Five real reasons behind business traveler hotel choices

business traveler hotel choicesIt’s not just flights – business travelers are easing up on cost when it comes to hotels, too. Rather than try to stretch their dollars until they squeal, road warriors are finally looking for ways they can be a little happier when sleeping in beds that aren’t their own (unless, of course, they’re sharing a bed with … well, you know).

Hotels tend to love business travelers, because they have cash to spend and tend to use it for more than just the room-night. Restaurants, bars and other services – these guys know how to open their wallets!

So, how do they choose? The latest Orbitz for Business / Business Traveler Magazine Quarterly Trend Report offers the five priorities that business travelers want when they decide to offer up their credit card information. While some are mundane, others will shock you:1. Give us a reason to be loyal: business travelers are whores for points, and that means loyalty programs top the list. Rather than save the company some cash, they want to make sure they won’t have to shell out to take the wife, girlfriend or mistress out of town for a few days.

2. Close to work: business travelers are interest in proximity to the reason they’re staying in a hotel. Speaking from experience, nobody wants to wake up in a hotel and then drive half an hour to visit a client. It blows.

3. All in one place: on-site amenities make life easier. That includes wifi, on-site cleaners and an exercise center. Nobody’s going to be happy wandering around town to find this stuff.

4. Size does matter: size of the bill, that is. For business travelers, hotel room rates still make a difference. Cheaper tends to be better.

5. The need to see stars: this one actually surprised me. Business travelers care about a hotel’s star rating. I never looked at it from that perspective but was always interest in choosing a place that didn’t feel third-world (having made a few bad choices along the way).

The least important factor? Well, that’s whether a particular hotel is on a company’s preferred supplier list. And, only a handful said that user reviews were “extremely valuable in their selection process.” As expected, sharing a room is almost totally out of the question.

Five perks business travelers MUST have

business travelers perksIf you’ve ever been a road warrior, you know that the following is true. Spending hours upon hours on a plane several times a week, every week of the year, even the smallest benefits can make a profound difference. It’s sad but true that happiness is measured in on-time arrivals and exit rows, but such is the nature of frequent business travel.

According to the latest Orbitz for Business / Busienss Traveler Magazine Quarterly Trend Report, what business travelers want is changing. During the recession, cost was paramount, as cash-strapped businesses put pressure on employees to keep expenses under control in a bid to protect profit margins. Now that economic conditions are changing, travel priorities are too.

Ancillary services are gaining importance, as passengers are looking for ways to be comfortable again, especially if looser travel budgets are resulting in more time on the road. According to IATA, the airline industry is likely to pull in an aggregate $8.9 billion in profits from ancillary services this year, indicating that the money is likely to come from somewhere.

Let’s take a look at the five things the white collar travel folks are beginning to crave:1. A seat in the aisle: this isn’t surprising; everyone wants the chance to stretch out, even if it means the risk of getting slammed by the beverage cart.

2. Priority access at the security line and early boarding: hey, nobody wants to wait, right?

3. Airline lounge or club access: if you’re going to be stuck in an airport, you might as well enjoy it.

4. A seat at the front of the plane: boarding isn’t the only priority – business travelers want to get off quickly, too.

5. Extra leg room in coach: sense a theme here?

Like the opportunity to keep one’s dignity while flying, baggage check didn’t make the top five. Though among the most used ancillary services for leisure travelers, it came in sixth for business travelers, likely because frequent fliers have learned to avoid checking their bags at all costs. Interestingly, the least-used ancillary services are priority standby for an alternative flight and internet access, though I expect the latter to increase as it becomes more widely available.

Hotels and spas use corporate retreats for sweet financial revenge

It’s hard to tell who wants a business travel rebound: business travelers or the hospitality companies that cater to them. Routine road warrior jaunts suck, but there are executive retreats, training programs and other opportunities that do appeal even to the most jaded of the white collar folks.

So, the hotels are fighting to get business travelers back, according to Business Insider, and they’re getting creative. Luxury properties, including spas, were nailed by the financial crisis and ensuing recession. They have a lot of ground to make up. To do this, they’re coming up with new programs to get the corporate folks to open their wallets. Some of them are pretty bizarre, even retaliatory. Business Insider reports:

Their new approach is luring clients back to their bedrooms for “must-have” bonding and training sessions that put execs in compromising positions.

Retreats that specialize in corporate getaways have been cooking up programs that encourage extremely awkward and potentially dangerous bonding activities, like fake-trying to kill each other.

Call it the, “You’re putting us out of business? We’re going to push you off tall objects, hike mountains naked with 50 pounds on your back, try to kill each other and make you beg for more” – strategy.

Even with these implications, the response from the business world still seems to be a resounding, “Thank you, sir! May I have another!”

Bank of America, Google and Toyota are among the companies that have gotten on board with these programs. Some of them do get pretty weird, such as:

The icing on the cake is The Death Race, where co-workers sit for 45 minutes in an ice-broken pond, gulp a gallon of milk (even if you’re lactose intolerant), crawl under barbed wire and sprint up a greased-up ramp.

