Survey: What business travelers prefer

Employees on company dime practical and health-conscious

A survey of business travelers by travel and expense management software provider Certify reveals what travelers prefer and includes some surprises about the way those travelers behave while on the road.

The Certify 2015 "What Business Travelers Prefer" survey revealed that when traveling, almost half of the more than 495 employees polled said they spend the company's money as if it were their own.

“They choose vendors based on availability of service and lifestyle factors and they also make purchases based on value, as if the expense came out of their own pockets,” Robert Neveu, CEO of Certify, said.

Overall, 46 percent of those surveyed said their top criterion is value. Nearly 31 percent said convenience was most important, while almost 20 percent said they "watch every penny" when on the road.

When it comes to air travel, more than 40 percent said they primarily choose their carrier based on the needs of their schedule, while almost 27 percent said price was the primary driver. Only about 17 percent said company policy or preference was the determining factor.

The survey also showed a disconnect when comparing the airlines judged to have the friendliest service to those flown the most. Far and away, Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV) was named the friendliest; more than 40 percent of respondents said so. Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) came in a distant second with about 20 percent naming the Atlanta-headquartered carrier the friendliest. While named separately in the voting, merger partners American (NYSE:AAL) and US Airways earned a total of almost 18 percent of the votes in the category.

However, friendliness did not appear to be the primary driver. Despite the preferences expressed, American/US Airways were flown the most, by more than 27 percent of respondents with Delta getting a bit more than 24 percent of the passengers and Southwest getting a little less than 24 percent. The remaining 24 percent was split between carriers including United Airlines (NYSE:UAL), jetBlue (NYSE:JBLU) and Alaska Airlines (NYSE:ALK).

Once on the ground, the largest group of travelers said they preferred rental cars; more than 41 percent would prefer to drive themselves. Nearly 27 percent would choose either a licensed taxi or a limo or private car, almost 25 percent would prefer a hotel shuttle while slightly more than 7 percent would choose a rideshare like Uber, Lyft or others.

Perhaps surprisingly, that result runs counter to a report issued by Certify earlier this year. The Certify SpendSmart report for the first quarter of 2015 uncovered that, during 1Q15, an average 46 percent of all total paid car rides were through Uber, compared with 15 percent during the same period in 2014. Paid rides using vehicles in the taxicab category, which includes limousines and shuttles, dropped from an average of 85 percent in 1Q14 to an average 53 percent of paid car receipts in 1Q15.

When it comes to eating on the road, nearly 40 percent of travelers said they stick to the same diet as they do at home while 35 percent admitted to eating and drinking "a little better than usual." Slightly more than 14 percent rely on convenience or fast food, while about 8 percent said they skip meals because they are too busy when traveling. The category of business meals also contained some good news for CFOs, comptrollers and accountants: Fewer than 3 percent of respondents said they splurge on food and drink while on the road.

Business travelers largely agree that Panera Bread (NYSE:PNRA) offers the healthiest dining options, with more than 47 percent giving that chain the nod. More than 27 percent voted for Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE:CMG) and almost 20 percent chose "other". Not surprisingly, McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) and Starbucks (NYSE:SBUX) each garnered only abut 3 percent of the "healthy dining" vote. Regardless, Starbucks has been the most expensed restaurant across all meal categories for two years running, according to Certify SpendSmart data.

When it comes to where travelers lay their head at night, the most important factor for business travel is proximity to the client or meeting (54 percent) followed by quality accommodations (20 percent), room rate (11 percent) and rewards program (8 percent). Less than 1 percent of travelers choose a hotel based on its proximity to the airport.

The survey also sought to understand the travelers' top priorities after the trip is over. Upon returning home from a trip, employees are most concerned about catching up on email (27 percent), followed by catching up with family (24 percent) and tracking down receipts and submitting expenses (17 percent)

Certify collected data for its comprehensive survey using responses from more than 495 business travelers with wide ranging job titles and responsibilities. Participants included a 50-50 split of men and women representing small to large companies nationwide. Most of those travelers (63 percent) took two to four trips per year while 22 percent took from five to nine trips annually, and 15 percent took ten or more trips per year.

The 2015 Business Traveler Preferences study was administered using a third-party online research management firm and all analysis was conducted by Certify, LLC.

Visit my main page at for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.

Infographic provided by Certify
Click on graphic to view larger size