Demanding a Return on Investment From Business Travel

December 9, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Business trips are a necessary part of doing business around the country or around the world. Trade shows, conferences, and client meetings are all a part of the game. Meeting someone face-to-face can change the dynamics of a key business relationship. The personal touch is still an important part of business, even in a world of e-mails, social media and text messages. But are you actually accomplishing goals with your travels, or are you just “traveling to travel?”

Business class coach.

Business class coach. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Amanda Stillwagon explains in her article on Small Business Trends the importance of demanding an ROI from business trips. She suggests making a list of must meet people, and then following up with them afterward.

If all you’re doing is traveling because it’s what you’ve always done , it might be wise to rethink your travel strategy into a business strategy. According to Stillwagon, the U.S. Travel Association states every dollar spent on business travel returns $10, if done properly.

You need to have some method of determining the trip’s value, by calculating potential sales or marketing opportunities, and then measuring the actual results. Set up goals before your trip, and measure the results afterward to see if you hit them. For example, if a trade show isn’t generating a positive ROI within a year, drop it and find a better one.

Take these trips as an opportunity to learn more about an industry to expand your network, showcase your products and/or to close a big deal.

Is a trip halfway across the world worth your investment? If there are top industry leaders you could meet, then probably, yes. But if it does not generate a positive ROI to the business, then it is just glorified sightseeing, and definitely not worth the money.

Hotels Adapt Business Centers for Today’s Traveler

September 4, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

As broadband gets faster, wifi is found in more places, and smartphones can do everything but walk your dog. We’re seeing the world being disrupted, thanks to all this new technology. One place we’re seeing it is in hotel business centers.

While it was an important hub of activity 15 years ago, it’s now that lonely, empty room sitting next to your hotel lobby. There are a few desks with computers and printers. They used to be quite popular, before tablets, laptops, and smartphones sent everyone to their rooms for the night.

Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites - Paso Robles Business Center

Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites – Paso Robles Business Center

Hotels are realizing a change is in order for the business center. USA Today’s Nancy Trejos wrote an article about different hotels are approaching the business center. Some are getting rid of theirs completely while others like having the space available if a guest needs something. Others are making hotel rooms more “business center-like” with desks, USB outlets, and reachable plugs. Hotel rooms are becoming a workplace, not just a place to sleep, and the hotels are having to adjust their business centers.

As long as a hotel accommodates the needs of their business oriented guests, they’re going to earn more business versus another hotel because they recognize the needs of their target customers. When I visit a new hotel, especially on business, I quickly check the business center and my room. Is the room going to be a help or a hindrance? Will I enjoy working there, or will it be uncomfortable?

I sometimes go to the business center so I can get out of the room and into a place where I can work better. Personally, I’d like it more if a business center was like a coffee shop with a friendly, social atmosphere. I think more people would use it because it’s more of what they are used to.

As hotels look to change their business centers, they need to focus on what their guests are trying to do. If they need access to a printer and fax machine, they may already have that capability, but no longer through a business center. If travelers want a light and enjoyable place to work, the business center should have several small tables and chairs so it can be more of a social setting.

Regardless of what’s happening, business centers are changing as a direct result of new technology that makes traditional business centers obsolete. What are some features you would like to see in your favorite business center? What could you do without? Leave a comment below and share some of your ideas with us.

Photo credit: Holiday Inn Express – Paso Robles, CA (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Business Travel Will be Pricier Next Year

December 12, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

With the economy slowly but surely returning back to normal, business travel is back on the rise. In the first quarter of this year, business travel accounted for 56.8% of all trips taken, making it the most popular reason for travel. For hotels, business travelers are their bread and butter, accounting for almost 20% of occupied room nights in the United States and 30% of lodging industry revenue.

While this recent increase in travel for both business and pleasure is undoubtedly good news for hotels, airlines and the like, it appears that as a result, U.S. hotels are less willing to cut corporate travel managers a deal on hotel rates.

English: Loews Vanderbilt Hotel in Nashville, ...

Loews Vanderbilt Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Unlike small companies (or the average traveler), corporations don’t simply book employee business travel on third party booking sites such as Priceline or Expedia. Instead, each fall, corporate travel managers negotiate the following years’ rates with the hotels they do business with – and for better or for worse, they are locked into these rates for the following year.

According to research conducted by Bjorn Hanson, divisional dean of the Tisch Center for Hospitality at NYU, corporate travel managers can expect to pay between 5 – 6% more when booking hotel rooms for business travelers in 2014. Unfortunately, corporations aren’t the only ones that will pay more for lodging in the upcoming year – overall, the average daily rate for hotel rooms has risen by 4.5%. According to Nashville-based STR, the average daily rate for US hotels through July is $109.95.