Don’t you remember when the corporate people were just interested in making money? It was all so much easier back then …

[photo by Boss Tweed via Flickr]

The top factors that influence blended travel opportunities

Vacations are getting squeezed out, either because of personal financial pressures or a fear of looking like you aren’t crucial in your cubicle. We keep cutting out the time we need for ourselves and our families, which can make the strain of recession-era employment even worse. You don’t need any more pressure … so why are you creating it? You need to get out on the road, and not just for the company. Whether it’s with family, friends or your favorite mistress, you need some time to recharge. Play it right, and you can get your company to pick up at least a piece of it.

“Blended travel” – tacking personal trips on to business travel – is becoming increasingly common. I’ve done this for most of my professional career, turning road warrior time in Paris (among many other cities) into subsidized non-solo trips. I’ve popped third cities between business destinations, met friends and flown family out to hang with me. And if I could show that it saved the company a few bucks, it would wind up doing the same for me.

With your fun money being pinched, investing some time to research your options can help you turn business travel into a great vacation. Here are five factors to keep in mind:1. The nature of your travel: How you travel and what you’re doing on the road can have a profound effect on your blended travel experience. If you work late and get stuck in meetings all the time, bringing your family isn’t going to work (unless they want to enjoy the destination without you). If you go back to the same place every week, it could constrain how much time you have available (focus on the weekends, for example). Get a sense of the rhythm of your travel schedule, and use that to determine your blended travel options.

2. Company savings: By modifying your travel plans to accommodate your personal aims (including having your family join you), could you wind up saving the company a few dollars? This may not bring the cost of the personal side of your plan down to zero, but it could take the sting out a bit. Finding a way to save the company some money can work to your advantage. I used to look at the timing of flights relative to hotel rates to pull this off. Sometimes, all you need is a relatively tolerant boss.

3. Corporate discounts: Many larger companies have employee discount programs on everything from consumer electronics to mortgages … and travel. This could help you chip away at the cost of your (partial) family vacation. Also, see if there is a way you can use your company’s negotiated rates, too.

4. Where you are (and where you can go): Not every location is worth turning into our annual getaway. I can think of plenty of business trips that I’d never use for a blended travel experience. If your spot is particularly undesirable, think about what’s in striking distance. Maybe you could set something up to meet your family at a third location.

Hint: Again, it’s a cost game. If you can show that the cost of your jaunt is less expensive than a straight shot home, you can make the case for “subsidization.”

White Collar Travel: Stupid things business travelers have done

Sometimes you lose your mind when you’re on the road. You either develop a highly inappropriate sense of entitlement (this is my seat on my plane) or decide that nothing matters, giving you a blank check to behave like an asshole. The combination of professional pressures – in my day, it was the collapse of the dotcom bubble … a bump in the road compared to the 2008 financial crisis – personal travails and frustration of being perpetually in transit sometimes make you snap.

Nobody is impervious to the factors that drive business travelers to idiocy, and those who think they are tend to be the worst afflicted. I remember running into my boss at LaGuardia‘s Marine Air Terminal – I was on a Boston-to-New York run for a few months and flew the Delta Shuttle several times a week . We were delayed, not an unusual occurrence at the time. He spotted me in the lone dining facility in the terminal, walked over and sat down, took a call on his cell and proceeded to help himself to my fries without even giving it a second thought.

But, that’s mild.I encountered plenty of business traveler stupidity when I flew with the white collar set … some of it I saw in the mirror. When you find yourself behaving in this manner, it’s usually time to get a new gig. Some of what I saw remains unshakably glue to my memory.

I’ll never forget one run down south.

One of the joys of extended-stay hotels was the so-called “General Manager’s Reception.” At least, I was told it was. Since I was on a project that closely resembled hell, I could never get back to the hotel (which was across the parking lot) in time to down some free beer.

How did I learn of this phenomenon? I ran into my boss’s boss in the hallway, just outside our client’s offices. He was in town for a meeting and was not a part of our weekly grind. In his hand, he held a plastic cup with piss-colored liquid, the cheap beer that even a hotel can see isn’t worth marking up.

Me: “Uh, maybe you’ll want to throw that out before going inside?”

Him, chuckling: “Yeah, probably not a bad idea.”

In another part of the country, I saw first-hand what poor mixological decision-making can do. If you’re unsure of whether to have alcohol, always err on the side of caution. Always. Your client will understand … especially if medicine is involved. I will never forget being on one project where my boss mused aloud about her boss’s insecurities and the reasons for them. Apparently, mixing her cold medicine with red wine had two side effects: (1) saying really stupid stuff about her boss and (2) doing it loudly.

Moral of the story: If you’re on meds, exhausted or inches from not giving a damn about your career, drink club soda. It looks like alcohol and is often mixed with alcohol … but it won’t lead to the same results.

So, I’ve kicked in two, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who’ seen idiocy on the road. Any other white collar travelers want to chime in? I’d love to hear what you’ve seen (or done!).

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