Best Places to Stay Survey: Consultants Traveling Less in 2012

Clients are pushing back more than ever on travel-related expenses

Consultants are earning fewer frequent flyer miles so far in 2012—that’s pretty clear. The reasons, however, are not as clear.

Is a weakened economy to blame? Is it the continued evolution of technologies—and comfort levels of clients—that enables more consultants to work locally? Is it the growing popularity of smaller, niche firms that cater to local markets? Is it clients demanding that travel costs come down? It’s probably all of the above that’s contributed to the results of this year’s annual Best Places to Stay travel survey.

The survey, conducted in the spring of 2012 and completed by 170 consultants, illustrates the clarity of the situation—consultants are traveling less this year than last.
How much less? Consider that last year, 35 percent of consultants reported that they had traveled fewer than 100 days. This year? That same number jumps to 58 percent.

Last year, the average number of days spent on the road was 96 (and 88 and 91 in 2010 and 2009, respectively). This year, that number dropped to 81 days, the lowest ever.

What’s going on here? While, it’s tough to say for sure, one thing’s certain—clients are reasserting more pressure on travel costs. Some 37 percent of consultants report that clients are negotiating travel expense limits. That number is up from 31 percent last year and 21 percent in 2010. And 20 percent report that clients are “more aggressively reviewing my travel expenses” and “asking me to travel less.”

When it comes to consultants’ personal preferences, hotel rewards programs remain hot with Marriott, Starwood and Hilton being the big three for consultants.
However, Loyalty Programs rank third among consultants when they’re deciding where to stay on the road. Location remains the top choice, while the Quality of Accommodations is a close second. Price, meanwhile, is fourth while Company’s Travel Policy is fifth.

In addition, more than half of survey respondents (51 percent) said access to Wi-Fi influenced their choices, up from 40 percent in 2011. And 96 percent of consultants expect to get that Wi-Fi for free.

Meanwhile, when it comes to an extended stay, Quality of Accommodations took the top spot over Location and Price.

Tales From the Road…
Consulting magazine’s road warriors shared several tales from the front lines of the travel battlefield. Here is a sampling of the good, the bad, and the downright disgusting

The Good
• “At a Homewood Suites recently, I was travelling with my family on points. The manager recognized me from my many business stays, and upgraded my family to a much nicer suite. It was a nice touch.”

• “I had a GM at a Marriott in Denver go out of his way to arrange a great vacation for me and my wife in Vail, Colo. He had wine and cheese delivered when we arrived, fresh flowers every morning, and had a bellman available to help us with laundry and local activities.”

• At the “St. Regis San Francisco I was upgraded to the Metropolitan Suite without asking, and when a cuff-link broke, they brought me super glue to fix it and would not accept a tip. Truly Platinum service!”

• “I’ve been staying at the Courtyard Pioneer Square in Seattle for about a year now. They’ve consistently exceeded my expectations by recognizing me by name, providing me an upgraded room on every stay, and being the most professional and friendly hotel staff I’ve dealt with in 20 years of travel.