ATLANTA, GA— Things may be looking up for the hotel industry sooner rather than later if findings of a survey mounted by Accenture prove to be largely on target. In line with the higher-priced end of the business, a poll of some 950 business travelers at U.S.-based firms by the national management consulting and technology services organization indicated business travel will likely increase over the next six months. It was reported that more than one third (35%) of the survey respondents said they expect to travel more for business between now and the end of the first quarter of 2003 than they had during the past six months. This is compared with 40% of respondents who said their business travel will remain at the same level, and 25% reporting it will drop. In addition, a majority of respondents reported their companies had placed few restrictions on travel. For instance, 83% maintained their companies have not restricted the use of some luxury hotels. As travel picks up, respondents and their companies are said to be evaluating travel options more carefully, and research reportedly points to several potential shifts that might alter the outlook of business travel for several industry sectors. To that end, it was noted when respondents were asked what type of accommodations they would choose, more than half (57%) said they plan to stay primarily at mid-range hotels, while 16% plan to stay at luxury chain hotels. On the other hand, nearly half (48%) of respondents said that, due to current economic conditions, their companies have increased their use of teleconferences and/or videoconferences to reduce travel and related costs. Back on the lodging side of the ledger, location and price were named as the two most important factors considered when choosing hotels, selected by 81% and 69% of respondents respectively. The Accenture study also purported: • The majority (68%) of respondents said loyalty programs from airlines, hotels or a combination of both influence their travel decisions; • More than one-half (54%) of respondents book their travel online or by calling (an airline and/or) a hotel directly; • More than one-quarter (27%) use an internal travel agency/department at their companies, while only 19% use an outside booking agency; and • Despite hotels’ rush to provide guests with a variety of services and amenities, only 17% of respondents said Internet access in hotel rooms is a deciding factor in selecting a hotel, and only 5% identified the availability of room service as a factor.