Health and wellness, bleisure and brand loyalty are the big trends for 2020 – but Lola.com’s new research also provides some personal insights into US business traveller habits

The traveller landscape is evolving and corporate traveller preferences are changing. New research from travel management company Lola.com has identified the “big three potential game changers” of 2020 as health and wellness, increasing bleisure adoption and brand loyalty, echoing insights from others. However, its survey of over 1,000 business travellers in the US provides some very interesting insights into their habits.

Its research, ‘2020 Business Traveler Preferences’, highlights how business travel is constantly evolving, and particularly as millennials join the business travel landscape in increasing numbers, their preferences are having a major impact on how business and travel suppliers approach corporate travel.

Boston Consulting Group has said that millennials will account for close to 50% of all business travel spending this decade. “Millennials have unique tastes and habits, and are intrinsically tech-savvy and socially minded. And, they love to travel,” highlights the report.

Wellness has been growing in popularity in recent years, and the trend is clearly seeping into the travel industry. The research shows that over half of business travellers now prefer to bring their own food on flights, and only 18% noted alcohol as a top drink choice on flights. Regarding other healthy habits, 82% of frequent travellers said they exercise regularly at home, and nearly half keep up with exercise while on the road.

Bleisure travel is a growing phenomenon, the idea of extending a business trip to include some personal travel in the same area or nearby location. Over 50% of frequent travellers surveyed said they prefer to extend their business trip to include personal time, rather than come straight home after work.

The Lola.com observations are similar to may other research surveys into corporate travel trends for 2020, but its findings also deliver some interesting insights into travel behaviour and the common patterns and preferences among frequent travellers in the US.

For example, the survey shows that business travellers are twice as likely to pick direct flight options over both extra leg room and cleanliness; price is also one of the top determining factors when choosing an airline, but, it actually turns out that finance departments are the least price sensitive when booking travel; Tuesday is the top choice for a travel day for business travellers, while Friday is the least popular – respondents were found to be four times more likely to avoid traveling on a Friday than a Sunday.

Other insights include: no matter the day, 78% of travellers prefer early morning to late night travel; two-thirds of road warriors prefer to travel with just carry-on luggage; 87% of travellers like to give themselves plenty of time at the airport, arriving an average of two hours before their flight; while 78% of travellers feel the days of dressing up for air travel are over.

When onboard the aircraft less than half the respondents (45%) said working was their preferred option on flights, but more than two thirds (69%) said they do end up doing work anyway. Meanwhile, around two-thirds of travellers (65%) prefer the window seat, while 34% take the aisle and 1% go for the middle seat (either there were some respondents having a joke or there strangely are people that really do like to sit in the middle seat!).

The survey also provides some insights into business traveller passenger behaviour. Just under half (44%) wipe down or sanitise their seat and tray table while traveling – women are 24% more likely to sanitise; one in three travellers admit to not following the “Please turn off all personal electronic devices” instructions; while around one-third like to strike up a conversation with the person next to them – around a third of these (34%) say such conversations have resulted in new business opportunities.

When it comes to destinations, nine out of ten respondents (89%) said they prefer hotels over Airbnb or VRBOs with Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt their most preferred hotel brands. Proximity (65%) and Price (61%) were the top two decision factors on accommodation, while just over half (56%) upgrade their stays out of their own pocket.

What about the business travellers themselves? Well the research suggests that they tend to remain within their hotel surroundings (less than half venture out of the hotel for food), fail to unpack their bags (more than half prefer to keep their clothes in their suitcase and pull items out as needed) and forget their exercise routines (over half of travellers who exercise at home say that they don’t when traveling for work).

As for the biggest frustration for business travellers… that is delays! The survey shows almost two thirds (64%) of travellers would rather work extra hours than deal with travel delays. In fact one in three admitted they would rather spend a full week with their in-laws than deal with delays and more than 10% said they would rather get the flu than deal with travel delays – I’m sure that last statistic would have changed if the questions were asked again today.

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