Embassy Suites, an upscale hotel where suites start at around $150, gets 60% of its bookings from business travelers -- and is working hard to woo more of them.
The company promises that all hotels in the chain will be wired with high-speed Internet access by June.
"It's an informal, relaxed business hotel which demands a premium price," Greydanus said. "But it's a great value for travelers, because you get a suite."
As demand starts to climb this year, prices are expected to follow. The NBTA forecasts that by 2005, business airfare will increase by 5%, hotel rates by 3%, and corporate car rentals by 2%.
Despite such optimism, many large companies say business travel spending will never return to levels of previous years, as corporations strive to keep travel costs low.
"Let's not go on a plane if we don't have to," was the mantra after Sept. 11, 2001, at Houlihan Lokey Howard & Zukin, a Los Angeles investment bank, according to Co-Chief Executive Scott Beiser.
Although more of his employees have been traveling in recent months, Beiser said the company "certainly considers the costs of travel more than we did five years ago."
At Moog, travel manager Hall-Zientek said that even though more employees had been traveling this year, the company had been able to keep a lid on expenses by renegotiating contracts for hotel rooms and rental cars at the same rates as in 2003.
Competition among travel suppliers made bargaining easy. "They've all been very generous," she said. "They know corporations are struggling to cut travel costs."
Moog's employees also are encouraged to travel on such low-fare carriers as JetBlue or Air Tran whenever possible, and to look for other creative ways to spend less, such as eating at less-expensive restaurants.
Employees know the days of the travel account "gravy train" are over, Hall-Zientek said.
"Everyone is traveling more," she said, "but they are conscious they need to keep costs down."
Road to recovery?
Signs point to an improving business travel climate. These statistics include corporate and unmanaged business transient travel (air, car, hotel) and related travel and entertainment expenses.
U.S. business travel market
(in billions of dollars)
Year Total % Change
2002 $139.50 n/a
2003 $140.90 1%
2004* $146.20 3.8%
2005* $156.30 6.9%
2006* $163.50 4.6%
Sources: PhoCusWright Inc., PhoCusWright/NBTA Technology Trends Survey, American Express, Runzheimer International, Smith Travel Research, Topaz International
Companies take the frugal route
Business trips are increasing, but firms are expected to cling to cost-cutting learned in recent lean years.
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