Survey: Consultants Are On the Road Again

More than half of all consultants—51%—report that they spent more than 100 days on the road this year

After years of fits and starts in an uncertain economy, travel is back in the consulting profession, at least according to the results of our annual Best Places to Stay survey.

Consider this: In 2013, 41 percent of consultants reported they spent more than 100 days a year on the road. This year, that number jumped to 51 percent. That represents a 25 percent increase year over year for the 100-day threshold, about two days per week, which is considered to be a benchmark for road warriors.

This year, the average number of days on the road hit 104—the highest level in the last five years. Last year, that number dropped to 81 days, the lowest ever in the survey. That equals 23 more days on the road in 2014, a staggering 29 percent increase year on year. In 2012, the average number of days spent on the road was 96 (and 88 and 91 in 2011 and 2010, respectively).

This year’s Best Places to Stay survey, conducted in August and September and completed by 165 consultants, illustrates the clarity of the situation—consultants are traveling more this year than they have over the last several. And certainly the most days since the Great Recession.

How much more? Consider that last year, 58 percent of consultants reported they had traveled fewer than 100 days. This year? That same number is 49 percent. With the increased travel, it’s no surprise that clients have loosened the belt a bit when it comes to controlling travel costs. In 2014, fewer clients were requesting less travel (12 percent vs. 20 percent in 2013), requiring lower travel costs (13 percent to 20 percent), and negotiating travel expense limits (30 percent vs. 33 percent in 2013).

If you have to be on the road more than usual, top-notch accommodations can go a long way to making your time away from home more pleasant. Where would you prefer to stay? The Ritz-Carlton took the top spot in our annual survey. The Four Seasons, the St. Regis, JW Marriott and Westin round out the top five.

What drives consultants’ hotel choices? Location, location, location. It remains the top factor influencing consultants’ choices. Meanwhile, loyalty programs, overall quality of accommodations, price, a company’s travel policy and amenities rank two through six.

And when it comes to connectivity, nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of consultants said access to Wi-Fi influenced their choices, up from 51 percent in 2013. Meanwhile, when it comes to extended stay preferences, the quality of accommodations took the top spot over location and price. Loyalty programs ranked fourth overall. When it comes to specific extended stay brands Marriott finished first overall in the survey, while Starwood, Hilton, Oakwood and BridgeStreet rounded out the top five.

Everyone knows the way most trips begin and end is often the worst aspect of travel. And all of the news lately—unruly passengers sparring over legroom, crowded planes, tarmac delays and baggage fees—certainly hasn’t helped. And now we can probably also add Ebola fears to the mix.

So, when it comes to air travel, which carrier do you most prefer? Singapore Airlines tops our list. The remainder of the top five are: Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America, Delta and JetBlue. And in terms of choosing that airline, price remains—far and away—the top consideration for consultants. Corporate travel policy is second, followed by change fees and baggage fees.

While rental cars certainly aren’t required for every road trip, they are often a big part of the travel experience. This year, National takes the top spot while Avis, Hertz, Budget and Enterprise round out the top five.

And why consultants make the car rental choices they do is a close race among price (30 percent), company travel policy (29 percent), and ease of check-in, check-out (28 percent). Car availability was next (11 percent) while fuel surcharges were hardly a consideration at all (2 percent).

Consultants Are on the Road
Who took the survey
Travel Preference