Travel Amenities Most Sought After By Business Travelers
Those who travel extensively, otherwise known as road warriors, have certain expectations of airlines and other travel suppliers they use. For the business traveler, who most commonly falls into the road-warrior category, it is imperative that airlines, airports, hoteliers, car rental companies and other travel-related businesses understand their needs and offer a variety of tools to support a successful business trip.
Iremember when I first heard the phrase “road warrior.” It was the 1980s and Mel Gibson reprised his role in the popular Mad Max movie franchise titled, “Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior,” where in the post-apocalyptic Australian wasteland, a cynical drifter agrees to help a small, gasoline-rich community defend itself against a band of bandits. Then in the late 1990s, I heard the road-warrior term again and learned that it means “a person who travels frequently, especially on business.”
Today, this term encompasses local and worldwide land, sea and air travelers. It is listed in Merriam-Webster dictionary; there are countless road warrior Facebook groups and blogs; and millions of posts, tweets, pictures and check-ins about their travels, reviews and musings are all over the Internet, Instagram, Twitter, Vine, Google Images and more.
Moreover, travel suppliers celebrate them and reward their loyalty with an array of perks — upgrades; double miles; lounge passes; dedicated support staff at call centers, airports, airlines, rental car companies, hotels ... you name it.
To understand what is most important to these frequent travelers, travel suppliers constantly solicit their feedback and input on how they can improve and draw more business from fellow road warriors and other like-minded travelers.
I have conducted an informal survey with some of my road-warrior friends and colleagues about the tools they value the most to shed some light on this important traveler segment and how airlines can leverage their opinions and perspectives. I have also tapped into other statistics from reputable travel-related companies to get a bigger picture of today’s businesstravel climate and the perks, amenities and technological innovations most important to road warriors.
Staying Connected While Traveling
Common among today’s road warriors, especially those traveling on business, is the ability to use any variety of mobile devices, such as an iPad or smartphone throughout their trip. This enables them to conduct business while they wait to board their plane or even in-flight for airlines that offer WiFi on their aircraft.
For several years, companies have been slashing their travel budgets. Despite the challenges presented by the economy, budget cuts and new travel fees, business travel has been on the upswing during the past five years according to Embassy Suites and Hotels in its 2013 Business Travel Survey. The survey found only one in five respondents has traveled less for business since 2008. In fact, 85 percent say they enjoy business travel more now compared with five years ago. However, the survey revealed that the traveler of 2013 is laserfocused on value. It also revealed that:
- Nearly 80 percent of survey respondents reported the economic climate changed the way they have traveled for business during the past five years.
- 70 percent of respondents focus on “safe” travel options that don’t raise red flags with their companies’ travel departments.
- Almost half of the respondents noted their biggest travel “pet peeve” during the past five years is new fees for items or amenities that were once free.
Beyond Status Quo
How do road warriors stay within the confines of their company budgets while enjoying the travel lifestyle for which they are accustomed? First, they establish “status” — the No. 1 “cool” tool for today’s road warrior.
“Consolidate your business with just a few airlines or hotels,” said Kelly McDonald, president of McDonald Marketing and professional speaker and demographics expert who spends more than half her year on the road. “You’ll earn status and privileges with these few, which can make a big difference in your travels.”
Matt Motley, public relations expert and senior vice president at Weber Shandwick, agrees.
“By keeping at least the minimal level of status on my preferred airlines, I can board early when the overhead bag space and the exit row seats are still available,” he said.
Standard status perks include airport lounge passes, preferential boarding and/or upgrades to business class; however, road warriors also enjoy new and unique perks from travel suppliers.
“I love the complimentary ironing of two garments offered by the Omni Hotels Select Guest program, and Marriott’s special arrival gift for platinum members,” McDonald said.
Airlines And Road Warriors
What types of perks should airlines offer status members to retain their business?
