Employee Satisfaction

5 things road warriors want when they travel for work

Road warriors are typically among a firm’s most highly valued employees, so when they hit the road for business travel there is every reason to keep them happy.

Companies should care about keeping those valuable employees because, “Good people are not easy to replace. Not only that, they’re expensive to replace,” said workforce expert Joyce Gioia, president of The Herman Group. “Employers—and their travel managers—need to really pay attention to what their road warriors need and want,” advised Gioia, who is also founder and CEO of the Road Warrior Insights blog.

The typical road warrior travels for work 84 nights a year and takes 26 trips, 10 of them international, according to “Traveler Friction: Insight from U.S. Road Warriors,” a research report conducted by MMGY Global for the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC), American Express Global Business Travel, and tClara.

What do employees want when they travel? While the specifics vary by individual, there are some consistencies. For example, the research illustrates that most road warriors want comfort and ease of travel, and they need wifi access and sufficient workspace to be most productive.

Conversely, what makes frequent business travelers miserable is having to take connecting flights when non-stops are available, and being stuffed into coach on long flights. Another thing that grates on frequent travelers is staying in branded hotels that don’t meet their expectations. This makes them “extremely unhappy,” said Steve Cohen, Vice President of Insights for MMGY Global.

Here are five things travel managers should know about what their road warriors want when they travel for work.

1. Road warriors want to have a say in where they stay

According to Cohen, citing MMGY Global’s Portrait of Business Travelers study, if given the chance to book just one element of their trip, 43 percent of employees who travel for work would opt to select their own lodgings.

It’s a good idea to offer travelers a degree of choice in their lodging and flights because it helps mitigate the inherent stresses and pain points of business travel, said social psychologist and Harvard Business School Assistant Professor Ashley Whillans. “You want to feel like you have some control over what is an uncontrollable experience, especially around the decision-making process,” said Whillans, who researches how to improve the employee travel experience while boosting an employer’s bottom line.

“A lot of companies make the mistake of thinking one-size-fits-all, but it doesn’t,” cautioned Gioia. “Wise travel managers will recognize that the best thing they can do is to tailor their travel bookings to their road warriors.” Alternative accommodation providers like Airbnb offer travel managers the ability to select properties that are a perfect fit for their road warriors’ needs, and compliant with company travel policy.

2. Road warriors want to experience their destinations

The MMGY study found that a majority of road warriors want time to relax and the opportunity to savor authentic local experiences when traveling for work.

According to the report, 66 percent of frequent business travelers said it’s important to have time for leisure or to explore the destination, and 84 percent said they always make time to relax while traveling for work. “The more they travel, the more they realize there are opportunities out there for them that matter,” Cohen said.

The study also found that one-quarter of these travelers said they have “quite a bit of time for leisure while traveling for business.” During that free time, “they enjoy trying local restaurants, visiting monuments or historical sites, going shopping, visiting museums, or attending sporting events,” according to the report.

A lot of companies make the mistake of thinking one-size-fits-all, but it doesn’t.

Joyce Gioia, Road Warrior Insights

When it comes to lodgings, the study found that traveling employees want easy access to local activities and attractions. “They don’t want to stay in an airport hotel or interstate highway hotel,” Cohen said. Instead, they appreciate lodgings where they can “walk to dinner in a place they’re not going to find in every city, something in a neighborhood that’s a little bit unusual.”

The ‘live like a local’ experience is one of the primary reasons road warriors say they have a more satisfying business trip when staying in an Airbnb. That’s a win-win, because making it convenient for frequent travelers to enjoy their surroundings while traveling for the company supports your efforts to increase traveler satisfaction, and it’s good for your company.

“Any aspect of the trip experience that can facilitate something memorable for the employee is worth thinking about,” Whillans said, adding that it can “help build a positive work culture.”

3. Road warriors expect the business basics to be in place on business travel

Everyone who travels for work expects wifi and internet access in their lodging choice, and most travelers now expect to get that access without being charged extra for it. In the MMGY study, free internet access in guest rooms was cited by 84 percent of travelers surveyed as the single “most influential” feature driving their choice of lodging for business travel, surpassing proximity to meeting location and room price.

Because road warriors tend to travel with multiple devices, it’s also important to them that accommodations have multiple and convenient outlets. “They don’t want to have to move the bed to plug in their phone,” Cohen pointed out.

4. Road warriors value personal comfort

“Road warriors want a smooth experience,” Gioia said. “They don’t want to have to change planes six times. They don’t want to be in a cramped coach seat.” When it comes to business travel lodgings, she added, the definition of personal comfort covers a broad spectrum. At the very least, she said, they want “a space that’s clean and not cluttered, where I have a reasonable sense that I’m going to be comfortable.”

Gioia added that it’s important to understand that your frequent travelers truly value personal comfort when they travel for the company. “You don’t want your road warriors to be exhausted and unhappy,” she said.

Any aspect of the trip experience that can facilitate something memorable for the employee is worth thinking about.

Ashley Whillans, Harvard Business School

Research backs this up. In the MMGY study, 84 percent of respondents said the quality of their lodgings has “a great impact” on their satisfaction with the overall business trip experience. Adding alternative accommodation providers like Airbnb opens up options for road warriors to enjoy all the comforts of home while traveling for work.

5. Road warriors want the option to stay in shared accommodations

Cohen said the same MMGY study found a strong and growing level of interest among employees in sharing economy travel providers, with millennial travelers the most likely to opt for alternative accommodation providers like Airbnb. Fully 50 percent of all frequent business travelers are interested in alternative accommodations, according to the study, and nearly seven in 10 millennials are drawn to the concept. Many already use sharing economy accommodation providers for their personal travel.

What Airbnb for Work offers your road warriors

Travel managers who have incorporated Airbnb for Work into their business travel programs have found that Airbnb provides the lodging choices and local experience their road warriors want, as well as the personal comforts and business basics they expect and need.

Airbnb has more than four million listings in over 191 countries—more than the number of rooms in the top five hotel chains combined. Listings cover a broad range of styles and sizes, from small apartments to multiple-bedroom homes, making them ideal for individual travelers, team stays, and offsite meetings. The volume and diversity of Airbnb listings provide you and your road warriors with many more style and location choices than traditional branded hotels.

Airbnb also offers many listings that meet your travelers’ specific needs for comfort and productivity while on the road. These work-ready listings include entire private homes or apartments that feature wifi (at no extra charge!), a laptop-friendly work area, and 24-hour check-in as well as standard hotel room amenities like fresh linens, soap and shampoo, a hairdryer, and an iron and ironing board.

Airbnb for Work will also help you accomplish one of the top goals of all business travel managers—save your company money.

“2016 Business Travel Spend Report” by Rocketrip, a company that provides platforms designed to incentivize travelers to save money, found that employees who book Airbnb accommodations for work pay up to 41 percent less than for traditional accommodations. Travel managers who use Airbnb for Work regularly report that booking travelers into Airbnb listings saves their company 30 to 40 percent or more on the accommodation spend when compared with the ADR for their preferred hotel providers in the same market.