While a 5 – 6% rate increase may not be crippling to independent travelers, this type of rate increase can have a massive impact on the travel budgets of large corporations that spend hundreds of thousands per year on business travel.

As a result, many corporations are opting to work with more affordable hotels (such as Holiday Inn) as opposed to luxury, full service hotels. Others are simply allowing their employees to choose their own accommodations, as long as they stay within the allotted budget – a tactic which is appealing to millennials who prefer to make their own decisions.

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Air Travelers Say Low Ticket Prices Trump Wifi

April 11, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

A decade ago, the average traveler wouldn’t even dream of having access to wifi as a standard in-flight amenity. And let’s be honest — the first time we were able to log onto the internet from 30,000 feet above the earth was pretty exciting! However, now that the novelty of being able to update your Facebook page from the sky has tapered off, are the majority of travelers willing to pay a bit extra for this feature?

According to a December article on Mashable.com, the answer is no. In fact, according to a Qualtrics survey, only about 25% of the 1,100 consumers surveyed stated that in-flight amenities such as snacks, beverages, in-flight entertainment – and yes, wifi — are important to their overall travel experience. So what is important to travelers? The answer isn’t too surprising.

English: New interior on Delta Air Lines' Boeing

English: New interior on Delta Air Lines’ Boeing 737-800 fleet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Low ticket prices.

According to the article, Qualtrics CMO Dani Wanderer, said, “If airlines are really listening to their customers, cost is what matters most. Airlines can spare the bells and whistles of other perks, and bring the savings right to their customers.”

In fact, the same Qualtrics study found that for roughly 55% of consumers, lower fares aren’t just important — they are actually the single most important factor they consider when booking air travel. Taking into account the wide array of fees that many airlines are now charging, consumers are becoming even more price conscious than ever before.

So much so, that more and more consumers are using websites that aggregate flights from major airlines in order to shop the best deal, consumers are less likely to buy based on brand name and more likely to simply go with the best price.

While there is still a core group of travelers that enjoy added in-flight amenities — particularly on long flights — it appears that the majority of consumers value budget over added perks like wifi. We’d love to hear from you – are you willing to pay a bit extra per ticket for in-flight wifi, or is overall ticket price the most important factor?

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The Blurring of Business and Leisure Travel

March 12, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’re like many business travelers in recent years, you may have found yourself visiting the same city for a conference every business-leisure-1300x900year without spending any time outside of the conference circuit. However, the blurring of lines between business and leisure travel is becoming more common, as business travelers are finding ways to optimize their travel time and experiences.

With the arrival of online travel companies more than a decade ago, and mobile technology enabling even wider access to great travel deals, it is becoming more common for business travelers to take an extra day on one end or the other of a business trip to see some tourist attractions, try a few local restaurants, or visit a museum.

If you can take advantage of a day or more of leisure time while on a business trip, why not try it? For example, you could invite your spouse or significant other to join you on your trip, since you may be more likely to try a new restaurant or activity if you’re with a companion. Combining a business trip with a vacation (even a short vacation) makes sense in a lot of ways.

From a travel standpoint, it may be better for you to kill two birds with one stone. Why book multiple flights and hotels when you can cut costs and simplify your travel experience by adding on some leisure time before or after a business trip? This makes sense from a financial standpoint too — it’s less expensive to take a vacation since your company will cover at least some of the cost of the trip, even if it’s just getting you out there and back home.

And while it’s true that modern day business travelers are adding leisure time on to business trips, the reverse is also true – people are more and more frequently fitting work time into vacations. Often, travelers are deciding to schedule an afternoon of networking meetings into a vacation. That way, depending on a company’s travel and expense policy, some part of the trip can be expensed (or if self-employed, deducted on their taxes), and employees can feel like they aren’t abandoning their jobs.

Although there is a movement in favor of “unplugging” during vacations, the benefits to combining leisure and business travel can’t be ignored. After all, if you’re spending time traveling for any reason, you may as well get the most value possible out of your — and your company’s — time and money.

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The Vacation Nation: Unlimited Paid Time Off

February 21, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

One of our favorite business blogs is Spin Sucks, written by the PR company Arment Dietrich and its founder and CEO, Gini Dietrich. They frequently feature guest bloggers who are experts in their line of work, and we especially loved a post about paid time off (PTO) by Lindsay Bell, a relatively recent hire at Arment Dietrich.

Not that Lindsay is an expert in paid time off, but she’s an expert in being a working stiff (in a former life, of course) and living among the ranks of “no vacation nation,” otherwise known as professionals in the United States.