Road warriors such as McDonald want complimentary choices with her status booking such as a light snack upon arrival or a full breakfast each morning. Motley believes airlines should be proactive in anticipating potential trouble with their passengers’ travel itineraries and automatically rescheduling them on alternate flights in cases of flight disruptions or cancellations.
Using a few preferred travel companies, such as airlines and hotels, earns road warriors status, which is the No. 1 tool for today’s frequent traveler. With status comes special perks including complimentary seat upgrades, room service and hotel gifts at check-in.
Jody Venturoni and Brian Galke, who travel extensively for the public relations and telecommunications industries, respectively, want airlines to elevate the status concept to the next level.
“With my status level, I would like concierge service for local events,” said Galke.
Venturoni agrees, saying, “My 11-year-old daughter wanted me to bring a plush manatee home from Miami. While it seemed like a simple request, I had to catch a cab to the Miami Aquarium to get one. I couldn’t find one anywhere else!”.
Airports And Road Warriors
Road warriors know the ins and outs of airports — which ones have better amenities and lounges, faster check-in services, better accommodations for unexpected layovers, and a good cup of coffee at 5:30 a.m. near the departure gate so they can relax before boarding. If they are not familiar with a particular airport, they often conduct research so they do not have to deviate from their normal travel routines.
“I really like the airports that provide free Wi-Fi,” said Chris Lee, regional sales director at Cessna Aircraft Company. “I’m on my Blackberry and iPad every minute while I am traveling to minimize the buildup of emails when I finally return to the office.”
Wi-Fi is a must for today’s business travelers, and they expect it at many touchpoints throughout their travel journey, especially in airports. Self check-in kiosks are another innovation widely utilized and appreciated by road warriors.
“I use the self-check-in kiosks always,” said Motley. “While I typically have a mobile boarding pass, I like the paper tickets for security.”
“The self-check-in kiosks are fast and efficient,” said McDonald. “I also like the new ‘hydration stations’ at airports that enable you to refill a water bottle once you pass through security.”
Security checkpoints can be somewhat of an issue with road warriors. Most frequent travelers want faster passage through security checkpoints and appreciate priority access offered by advanced technology such as ClearMe, used by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration.
ClearMe enables airline customers to bypass long security lines by using biometric information and a CLEARcard to gain quick access to the airport concourse. ClearMe and other similar services are on to something. Road warriors, especially, want to get in and out of airports as quickly and efficiently as possible. For example, the Emerald Aisle, offered by National Rent-a-Car, enables customers to avoid long lines so they can quickly pick up their rental cars and get on the road.
These travel-related services are not just convenient perks; they are essential for those who travel all the time.
Gadgets That Would Make James Bond Jealous
Road warriors rely on themselves and their tools, namely small devices and technology that travel well, to get business done. Airlines can stay up to date on the latest devices and find ways to work with this advanced technology to further support road warriors’ needs. Examples of tools road warriors rely on include:
- Hotspots — Novatel’s MiFi (mobile Wi-Fi hotspots) revolutionized connectivity for the mobile businessperson, earning titles such as “game changer” and “product of the year.” Companies such as AT&T, Samsung, T-Mobile, Verizon and Virgin Mobile have upped the ante with their 4G mobile hotspot products. While offering similar throughput to other 4G hotspots, the US$300 Samsung LTE hotspot wins in the category that is most important on the road: long battery life.
- Power — Power outlets are not always available or accessible to business travelers. Many road warriors keep their gadgets functioning longer with a universal portable battery pack. The US$180 Energizer XP18000 is strong enough to power a laptop for several hours. It also has a USB port for charging smaller gadgets at the same time and weighs only one pound.
- Secure data — Road warriors often need to access their data on business trips, while maintaining confidentiality at all times. The Iomega eGo SuperSpeed hard drive (ranging between US$75 and US$115) has increased drop tolerance and speedy performance over its USB 3.0 connection. The 256-bit AES hardware encryption will keep data safe and secure, even if the drive fails while on the road.
