WHAT SURVEYS SAY ABOUT US
By Joe Brancatelli
January 2, 2013 --Do you keep in touch with the person you sat next to on your last flight? Are you thrilled by business travel? Are you living a life of sex, drugs and rock and roll on the road?
I'd say probably not. But what do I know? I'm just an ink- and web-stained wretch who travels on business a lot. The real experts—people paid to conduct "surveys" and run "opinion polls" for folks who want a piece of your travel business—say otherwise. And they say so quite emphatically, complete with percentages and fine-print methodology.
I've collected and digested a year's worth of these surveys and they paint quite a different picture of our lives on the road than the one with which I'm familiar. I feel compelled to offer up seven of their most eyebrow-raising conclusions. Your mileage may vary. I know mine certainly does.1. We're bad to the bone—Ninety-four percent of Americans believe "bad behavior" occurs during business trips. According to a Harris Interactive survey for a webcasting company called ON24, our fellow Americans think we're living it up when we go to a convention or trade show. More than 70 percent think we drink too much alcohol and 66 percent think we're cheating on our spouses. And more than half think we spend too much money. No wonder 91 percent of them believe "too much time away from home due to work has consequences." 2. We're lounge lizards—It's hard to dispute the notion that we spend more time in hotel lobbies than ever before. That's why lodging companies are jettisoning front desks and remaking lobbies to resemble everything from coffee bars to living rooms. But if you believe a survey of 6,000 business travelers conducted for the Four Points by Sheraton brand of Starwood Hotels (NYSE: HOT), we've become lounge lizards. "Aside from sleeping...the activity that occupies the largest share of a traveler's time at a hotel [is] hanging out at the bar or restaurant." Nearly 43 percent say that was their preferred non-sleep hotel activity, comfortably outpacing a trip to the gym (about 39 percent). 3. Our lives are a John Hughes movie—When I chose the best business-travel movies several years ago, I specifically excluded Planes, Trains and Automobiles. My reasoning? The 1987 John Hughes blockbuster "made me squirm" because it was "a little too much like our real lives." But apparently business travelers yearn to meet a clumsy, chatty, no-boundaries-observed seatmate like John Candy's Del Griffith. According to that Four Points survey, a startling 64.4 percent of business travelers say they've stayed in touch with someone they'd met on a plane or a hotel. Of course, this on-the-road chumminess could be more than just friendly banter. Maybe that 64 percent from the Four Points survey is the self-same 66 percent from the ON24 survey who cheat on their spouses. 4. We're cockeyed optimists—I never forget that I'm just a kid from Brooklyn, New York, who never journeyed more than 250 miles from home before I became a frequent flier. Business travel has allowed me to see the Brooklyns as far away as Australia and South Africa and the Little Vienna neighborhood in Shanghai as well as the Shang Hai restaurant in Vienna. But if the survey from the Fairfield Inns division of Marriott Hotels (NSYE: MAR) is to believed, all business travelers are cockeyed optimists. More than 75 percent of us say business travel makes us more prepared for life and 86 percent say it makes us value our time with friends and family more. Fairfield even groups another whole category of findings under the heading "Frequent Business Travel Leads to Happiness." 5. We're not thrilled by big airports—Happy may be the business traveler's default setting, but Concur (NASDAQ: CNQR), a travel-management firm, says there are places that make us sad: New York's Kennedy Airport, Chicago's O'Hare Airport and Los Angeles International. According to a study of 2,100 adults, those three were the most stressful airports in the country. Fifty-six percent felt the "vastness between gates and terminals" made O'Hare unpleasant while 49 percent believe the lines are too long at JFK. Other things that make airports unhappy places: bad signage (28 percent), poor service (28 percent) and inadequate bathroom facilities (19 percent). Is there an airport we like? Dallas-Fort Worth, which got the nod for good signs (42 percent), good wi-fi coverage (41 percent) and decent food (41 percent.) 6. We're addicted to tech—Expedia (NASDAQ: EXPE), the big online travel conglomerate, has a vested interest in our high-tech devices. Even so, it's no surprise that Expedia's recent survey says we're addicted to tech. More than 60 percent of us own and use a smartphone, book reader or tablet, for example. And the younger you are, the more likely you are to own a smartphone. Fuddy-duddy types 55 and over are still more likely to own a traditional mobile phone. 7. Men are from Mars, Women are from the web—There is a technology divide between men and woman, but a survey conducted for the Cambria Suites division of Choice Hotels is surprising. Cambria claims women are more tech-dependent than men on the road. By a 13-point margin (42 to 29 percent), woman are more likely than men to say social media enhances their business travel. And eight of 10 women business travelers say technology is as important in their business and personal life compared to just 7 in 10 men frequent fliers.
ABOUT JOE BRANCATELLI Joe Brancatelli is a publication consultant, which means that he helps media companies start, fix and reposition newspapers, magazines and Web sites. He's also the former executive editor of Frequent Flyer and has been a consultant to or columnist for more business-travel and leisure-travel publishing operations than he can remember. He started his career as a business journalist and created JoeSentMe in the dark days after 9/11 while he was stranded in a hotel room in San Francisco. He lives on the Hudson River in the tourist town of Cold Spring.
THE FINE PRINT This column is Copyright © 2013 American City Business Journals. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2013 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.