By the end of this year, an estimated 480.5 million business trips will occur in the U.S., contributing approximately $275 billion directly to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). As the economy continues to improve, business travel is growing at an average of 5-6% annually, which means more and more business travelers will join the hustle and bustle at airports, stations and ground transportation outlets.
According to Travel Leaders Group, business travel managers keenly focus on finding the lowest negotiable rate of travel when planning trips for employees and executives, which you would expect. However, securing options that provide higher levels of service immediately follows that. In recent years, 50% of business travel managers have indicated that considering a traveler’s health and well-being is a mega-trend that is beginning to affect travel now, and will continue in the future.
If you’re looking to boost the quality of business travel throughout your organization, consider the following tips to improve the experience for your team.
1. Evaluate All of Your Options – Business travel is a vital part of virtually every organization, so when your team needs to be on the road, make sure you evaluate all of your travel options. While you may be accustomed to searching and securing travel arrangements on one of several popular travel websites, sometimes providing a better experience takes priority. As a result, more and more organizations are surprised to find that corporate aviation and other private travel options are well within reach.
2. Consider the Number of People that You Need to Transport – Does your organization routinely send groups of employees and/or executives to the same location for meetings, events or presentations? If so, evaluating alternatives to commercial travel – while appearing to be less cost-effective on the surface – may actually result in overall savings when including other critical factors like productivity and time.
3. Evaluate Your Locations – If your company conducts a significant amount of business remotely, commercial travel options may not be your best choice. That’s because there are only approximately 540 airports across the country that can accept commercial airline traffic, with the vast majority of them residing in major metropolitan areas. But, if you need to rush to an executive or a team to a distant manufacturing facility to manage a crisis – and the nearest commercial airport is still a four-hour drive from your destination – your leader or team may lose a day or more of productivity to travel alone. One way to maximize productivity is by leveraging general aviation (GA). The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) defines general aviation as all civilian flying, with the exception of passenger airlines. And while that may sound simple, GA flying is rather complex, encompassing everything from weekend recreational trips, package deliveries, medical flights, hot air ballooning, crop dusting, helicopters and much more. With more than 5,000 GA airports operating throughout the U.S., while the distance between your business locations remains the same, the gap in terms of getting there can be narrowed significantly. If you’re interested in corporate aviation but unsure where to begin, contact your local or regional airport.
4. Take Stock of the Amenities Offered During Your Entire Travel Experience – It’s no secret that many commercial travel carriers have done away with meal service and other amenities previously offered to busy travelers in order to cut costs and remain competitive. However, you don’t have to look far to find many a business traveler running right past numerous dining options in order to make an extremely tight connection. And, if that traveler has a very important meeting with a new client immediately after arriving at their destination, they will likely feel sluggish thanks to flying “starvation airlines.” While meals are obviously an important element to overall health and well-being, other amenities (in-flight movies, beverage service, etc.) that provide the opportunity to rest and recharge can be just as valuable and should not be overlooked.
5. Ponder Productivity and Flexibility – These days, workers in virtually every organization are finding the need to squeeze every ounce of available time for work into their day. While this practice is often necessary and completely understandable, one can’t help but wonder about the quality of work that is performed by an employee who is sitting on the floor in a crowded airport gate area so they can charge the dwindling battery on their laptop. If this scene plays out repeatedly for your business travelers, perhaps it’s time to search for a more productive option. Additionally, the AOPA estimates that 65 percent of GA flights are conducted for business and public services that require more flexible transportation options than those offered by commercial airlines. That flexibility can be found in the hometown businessman flying his own aircraft to see multiple clients in one day, the mid-level manager with a large corporation meeting with colleagues in a remote production facility or a CEO and several staff members working above the clouds en route to a major meeting.
6. Consider Security When Connecting On the Road – Do you get an uneasy feeling when you’re logging into public Wi-Fi offered in airports or in-flight? Yeah, so do we. And that’s just for conducting Internet research, let alone connecting to a corporate server to access proprietary information. Staying productive is certainly a priority, but cyber security is equally important. If you’re worried about online vulnerability, make sure that your employees don’t use free Wi-Fi anywhere when they are on the road. However, if staying connected is necessary, corporate aviation and other non-commercial travel options offer secure access to safeguard your company’s information.
7. Determine the True Cost of Delays – According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 18.2% of flights were delayed, and 1.5% of flights were cancelled altogether in 2015. While inclement weather is an obvious source of slowdowns, maintenance and other issues (e.g. overbooking, waiting for flight crews, etc.) are other sources for frustrating delays. If you look beyond the inconvenience of delays alone, it doesn’t take long for the costs to mount. In fact, delays routinely result in unexpected hotel and meal expenses (if the traveler doesn’t opt for a solution provided by the carrier), lost productivity, reduced sleep, and, of course, vanished personal time. If your organization’s business travel is plagued with delays, looking into non-commercial alternatives may be just the ticket.
8. Reduce the Ground Transportation Grind – How many times have you arrived at your destination, only to wait (again!) for ground transportation? Think about it. First, you wait for a shuttle to take you from baggage claim to the rental car facility. Once there, you wait in line to complete necessary paperwork and receive your vehicle assignment. Then you begin the journey of finding your way to your hotel or client meeting. If this sounds like yet another inconvenience for you, think about how your road-weary business travelers feel about it. While many transportation companies offer members programs to help expedite the process, these may not be useful at a time when many members of an industry are arriving at the same location for a tradeshow or event.
9. Analyze the Amount of Time Your Team Really Needs to be on the Road – This may seem obvious, but many organizations could benefit from closely evaluating their business travel – limiting the number of frequent and eliminating unnecessary trips. While regular contact with customers is essential for building and maintaining relationships, taking every member of the customer’s team on each trip is likely not.
10. Calculate the Costs – Industry data suggests that domestic business trips account for $111.7 billion in the U.S. economy annually. On average, each trip business trip costs an organization $949 per person, with the largest expense being airfare – at $470 per person. In fact, flights account for 17% of the typical company’s travel budget, second only to meals, which represent 21% of the budget. While miscellaneous expenses (17%), hotel (13%) and gas (11%) round out the top five categories for company travel budgets. How does your organization compare? If you’re unsure, perhaps it’s time to start tracking this data.
If you are interested in exploring options to elevate your business travel experience - like corporate charters and fractional jet ownership – we can connect you with a consultant that will help you review all of your options.