The great recession is over and global business travel is rising again after a few angst-ridden years that kept CFOs holding on tight to all the cash they could. Although corporations still aren't spending freely like they did prior to the 2008 stock market crash, an Embassy Suites' survey of business travellers published this spring revealed that travel is up and fear of an economic downturn has fallen.
It also showed that the expectations and demands of business travellers are changing. The top pet peeve, according to the survey conducted in February and March, is small hotel rooms. Of the respondents, 46 per cent said they want larger rooms. It's not surprising that several newer hotels have standard room sizes that a generation ago would have qualified as suites in some properties. The Trump Hotel in Toronto that opened last winter has room sizes ranging from 550 to 4,000 square feet.
Free breakfasts also are a must for 70 per cent of the survey takers and 42 per cent would like to see more hotels equipped with high-definition televisions. Hotels with amenities like a quality bar, well-equipped gym and free Internet access are going to be most appealing.
"The bottom line is that even though business travel is coming back, road warriors need to feel that they're getting more out of their hotel stay," says John Lee, vice president, brand marketing for Embassy Suites Hotels, Hilton Worldwide.
Price, of course, counts too, and so does location, but for different reasons than leisure travel. Business travellers want to be closest to a city's financial district, which doesn't always neighbour the entertainment area (think New York) and may not offer views of the city's best attractions (think downtown Montreal).
Tips for Business Travellers
Here are three tips when planning your next business trip.
Stay Longer. The Embassy Suites' survey showed that business travellers extend a visit by an average of three extra days (45 per cent stay to sightsee, 32 per cent to relax). This trend of not rushing back to home or the office has led to the term "bleisure" and there are advantages to it. Most importantly, you save on airfare, which is only getting more expensive.
Fly Coach. The food in business class isn't that good -- unless you're on Emirates -- and, really, unless you're medicated you're not going to sleep that well in the more spacious first-class seats.
Know Your Pet Peeves. I can't be without WiFi when I travel. Unless I'm in a far-flung destination where I know it's not available, I get frustrated if I can't get a reliable connection. It also irks me when hotels insist on charging for a service that's more essential than a television. I look for hotels that have complimentary Internet access and will pay $30 or more on a nightly rate if I know I'll be spending that much by logging in for $15 a day at a competing property. If you've got a pet peeve that you know is going to irritate you, find ways to avoid having to deal with it when you arrive.
Best Hotels for Business Travel in Canada
Here are the top three hotels in the country for business travel, based on my experience:
Opus Hotel, Vancouver -- Opus is known as a sexy, funky, trendy spot for celeb spotting (and it's all of that), but it's also the best hotel in Canada for a business stay. The reason is because it matches all of the above criteria. It's accessible: The Yaletown SkyTrain stop is across the street and a ride takes just 20 minutes to or from Vancouver International Airport.
The hotel's business centre has an automatic kiosk just like you'd find at the airport so you can print your boarding pass before you check-out. If you book your room online, you receive $10 off the lowest nightly rate you've found on discount travel sites as well complimentary WiFi access and limo service within the downtown area.
Room sizes range from 250 square feet and up. Get a Deluxe King Room, which is 400 square feet and has an open-concept layout that maximizes space. You can really spread out with a large desk, lounge area and extremely comfortable beds. Throw in style and amenities galore -- and a friendly staff, especially the limo drivers -- and you can't beat this boutique hotel.
Ritz-Carlton, Toronto -- With room sizes starting at 450 square feet and ownership of the only CAA/AAA 5-Diamond Award in Canada's largest city, the one-year-old Ritz is putting it on in style for business travellers. There is plenty of meeting space, an exclusive club level for privacy and the terrific Ritz-Carlton Suite for the elite traveller. Oh, and Internet access is complimentary.
Le Place d'Armes, Montreal -- Like Opus, Le Place d'Armes is located close to public transit, with the Metro stop just two blocks away. It also offers complimentary WiFi, large rooms, a fitness centre, two terrific restaurants and lots of space in its common areas. Read more about it on Vacay.ca.