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Cultural differences apparent among international business travellers, American Express Survey shows

Search ASIA Travel Tips .com 17 October 2002

In a new survey sponsored by American Express, 1,400 business travelers hailing from 14 different countries reveal their likes and dislikes - including what they prefer in hotel rooms and on planes. In addition, the results, released here today, spotlight business travelers' on-the-road strategies for balancing the demands of their work and personal lives.

"As corporations expand their businesses and go global, increasingly, they're sending business travelers out across the world to meet new customers and close deals," said Mark Webb, Senior Vice President, American Express Global Business Partnership, the group that services the company's largest corporate customers. "Our new survey reveals that the world's business travelers are not all alike; they have highly different service priorities and needs while doing business."

What Irritates Business Travelers

What irks business travelers the most about, wellbusiness travel? According to the American Express International Business Traveler Survey, hands down, it's travel delays, with 54% citing this common occurrence. The next most annoying consequence of business travel is getting behind in office work, according to more than16% of interviewees. Airline seating and service is a big issue for over 11%, while jet lag bothers 10% and just over 8% gripe about poor accommodation.

Travel delays are most irksome for the French, 70% of who cited this issue, while 67% of respondents from the People's Republic of China and 63% of Taiwanese also hate to be diverted from their schedules.

Among those bugged by airline seating and service, the largest proportion of respondents was Brazilians (20%) as well as Japanese (19%). And, on the ground, 14% of Taiwanese and 11% of travelers from both Germany and Hong Kong hate poor hotel accommodations. Jet lag is a drag for 23% of Brazilians, 17% of Japanese and 15% of Brits.

And, it looks like, compared to all others, Germans (29%), Swedes (28%) and Americans (26%) are more likely to fret over growing piles of paperwork back at the office.

Wanted: A Free Meal

While travelers vented about their on-the-road dislikes, they also weighed in on what they appreciate in a good hotel room or while flying thousands of feet above the earth.

Overall, respondents rated in-room Internet access and a complimentary breakfast nearly equal in appeal, with about 29% saying Web access was the most appealing hotel added-value service and nearly 26% voting for free food. Hotel business facilities do it for 16% of interviewees, while almost 13% say VIP check-in/out is tops. About 12% like free health club access, and 5% look for a services apartment in a hotel.

Europeans want free breakfast, as 42% of Swedes, 36% of Germans and 34% of French voted it their favorite hotel added-value feature. Compared to all respondents, it's the Americans (40%), Mexicans (39%) and Japanese (35%) who most appreciate Web access. And, more than anyone else, Asians value business facilities, as 29% of Singaporeans, 24% of Hong Kong travelers and 23% of Japanese cited this as a hotel's most appealing feature.

One quarter of Canadian respondents think VIP check-in/check-out is especially nice, with smaller numbers of Brazilians and Americans following in agreement. And, 13% of Taiwanese and 11% of Germans said their first choice is a services apartment. Eighteen percent of both Canadians and Germans, as well as 17% of Americans, said they especially want free access to a gym.

In the air, most travelers (38%) said entertainment is the single on-board feature they can't do without, while using a laptop was the next most popular answer, cited by 31%. Twenty percent said on-board email or Internet access was their choice, and another 7% said the telephone. Four percent were unsure which feature to choose.

A look at answers from individual countries shows that most respondents from Australia, Singapore and Japan appreciate movies more than anything else, with 52%, 51% and 49%, respectively, voting for in-flight entertainment.

Meanwhile, 47% of Americans, 43% of French and 41% of Mexicans value a laptop the most, and 30% of Brazilians, 26% of Singaporeans and 24% of French and Germans can't do without email or Internet access. Above all others, Swedes were most appreciative of on-board telephones, with 23% citing this convenience.

Unwinding: A Global Affair

Respondents practice a variety of methods to relieve the stress of a busy day doing business on the road, according to the survey. Sightseeing was the most popular - mentioned by 67% of respondents, followed by 60% who said they also socialize with colleagues or clients. Fifty-five percent go shopping, and one-third take the healthy route - by spending some time at a gym.

Most German business travelers (85%) prefer to see the local sights, followed by 82% of Taiwanese and 80% of respondents from The People's Republic of China. Meanwhile, most British respondents (90%) said they kick back by socializing, along with 86% of Canadians and Swedes.

For leisure distractions, 67% of Brazilians like to hit the stores and shop, followed by a good portion (65%) of the British and 62% of Germans. At a health club or gym, you're most likely to find Americans and Canadians; 58% and 54%, respectively, say they enjoy this form of unwinding.

Balancing Work And Play

As any business traveler knows, frequent trips can make it difficult to spend quality time with family or loved ones. But, according to American Express' survey, many corporate travelers don't let distance get in the way of contact with those at home. 

Respondents worldwide balance business travel with family and home commitments chiefly by phoning loved ones at home. The poll revealed 86% dial home, while 60% also bring back gifts. For 42%, staying grounded in home life means limiting the length of trips, while 34% also send emails home and 28% take some time before or after a trip to spend time with their family.

But business travelers around the world differed over the extent to which they take these steps. While at least 70% of respondents from all countries pick up the phone to stay in touch with the clan, the Swedish were the chattiest, with nearly all (97%) saying they do this.

Mexican and British business travelers were the biggest gift givers, with 78% and 77%, respectively, saying they take presents home. American and British business travelers are also most likely to email home. And Canadians (39%) and Americans (38%), as well as the British and Mexicans (37%), are more likely than others to take vacation time before or after trips in order to gather round family members.

About the American Express Survey

The American Express International Business Traveler Survey was conducted by The Practice, an independent market research firm based in London. In the survey, 1,400 business travelers representing Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, Sweden, Taiwan, the UK, and the USA were interviewed via telephone in August 2002.

In the survey, 100 business travelers from each country participated.

To qualify, interviewees must have completed at least one business trip outside their home country over the previous 12 months. On average, these travelers took about 8.5 business trips last year.

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