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Business travelers will take upgrades over free food and web

If you were traveling on business, which would you prefer: free in-room internet access, frequent room upgrades or complimentary breakfast? According to a poll of Hilton's HHonors program, the room upgrade hit #1, followed by the free grub and finally comp'ed web access. Barbara De Lollis, of USA Today's Hotel Check-In column, speculates that this is because business travelers want comfort and can convince their companies and clients to pick up the tab.

Reading this article made me think back to my years on the road as a management consultant, and to my surprise, my behavior aligned with the survey results. Room upgrades mattered most. I'd get a bit more elbow room. It wasn't about status, importance or even being able to run laps around my temporary living room. Larger guestrooms – and suites, especially – allowed me to put more physical space between where I lived and where I worked while on the road. When workdays stretch past 16 hours, it's important to have any coping mechanism you can grasp, and being able to segment off the work space sure helped.

While I personally detest the hotel practice of charging for web access, it's never an issue when I'm traveling on business. The companies and clients for which I've worked have picked up the tab without a second thought. When on vacation, I regularly had my companies pick up my internet tab, as well, a small price for them to pay to have access to me while I was away. Likewise, clients and employers pay for food. And personally, I'm rarely thrilled with the food offered at free hotel breakfasts and when I travel on my own, I usually pay for a good meal than suffer through a free one. Also, I never really ate breakfast during my road warrior days, and I know I wasn'talone. So, a free breakfast is really ... well ... worthless.

What's missing from the survey, unfortunately, is club-level access. When I was on the road all the time, this was my favorite amenity. It gave me a place to go other than my room, where I could get a drink, grab a snack and unwind. Hiltons definitely delivered best on club lounges, with the two most memorable for me being the Hilton Embassy Row in Washington, DC and the Hilton in London, Ontario. The former was comfortable and great for networking, and the latter had the best club-level service I've ever experienced.

Filed under: Business, North America, United States, Hotels and Accommodations

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