Best Places to Stay Survey: Road Warriors, Once Again

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A whopping 60% of consultants—up from 51% last year—report that they spent more than 100 days on the road  

With business booming and the economy continuing to recover and humming along like it hasn’t in years, consultants are on the road more now than ever, according to our annual Best Places to Stay survey, which was conducted between May and July. This year, 147 consultants participated in the survey, reporting their travel habits and preferences for the last 12 months.

In the survey, 60 percent of consultants reported they spent more than 100 days a year on the road, up 9 percentage points from last year’s 51 percent for the 100-day threshold, or about two days per week, which is considered to be a benchmark for being classified as a “road warrior.” In 2013, that number was 41 percent; meaning the 60 percent this year represents nearly a 50 percent increase since 2014. That’s significant, for sure.

DAYS AWAY UP 15%

This year, the average number of days on the road hit 120—a 15 percent increase year on year and the highest level since 2008. In 2014, that number was 104 days. In 2013, the average number of days on the road was just 81. In other words, in two years’ time, consultants are spending an extra 39 days per year away from home.

This year’s Best Places to Stay survey clearly illustrates the situation—consultants are traveling more now than they have at any point over the last several years, and certainly the most days since they have since the Great Recession.

Meanwhile, with the increased travel, it’s no surprise that clients have loosened the belt a bit more when it comes to controlling travel costs—continuing a two-year trend. In 2015, fewer clients were requesting less travel than last year—9 percent this year vs. 12 percent (2014); fewer clients that were negotiating travel expense limits—20 percent in 2015 vs. 30 percent (2014). Meanwhile, 12 percent of clients were requiring lower travel costs, identical to 2014.

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STAY AWAY—HOTELS

If you’re traveling more for work than previous years, top-notch accommodations can go a long way to making your time away from home a bit more pleasant. When we asked consultants where they’d prefer to stay while away, The St. Regis came out on top in 2015. The Ritz-Carlton, JW Marriott, The Renaissance and The Four Seasons rounded out the top five.

What drives consultants’ hotel choices? In the survey, the old mantra of “location, location, location” has been dethroned as the top factor. Where it’s located isn’t quite as important as the quality of the property, which took the top spot. Meanwhile, price, size of the room, Wi-Fi availability, and loyalty programs rank No. 3 through No. 6.

Speaking of loyalty programs, Marriott takes the top spot with Hilton edging Starwood for the second spot. And when it comes to connectivity, a whopping 95 percent expect the service to be free. That’s up from 75 percent just two years ago.

Meanwhile, when it comes to extended stay preferences, location of the property was the top choice over the loyalty programs, the quality of accommodations and price. When it comes to specific extended stay brands, Marriott finished No. 1 overall in the survey, while Starwood, Hilton, Oakwood Worldwide and BridgeStreet rounded out the top five.

GETTING AWAY—AIRLINES

Everyone knows the way most trips begin and end is often the worst aspect of travel. And, when you add in unruly passengers sparring over legroom, overcrowded planes, tarmac delays and baggage fees, air travel becomes even less appealing.

So, when you’re up at 35,000 feet, which carrier do you most prefer? Singapore Airlines tops our list for the second year in a row. The remainder of the top five are: Virgin Atlantic, Delta, British Airways 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 baggage fees and change fees.

DRIVING AWAY—RENTAL CARS

While a car isn’t always necessary, wheels are often a big part of travel. This year, National takes the top spot while Enterprise moves up to No. 2. Hertz, Avis and Budget round out the top five in our survey.

And when it comes to choosing the right car, it’s a photo finish between price and corporate travel policy (both at 31 percent) followed by ease of check-in, check-out (29 percent), and car availability (8 percent). Meanwhile, fuel surcharges stalled out at just 1 percent.

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