late at 18:00, with many hotels having established a 24-hour check-in/ check-out policy that allows guests to check out a full day after checking in.

Increase hotel business centres

Another way to encourage extended stays is to provide business support facilities so that the traveller can transact business efficiently 24 hours a day. An increasing number of hotels - following the model of airline business lounges are embracing the concept of businessclass rooms that feature enhanced work space and lighting, Internet access via the TV, data ports, twoline cordless phones, and private faxes. One chain, which became the first United States hotel chain to take its business class rooms abroad in 1997, now offers such rooms in 29 countries. When coupled with 24-hour business service centres, the result is often an increase in guests who extend their stay and engage in tourism activities.

Opportunities exist to work with hotels in order to upgrade their business support services. …

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