Frequent business travelers are often perceived as stressed-out individuals constantly rushing to and from airports, gulping greasy hamburgers between appointments and agonizing over the little time they spend with their families.
The perception, however, is only partially accurate, according to a recent survey of 700 frequent business travelers taken for Chicago-based Hyatt Hotels Corp.While most business travelers admit to being harried or hassled on the road and upset at being separated from home and family, most say they enjoy travel and believe it is important to advance their careers, according to the study, conducted by Research and Forecasts Inc., a New York-based social research organization.
"What the study determined is that business people who travel a lot have a love-hate relationship with business travel - enjoying the experience despite the stress it causes," said Daryl Hartley-Leonard, president of Hyatt Hotels Corp.
"It is a rare business person who has not experienced both the excitement and the frustrations of business travel," he added.
Hartley-Leonard said the study, based on telephone surveys and interviews with travelers encountered in airports, hotels, and car rental lines, was part of an effort by Hyatt to find ways to make life easier for business travelers who patronize the hotel chain.
"In an increasingly global economy, it is only realistic to expect people will continue to travel more, not less, in pursuit of their livelihoods," he said. "We, therefore, have to concern ourselves with the added pressures and stress that can be placed on business travelers and assess ways to improve the life of the business traveler."
Last year, 35 million people traveled around the country on business, making a total of 158 million trips and spending a total of 820 million nights away from home, Hartley-Leonard noted.
Of the business travelers polled for the Hyatt study, 83 percent said travel causes at least some stress on their spouse at home and two-thirds said they find it hard to cope with separation from their families. Fifty percent said they are harried or hassled on the road.
"Your family life becomes fragmented," said Roger Longtin, a partner in the Chicago law firm, Keck Mahin & Cate, who travels an average nine months a year for the firm, and who participated in the Hyatt survey.
"You get together with your wife and children about as often as a non-traveler who runs into a friend once every couple of weeks," Longtin said. "You keep in touch by telephone, but it's not the same."
Yet, despite the stress of separation from family and friends at home, 98 percent of the frequent travelers polled for the Hyatt study said they got a sense of accomplishment from business travel.
Furthermore, 81 percent said they enjoy the exposure to new people and places they encounter in their travels, and 80 percent said they believe business travel is important for career advancement. Seventy percent said they enjoy traveling because it gives them a break from the day-to-day office routine.
"I don't find business travel exhilarating at all, but if there's one redeeming factor that it offers, it's that it eliminates monotony," Longtin said. "I try civil cases around the country and I've never tried a case twice in any courthouse. It's always a new judge in a new city and I like that.
"People who put up with the stresses and strains of travel do so because they don't like offices; they don't like going to the same place to work all the time," Longtin added. "Travel is their way out."
Among the major sources of stress for business travelers, besides being away from home, are lack of control over schedules, physical exertion and dissatisfaction with airline service, hotels and car rental companies, according to the study.
"Air travel has especially become aggravating since deregulation of air fares," Longtin said. "Travel by airplane used to be comfortable; the planes were rarely jammed. Now, it's just the opposite.
"Today, it's difficult to even get tickets and difficult to get where you're going on time. Before, the airlines used to cater to frequent travelers, but not any more.
"As for U.S. hotels," Longtin said, "I find it incredible that you can go to a city and stay at the same hotel 30 or more nights out of a year and each time you show up, they don't know who you are. There's no system for keeping track of frequent customers.