- Scanner/wireless printer — Business trips generate lots of paper, such as receipts and business cards. The SlimScan SS100 (about US$100) keeps all this paperwork in order, and it fits inside a wallet. Its organizational software with optical character recognition functions turns business cards into Outlook contacts and helps business travelers organize receipts into expense reports.
- Projector — From making presentations at a client’s office to projecting videos on the wall of a hotel room, there are many uses for a projector. The 3M MP180 projector (US$450) lasts for two hours on battery power and can hold 4 gigabytes of data internally. In addition, the storage can be expanded via MicroSD. Utilizing its built-in Wi-Fi, travelers can pull in documents or browse the Web.
- Plug-and-play file access — iTwin provides a quick and easy way to set up a well-encrypted file share. iTwin’s US$100 plug-and-play remote-access device allows users to set up a 256-bit AES-encrypted, peer-to-peer file-sharing virtual drive via Amazon Web Services across any two computers that have USB ports.
Mobile And Trip-Management Apps
When asked what a road warrior never leaves home without, the resounding answer from survey respondents was, “a smartphone and charger!”
“Besides my ID, I need my phone,” said Lee. “Everything else I can fix easily.”
When a flight is cancelled, the phone is the “go-to” device for managing itineraries.
“As an elite status member, I just call my dedicated travel desk,” said Venturoni. “They can solve my problem faster than any other tool.”
Some road warriors prefer smartphone applications instead.
“I check apps like Kayak and the airline’s own app to check all my options,” said McDonald. “I find that most apps are great. A few are better than others, but they all work pretty well.”
“I have all the airline apps on my smartphone to check-in and manage seating,” added Motley.
Apps such as TripCase® and TripIt also assist airlines by sending text messages about gate changes to customers and informing them about which terminal is best for check-in, which is especially helpful when some terminals are miles apart and the information isn’t listed in the itinerary.
Social Media and Road Warriors
Social media is a staple in today’s society and is helpful in connecting road warriors with their friends and family. At the same time, it has also become a popular venue for airline customers to post their travel misadventures and dealings with rude travel personnel. So how does it assist them with travels?
“I rely heavily on social media for information on hotels, restaurants and more,” said Venturoni. “I tend to do a lot of client entertainment when I’m on the road, and if I want to find the best new restaurant or the place with the best wine list, social media is the best place to look.”
“Sometimes it helps,” said Motley. “Airlines have been doing a great job using social channels to listen to their customers and provide as much information as they can. I receive faster and more accurate responses via social media than from on-the-ground airline or airport personnel.”
While social media is a good source of information, it can also be a distraction.
“I found that social media is costly to productivity, so I’ve stopped using it altogether,” Lee said.
What Road Warriors Value Most
Modern technology enables travelrelated companies to provide road warriors with the amenities they find most valuable. Clearly, establishing status is the highest priority for road warriors because it provides them with access to complimentary perks not available to the occasional traveler. Status enables them to remain within the limits of their corporate travel budgets without skimping on the travel amenities they most desire.
Additional Travel Fees
A big complaint of most road warriors, whether traveling on business or for leisure, is paying for items or amenities that were once free, such as baggage check fees.
In particular, road warriors spend a lot of time and money with their airlines of choice, and they expect those carriers to be innovative and generous with their perks to provide the best possible customer experience. More choices and services such as Wi-Fi, express check-in, self-service kiosks, apps, social media channels, frequent-flyer lounges, concierge-type services and dedicated travel desks are all of top importance for these well-traveled customers.
Road warriors focus on value. The more airlines recognize and reward their frequent travelers, the more loyal these customers are to their favorite airlines and the more likely they are to share their experiences with others.
Road warriors’ opinions and ideas are varied and yet representative of thousands of travelers from whom airlines and suppliers desire to attract and retain business. Airlines that listen and respond to these well-traveled customers will benefit greatly from their investments in this prominent market segment.