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Frequent Traveller: The glamour is just about gone
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Frequent Traveler: The glamour is just about gone 
Life on the road has never been a bowl of cherries - especially nowadays when, thanks to advances in mobile communications, business travelers have the opportunity (and the obligation) of doing two jobs - the one on the road and the one back home in the office.
But it seems the last vestiges of glamour may have gone, according to a survey of 1,600 business travelers conducted during the first quarter of this year by Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown & Russell, publishers with Yankelovich of the 2006 National Business Travel Monitor
Business travel is perceived more as a tedious chore than a fulfilling experience. Thanks to increasingly crowded planes, delays, hassles with airport security, vended late-night dinners and unpredictable Internet connectivity, there are more stresses and strains than perks. Given that 41 percent of business travelers expect to take more trips in the year ahead, they could be looking forward to the prospect with less than unalloyed joy. And trips appear to be getting longer, which may be why more than 3 out of 10 road warriors agree with the statement: "I am actively seeking ways to use new technology to reduce my need to travel for business in the future." A similar proportion has participated in video or Web conferencing as an alternative to a business trip at least once in the last 12 months.
The survey indicates that nearly one half (47 percent) of travelers do not get enough sleep on business trips, with nearly 3 in 10 (29 percent) saying that they don't sleep well when traveling. Nearly 4 in 10 (37 percent) agree that new airport security measures make business travel a big hassle; while one in six flies less on business because of this. One out of four "feel more stressed out on business trips;" only half (49 percent) believe "the quality of service in hotels is improving" (down from 72 percent in 2000) and 60 percent feel that "airline seating is generally uncomfortable except in business or first class."
"Not a pretty picture," says Peter Yesawich, the chairman of YPB&R in Orlando, Florida. "It's down to the two Cs, comfort and convenience. And refocusing on the basics, like getting a good night's sleep. Hotels are getting in 'bed wars,' the quality of bedding, the mattress and linen. Who would have thought that people would be arguing about the 'thread count' of linen - 300 plus is what you should look for."
I share the feeling of fellow travelers who ask for "rheostat lighting," as Yesawich explains, "that gradually comes up, not at full blast." Another lament, he says, "is to arrive late at the hotel and find everything's closed; no 24-hour room service, and poor Internet access; 40 percent of people now carry laptops, and this is increasing."
We all have a list of things we love to hate. When I arrive late, the hotel loses a couple of stars if I am not shown to my room and have explained to me how things work. Nothing is more infuriating than high-tech lighting that you can never quite figure out; noisy air conditioning with electronic devices that you cannot regulate, and baffling instructions for the Wi-Fi Internet gizmo.
In a separate survey, YPB&R predicts that business travel will continue to be outpaced by demand for leisure travel during 2006. All types of travelers will demand that hotels and airport terminals provide free high- speed Internet access.
Croatia is the most popular destination for European leisure travelers, according to a survey by the European Tour Operators Association, gaining the most mentions for "most exciting country" and "best value for money," (23 percent and 19 percent, respectively), followed by the Czech Republic, Iceland and Spain. Britain gets top scores for "worst value for money" (57 percent).
The survey, published in April, reflects the views of 300 travel "buyers and sellers" conducted in more than 3,000 interviews.
Paris is "best for romance" (71 percent); Italy "best for art" (94 percent); Germany "best for service" (32 percent); London "best for sightseeing" (55 percent), followed by Italy (39 percent); Switzerland "best for scenery" (38 percent), followed by Britain (26 percent); London "best for shopping" (35 percent), followed by Paris (32 percent) and Milan (23 percent); Prague "best for eating cheaply" (37 percent), and France "best for eating well" (58 percent)., with links to more than 100 independent hotels and resorts in Europe, the United States, Africa and Asia-Pacific, along with jet and yacht charters, train companies and river cruises, is offering discounts of at least 25 percent on published first- and business-class fares with major carriers on long-haul routes from Britain and the United States.
The new service, "LuxuryExplorer first class," is operated by Spotnana w
ith offices in Britain, the United States and India. You can get sample fares from the United States to Asia, South Pacific, Europe, South America, Africa and the Middle East; and from Britain to Asia, North America, South America, South Pacific and Africa.
I was quoted a "special" fare of £2,480, or about $3720, for a round trip in business class from London to Bangkok with Thai Airways - a savings of £1,100 on the published fare of £3,583. Not bad, until I made a quick check at, where I was quoted £1,919 for the same flights on the same days with Thai Airways. I was able to bring the price down even more to about £1,200 by making one stop in Europe with a carrier like Austrian Airlines.
Caveat emptor once again. The moral is, no single travel company offers the best fares in all cabins on all routes. So shop around, bearing in mind add- ons, like taxes and surcharges, and the ability to change flights. But LuxuryExplorer/Spotnana may prove just the ticket for premium travel, especially first class I suspect, on certain routes.
The long-awaited, much-delayed and much-hyped Airbus A380 superjumbo made its maiden test flight with Singapore Airlines on May 7. The carrier, which has 10 A380s on firm order and another 15 on option, will be the first to operate the Airbus this year between London, Singapore and Sydney.
Airbus has introduced its smallest airliner, the A318 Elite, in partnership with Lufthansa Technik, with a choice of two cabin layouts, seating 14 and 18 passengers, respectively, with seats and settees clustered in lounge areas around the cabin. The A318 will be able to fly nonstop between London and New York and will complement the 48-seat Airbus A319LR business jets (and the 48-seat Boeing Business Jets, a modified 737) that Lufthansa operates between Düsseldorf and New York-Newark and between Munich and Chicago. KLM and Swiss have similar trans-Atlantic services - along with the start-up carriers MaxJet and Eos between London- Stansted and New York/Washington - that reflect the emergence of scheduled single-class business flights. 

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