Five Minutes With: Marriott International, VP premium & select brands

Hotelier Middle East speaks to Sandra Schulze-Potgieter about business travel, leisure and more

Sandra Schulze-Potgieter
Sandra Schulze-Potgieter

How do you see the nature of business travel shifting?
Business travel is shifting, heralding a new era of business travellers, led by millennials. The new breed of travellers is creating a new mind set and attitude about the value of the corporate travel experience and the expectations from it.

Making up the largest segment of the workforce, millennials are more willing to travel. Similarly, employees who travel often feel more empowered and engaged. More and more employees are seeing business travel as a perk. According to recent surveys, international business travellers consider travel as valuable to professional and personal growth. More and more companies are acknowledging these effects and seeing the link between business travel, productivity and performance. Delta Hotels is one of the brands within the Marriott International portfolio that plays within this space built around the mantra of "simple made perfect".

What we also see is that loyalty programmes will be and are still important – the difference being that travellers today are inclined towards using accumulated points to make a trip inherently better, instantly, by bringing convenience and personalisation to the overall experience.

How would you say business and leisure now work together in the current climate? 
Business and travel are here to stay. The surge of travellers mixing business and leisure trips continues to grow. Leisure travel is increasingly seen as an inextricable component of business travel. As the popularity of combined work and leisure trips grow, business booking platforms and corporate travel managers are adapting to allow for more simultaneous booking of business and leisure travel. Additionally, more corporate travellers prioritise comfort and proximity to leisure activities while choosing a hotel. This brings us to the point about how important the location of the hotel is for the success of your trip based on the trip purpose.
Delta Hotels by Marriott Jumeirah Beach, is a great example of how a hotel balances the needs of seamless travel with that of combining business with leisure.

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What are the major pain points in the business travel sector?
Travel can be disruptive. The stresses of corporate travel continue to add up, sleep disruption, time away from family and unhealthy habits all weigh upon business travellers. Organisations and hotel groups are increasingly recognising the need to redesign travel experiences to allow those travelling on business to be more productive on the road.

How does personalisation work in the business travel sphere?
We are communicating with a generation of consumers that are used to receiving personal recommendations because of the power of digital marketing, and this is being reflected in the hospitality sector where the expectation is for their products and experience to be curated based on their passions and preferences. The demand for a “return to humanity” has been a growing theme among business travellers, who are increasingly tired of robotic customer service operators and automated flight cancellation emails. Technology can be efficient but not always, there has to be a balance between automation and the human touch.

How do you see business travel being key to a company’s success?
Business travel has never been a more valuable or important function to ensure company success. In fact, in order to grow, forward thinking organisations of all shapes and sizes are coming to this realisation.

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