Best Places to Stay: Travel Bounces Back

Consultants are on the road again, at least according to the results of our annual Best Places to Stay survey.

Consultants are earning fewer frequent flyer miles so far in 2013—that’s pretty clear. The reasons, however, are not quite 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 June and July7 and completed by 175 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? 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. Oh, and couple that with a great central location in a very new hotel, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking to stay in Downtown Seattle.”

“Overall, my best hotel experience was when I forgot a dress shirt for a meeting and the hotel staff took me to a nearby clothing shop and getting them to open the store early so I could be ready for my meeting.”

“I was very ill. One of the bellmen went to the store, brought back ginger ale and chicken noodle soup. Left a note under my door wishing me well and telling me who I could call for help the following day.”

The Bad

“I was offered a suite upgrade in a hotel in NYC (top floor penthouse). After arriving in my room and starting to unpack, I was told reception was not authorized to give me this room and moved me to a regular room. C’mon!”

“Worst ever hotel was in Beijing. Let’s just say that they aren’t quite ready for taller people. And, if you wanted a firmer bed, for example, staff would bring what looked like a length of plywood to put under the mattress.”

“I was provided a card key to guest room upon check-in and when I opened the door to the room the room was still occupied with a guest in the room at the time.”

“The fire alarm went off at about 2:00 a.m.—I realize this happens sometimes. I went outside with the rest of the guests where we waited for some instructions. The only hotel personnel in evidence were the front desk staff who clearly didn’t know what to do. They kept us outside for over an hour and then, without any apparent change, decided to let us back in. The fire alarm went off again at about 3:30 a.m. with similar results.”

“With a reservation, I got walked from a hotel in Dallas at about midnight. I was getting in very late, wanting to hop in bed and get to sleep as quickly as possible. Instead, I got to do a bunch of paperwork, then load up the car and head to a different hotel.”

The Ugly
“The sliding door on the first floor unit did not lock, and the air conditioning had leaked from the floor above so the rug was soaked.”

“In San Francisco, there were ants crawling all over the work area.”

“In New York, I saw several cockroaches in my room. Disgusting.”