On the Road Again: More than half of consultants report they spent more than 100 days a year on the road

With the economy humming along and business booming, consultants continue to be on the road again—although not at quite the record-setting levels they were last year, according to Consulting Magazine’s annual Best Places to Stay survey, which was conducted between April and July. This year, 228 consultants participated in the  annual survey, reporting their travel habits and preferences for the last 12 months.

In 2015, 60 percent of consultants reported they spent more than 100 days a year on the road, but that number dipped to a more historically normal 51 percent in 2016, which is closer to where it’s been most years. For the purposes of measuring consultants’ travel, the 100-day threshold works out to about two or more days per week, which is considered to be the benchmark for being classified a “road warrior.”

In terms of days on the road, the biggest shift from last year was in the slightly shorter 51- to 100-day range. Last year, that number was 20 percent; in 2016, that number ballooned up to 28 percent. Meanwhile, the number of consultants traveling fewer than 50 days per year remained relatively unchanged year on year.

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DAYS AWAY DOWN 10%

For all the time on the road, the average number of days away this year came in at 108—a 10 percent decrease over the record-setting 120 in 2015. In 2014, that number was 104 days. Historically, the days-away number is still high, just not at the level it reached last year. The economy is still in good shape, but there may be some headwinds on the horizon as travel is often one of the first indicators of any change in the economy.

When it comes to clients and controlling travel costs, it’s a bit of mixed bag for the survey. In 2016, fewer clients were requesting less travel than last year—7 percent this year vs. 9 percent (2015) and 12 percent (2014),

However, slightly more clients were requiring lower travel costs at 13 percent vs. 12 percent the last two years. But the biggest change came when we asked consultants to tell us about clients negotiating travel expense limits. A whopping 33 percent said they were, up a staggering 13 percentage points from 20 percent last year.

ROOMS WITH A VIEW

Consultants work hard while traveling so it’s really no surprise at all that they continue to choose top-notch accommodations to help make their time away from home a bit more pleasant. When we asked consultants where they’d prefer to stay, the St. Regis came out on top for the second year in a row, followed by The Ritz-Carlton, The Four Seasons, the JW Marriott and The Westin, rounding out the Top 5.

What drives consultants’ hotel choices? Well, the top choice isn’t “location, location, location,” as it’s traditionally been but rather “quality, quality, quality.” After Quality and Location, Price, Size of the Room and Loyalty Programs round out the Top 5.

Speaking of loyalty programs, Marriott takes the top spot with Hilton edging Starwood for the second spot. Those results were unchanged from last year’s survey. And when it comes to Wi-Fi connectivity, a whopping 99 percent expect the service to be free. That’s up a few points from last year, but up from 75 percent just three years ago—quite a shift.

As far as booking the actual hotel stay, only 7 percent of consultants are using their firm’s travel coordinator or travel agent. The rest are booking it themselves.

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 first overall in the survey, while Hilton, Starwood, Oakwood Worldwide and BridgeStreet rounded out the Top 5.

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SIX MILES HIGH

A vast majority of the trips consultants take begin and end at the airport. And let’s face it, flying has gotten a lot more difficult over the last several years—unruly passengers, baggage fees, an overall lack of legroom, crowded planes, delays etc.—are just a few of the pesky problems that can arise six miles high.

So, when it comes to air travel, which carrier do consultants prefer? Even though they often don’t have many choices, consultants fortunate enough to fly these carriers often report they have extremely high satisfaction rates. Singapore Airlines tops our list for the third year in a row. The remainder of the Top 5 are: Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic, Lufthansa and Alaska Air.

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. Those three remain unchanged from last year.

WHERE THE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD

While an automobile isn’t always necessary, they are often a big part of the travel experience. This year, National repeats in the No. 1 spot while Hertz, Avis, Enterprise and Zipcar round out the Top 5.

And when it comes to choosing the right car, Price (30 percent) edges out and Corporate Travel Policy (28 percent), which have been bumped to the backseat by Ease of Check-In, Check-Out, which a third of consultants ranked as the primary factor when selecting a rental car. Meanwhile, Car Availability and Fuel Surcharges puttered in at just 8 percent and 1 percent, respectively.

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