"I'm not privy to what executives of economy chains are telling their people, but they ought to be getting out the word to get their properties spruced up, improve their services even more, and take every opportunity to satisfy their customers," says Doug Billings, president of the Billings Group, a Philadelphia-based hotel brokerage and consulting firm.
Billings's theory is that business travelers are trading down as their companies tighten their belts.Granted, Billings
says, most of these consumers aren't trading all the way down-"It's the Courtyards, the Hamptons, and the Homewoods that are benefiting the most [from business-travel trade-downs]," he
says-but there are enough, combined with newly budget-conscious leisure travelers, to present an opportunity for the economy segment.
"But you have to remember that when customers do trade down, their expectations have to be met," Billings
says."This is a significant opportunity for economy operators, but they have to deliver on these new guest expectations if they have any hope of retaining them when the economy swings back up.
"You might say economy operators have an opportunity to bring a whole new meaning to the word ‘conversion'-and that is that economy operators have an opportunity to convert some customers if they step up their quality and services."