Of course, American workers have paid time off, but what little they do have is often eaten away at by life’s little nuisances: sick kids home from school, a busted sump pump. Suddenly, those vacation days in your PTO bank are gone, and you’re as pale, pasty and stressed out as you were before it ran dry.

Her post is about unlimited paid time off (UPTO), and we’re rather intrigued by the idea. We’ve written about one company’s revolutionary vacation policy , but there are less-extreme versions, too.

These company policies recognize that most American workers never actually stop working; it lets them strive for a greater work/life balance; and it implies a real sense of trust on behalf of management in the company’s employees. Companies monitor the amount of time taken and still require notice for longer periods away from the office, but in offices with UPTO, employees no longer need to ask for a half-day just to go to the doctor or run an errand in a neighboring town. They just do it.

Our take: Whether you have five days or an unlimited amount, use your vacation time, for heaven’s sake! And if your days are numbered, so to speak, don’t just use those days off to run errands, pay bills or paint your house. See the world. Make it count.

We love the idea of unlimited time off, though it may not be practical for every industry. It’s going to be hard to implement and monitor universally — we urge caution and careful thought for companies considering it — but we’ll agree with Lindsay that times have changed, and it’s time to start reevaluating policies like PTO at companies whenever possible.

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Comfort and Productivity Responsibility of Travelers AND Employers

February 14, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’ve ever gone on a business trip, especially if you’re not self-employed and are traveling for a corporation, it can be more than a little frustrating when snags and delays waste your time and you have to suffer in a middle seat, or sweat out a tight connection, without so much as a nod of sympathy from the home office.

So when something goes wrong or you’re looking for an upgrade to ease your pain, who’s responsible for ensuring that you’re comfortable when you travel? Is it the employee themselves, or is it the responsibility of the company to provide some of those perks?

Business Traveler News set out to do a little research on the their readers’ sentiments and the industry’s thoughts on the topic, and we’ve got some opinions of our own.

From the employee’s perspective, they’re sending you to work and it’s part of your 40 hours a week, but you’re often going above and beyond that time during your travels. Even if you aren’t being “paid back” with comp days or extra monetary compensation for your travel, the least a company can do is let you choose the flight that’s most direct and works best with your schedule (even if it’s a little pricier), or keep the miles for yourself that you’ve earned when you travel — even if you booked your trip with a corporate credit card. (Other options include in-flight wi-fi, GPS in your rental car, room service when you arrive and more.)

But it’s often in employees’ interest to fend for themselves, do their booking solo and more. In one of my former workplaces, we had a qualifying system that determined who did the most frequent travel, and those people earned perks through the company, whether it was seat upgrades, elite-club access or better hotel rooms. But now, those employees who really pull their weight for companies and travel a lot earn elite status with hotels and airlines on their own — sometimes better than an employer could provide for them on a budget.

Consider this: In some of my past experiences, the people who have approved my travel haven’t needed to travel for business themselves. They’re always looking for the cheapest rate, and never worry about the discomfort, since they’ve never known it themselves.

From our perspective — and according to recent Business Traveler News research — the responsibility of paying for perks and making the most of an employee’s travels doesn’t rest solely on either party. It’s in everyone’s best interest to share the responsibility, and make sure it’s taken care of.

How is business travel handled at your company?

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Road Warriors Stay Connected On the Move

February 12, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Serious business people are always on the go. Even if you don’t travel every week, the days of the desk, the Rolodex, the land line, and the desktop computer are long gone. We’re a society of laptops, tablets, smart phones and cloud storage — and road warriors know this better than anyone.

Mitch Joel, one of our favorite tech writers, wrote a great piece about always having the right kind of gear that lets you work virtually anywhere.

He recommends starting with the basics: a notebook computer and a smart phone. When you’re shopping for a laptop — if you need a new one, that is — shop for the smallest and lightest one that’s within your budget.

Have two chargers for every device you’ll need to travel with— one for home and one for when you travel. Keep a charger nearby at all times; you never know when you’ll need a little juice, and there are power outlets almost everywhere, so stay as fully charged as possible, as often as you can.

Mitch is anti-briefcase, opting instead for a sturdy messenger bag or, better yet, a laptop backpack that supports your spine and carries all your necessities. Choose something that’s light and functional, and offers all the nooks and crannies to store the items you need to travel with and access frequently. The checkpoint-friendly Travelpro Crew 9 backpack is an excellent choice for the business traveler with a padded laptop/tablet sleeve, a business organizer and multiple pockets for storing all your important items.

And in that bag, create one central location (a zip-top bag, for instance) to store all your cables, wires, adapters, earbuds, memory sticks and more — it looks rather unprofessional to rummage through your bag looking for that one tiny item that’s sunk to the bottom.

