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Average business traveler snapshot

Study finds many business trips happen via car instead of air
/ Source: The Associated Press

Today’s business traveler is likely to be a man who makes good money, doesn’t get enough sleep, drinks more out of town than at home — and is far more likely to hit the road than hop on a plane.

THAT SNAPSHOT comes from two recent surveys that provide a look at who’s taking the estimated 405 million business trips of 50 miles or more in and from the United States each year.

One of the most detailed pictures emerged from a study released by the government’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics based on a survey of 60,000 people in 26,000 households done during 2001 and 2002.

The study gave figures to support what has long been known — that most business travel is done by car. It found that four out of every five business trips are done on the road instead of through the air. And the break-even point for deciding between the two modes appears to be about 500 miles, with trips farther than that more likely to involve air travel.

Since that survey, a number of reports have indicated that business travel by car may actually be on the increase. One reason is that some people are avoiding airports and their security-related delays since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Also, the still-recovering economy has some companies looking for cheaper ways to do business than high-cost air travel.

The government report also found that more than three-fourths of business travelers are men; more than half of all travelers —male and female — are between the ages of 30 and 49; and only slightly less than half of all those traveling on business have household incomes of more than $75,000.


A second look at who’s on the road came from a survey of 3,500 U.S. and Canadian business travelers and a close-up study of 25 frequent travelers. Members of the latter group were fitted with wrist devices that measured activity levels and sleep quality. They carried personal digital assistants to keep track of performance, moods and other personal information.

InsertArt(2074998)This study, commissioned by Hilton Hotels & Resorts , was designed to compare perceptions, as gathered in the large survey, with what happens in real life, as measured by the close-up look at the 25 travelers.

It found that those working on the road get about an hour’s sleep less than they think they do, and have the most trouble sleeping not away from home but in their own bed the night before they leave on a trip.

In addition, it found that peak performance occurs in the middle of the day, not in the morning as many assume, and that those trying to get a good night’s sleep on a trip turn most frequently to alcohol — usually beer or wine — for help.

Those in the study who exercised did 61 percent better on alertness and reaction tests they had to perform on their personal digital assistants than did those who did not exercise.

Hilton, which already offers an in-room fitness program allowing guests at some properties to have treadmills brought to them, said it was looking at ways to expand exercise opportunities for its guests as a result of the survey.

Other hotel groups offer various kinds of exercise opportunities as well. Westin Hotels recently unveiled a program it developed with Reebok that uses a dedicated channel on in-room TV sets to guide guests through 10 different routines.

Sitting behind the wheel of a car on a lengthy business trip can also be both physically and mentally stressful. Jason Kornich, an expert in stress management at Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, New York, says drivers can combat that with a few simple steps.

One is to stay in the right lane on four-lane highways. That avoids conflicts and the temptation to race, he says. Another, he suggests, is to stay off the cell phone, both hand-held and hands-free, to prevent “inattention blindness” and possible accidents.

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