May 14 2009 by Chris McGinnis
Every year at about this time travel prognosticators and pundits hit the airwaves with their forecasts for the approaching summer vacation season. It's usually a time when business travel is pushed off the air or to the back pages. Just because it's beach weather doesn't mean business travel stops. In fact, demand for business travel is just as high during the dog days of summer as it is at any other time of year.
Here's my take on how what's happening on the leisure side is going to affect your business travel in the coming months.
>Air Traffic Down But Road Traffic Up. The Federal Aviation Administration estimates that the number of airline passengers will decline this summer by about 9% compared to last year. However, I don't think that means Americans are going to be sitting at home on "staycations" this year. I expect the predicted decline in airline passengers combined with lower gasoline prices (compared to last year) will mean an increase in the number of automobile passengers. Plan for heavy traffic if you've scheduled business trips before or after big summer holidays, including Memorial Day (Monday, May 25), Independence Day (Saturday, July 4) or Labor Day (Monday, September 7).
>More Road Traffic Means More Sellouts at Roadside Hotels. With more Americans on the road this summer, expect frequent sellouts at roadside hotels, especially those in or on the outskirts of major tourism destinations (such as amusement parks, beaches, national parks) or where major freeways intersect. Make reservations ahead of time and don't wait until the end of a long day on the road to start looking for hotels with "vacancy" lights winking at you. (Again, keep in mind that sellouts will be more pronounced on and around peak travel dates mentioned above.)
>Easier Airline Upgrades for Business Travelers. Most companies have cut back or placed severe restrictions on business or first class travel this year. With fewer of those big seats getting sold at high prices, frequent travelers should expect more opportunities to upgrade. Look for discounts on the number of miles needed for upgrades as well as more opportunities to pony up a nominal fee at the gate to get moved up front.
>More Kids/Families Requires More Patience. With increasingly risk-averse American families opting for the good old-fashioned summer vacation in the family car, road warriors should prepare for more shrieks and squeals from the hotel pool area. You'll likely find longer lines and fewer open tables at the breakfast buffet and longer waits for hotel business center PCs. Just be patient. You were a kid once, too.