Speaking of memory sticks, Mitch says not to rely on them: Go to the cloud! He suggests Dropbox for your cloud-storage solution, but there are plenty of other solutions, including Google Drive, that allow you to upload documents and files and even edit them on the fly.

His final tips: Get a great pair of noise-canceling headphones and never leave home without an extension cord. (Social-media expert Chris Brogan calls his the “friendmaker” because he’s often the only one smart enough to carry one, and his has enough plugs to share with others who need a little charge.)

What other tips can you offer your fellow road warriors? Did you learn your lessons the hard way? Tell us in the comments.

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Smart Business Travel: Stay Loyal to a Single Airline and Hotel Chain

December 6, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

There are plenty of smart practices for today’s businesses, from going 100 percent paperless to using Skype for phone calls to avoid racking up huge bills. But what about when you venture out of the office?

One tried-and-true smart business travel tip: Stay loyal to a single airline and/or hotel chain. Now, you won’t necessarily get a better rate by remaining loyal to one particular hotel or airline, but there are other reasons to stay loyal.

When you keep flying the same airline, you’ll gain points toward free flights or hotel stays, plus the other perks that go with being an elite member of a loyalty program.

A frequent flier earns huge perks and free flights and stays galore; of course, their challenge is often finding the free time to use those perks for non-business travel. But they can share them with friends and loved ones, so everyone comes out on top.

The only reason you might not maintain loyalty is if you travel only occasionally. If you don’t travel that often and won’t make headway toward elite status with airlines or hotels, you should book based on your budget. Choose the cheapest flight and the least expensive hotel room wherever you’re going, and spend the extra money on other things that make you feel like a VIP traveler. Now that’s smart business!

Similarly, if you aren’t a frequent traveler — or just have a taste for diversity when you travel — you can use the same credit card to book all your travel and earn perks and freebies that way instead. (But, if you’ll recall from a previous blog post, if you aren’t in a position to pay that card off every month, you shouldn’t be arranging your travel this way.)

What other smart business travel tips can you share with fellow readers? Leave them in the comments.

Pack Light, Efficiently, Smart: Packing Tips for the Frequent Business Traveler

September 20, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

With checked-baggage costs and allowable carry-on sizes varying between airlines, we can’t write enough on how to pack
efficiently — and it seems other travel experts and enthusiasts can’t, either. We recently read a little perspective on precision packing for frequent business travelers from Myscha Theriault, a senior writer for WiseBread, a blog designed for those “living large on a small budget,” and now we’re sharing her tips with you.

The Crew 8 Suiter from Travelpro

Crew 8 Suiter

Make sure everything’s flat

For items you can’t roll, choose ones that will pack flat in your suitcase. Shoes are always your biggest concern here: Theriault suggests athletic sandals over sneakers because they provide the same support but take up far less space. She also loves bobby pins packaged in a flat tin for versatile hairstyling options.

Keep electronics low profile

Sometimes you really do need to bring out the big guns for a business trip — if you’ll be doing a lot of writing or will be away for longer than usual, you may need your laptop and other full-size technology products. But whenever you can, keep your tech packing down to a tablet device, thumb drive, and smartphone.

Scrimp on pants and skirts

If you’re going to have to sacrifice articles of clothing to make the rest of what you’re packing fit into your suitcase, definitely opt for more shirts. There’s a good chance you’ll get significant mileage out of jeans for your off days and a pair of nice black slacks for the days when you’re seeing clients, attending trade shows or whatever you’ve traveled to do — but you’ll want to have a clean shirt for every day, whether it’s dress button-downs or thin layering sweaters. But that doesn’t mean you have to pack a different shirt for every single day you’re traveling. Which leads us to the next point…

Pack less and do laundry

We’ve definitely touched on this before, but it bears repeating: don’t be afraid to use your sink and shower to extend the life of the clothes you’ve packed, especially if you’re going to be in a situation where you aren’t seeing a lot of the same people on multiple days. Just be sure to bring enough clothes that the ones you’ve just washed can dry completely before you need to wear them again.

Remember, Austin House actually offers a laundry kit complete with Woolite packets, a sink stopper and a clothesline.

Don’t forget your telescope

Never underestimate the power of retractable and telescoping travel items. They really are miracle space savers. Theriault suggested a corded mini mouse and retractable makeup brushes for ladies, and there are scores of other products available out there. If you’re a frequent business traveler, every single square inch counts in the matter of carrying on versus checking bags — investing in these little gems may be well worth it for you.

  • Precision Packing for the Frequent Business Traveler (wisebread.com)
  • 16 Looks for 16 Days…In One Carry-On (travelproluggageblog.com)
  • Business travel fashion – Facilitating in comfort (onthevector.com)
  • Business Trip…I thought I was prepared (onthevector.com)
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