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Business travelers want nicer treatment, survey finds

Also: Starwood hotels let guests post reviews — even negative ones — on their websites, and Enterprise Rent-a-Car offers electric vehicles at more California locations.

October 31, 2011|By Hugo Martín, Los Angeles Times
  • Nissan Leaf electric cars, like the one above, and Chevrolet Volts are now available at more Enterprise Rent-a-Car locations in California.
Nissan Leaf electric cars, like the one above, and Chevrolet Volts are now… (Masaru Oka, San Jose Mercury…)

While the cost of business travel continues to climb, executives say airline and hotel workers need to treat them with respect if they want to keep their business.

A survey released last week found that business executives rank rude hotel staff, intrusive security procedures and "steerage-like treatment" on crowded commercial planes as the worst parts of traveling for business.

Asked to pick the things they hate most about travel, 86% of executives said airport security screenings, 76% chose tiny, dirty commercial planes and 74% said impersonal treatment by hotel staff, according to the survey of about 3,000 business executives by Vitesse Worldwide, an executive travel firm in Connecticut.

"What comes through loud and clear is that an executive traveler isn't asking for high-priced service as much as high touch," said Shawn Abaspor, chief executive of Vitesse Worldwide.

Hotel rates and airfares have been climbing for several months, with travel demand on the rise and airlines cutting capacity by eliminating routes and retiring older planes. And those prices are likely to keep rising.

Average airfares and hotel rates should jump as much as 5% in 2012, according to a survey of more than 300 travel managers by the Global Business Travel Assn., a Virginia trade group for travel managers.

Starwood hotels let guests post reviews

One of the world's largest hotel companies is now letting guests post reviews on its hotel websites — even guests who aren't happy with their stay.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, whose hotel brands include Sheraton, Westin and St. Regis, recently unveiled a new feature to let guests write reviews that will appear on the hotel website. And the hotel company has encouraged guests to be honest.

Online hotel review sites are plentiful. But until now, hotels themselves rarely — if ever — post reviews by guests, said Kathryn Potter, a spokeswoman for the American Hotel & Lodging Assn., the trade group for the nation's hotel owners.

"This is the first I've ever heard of a hotel posting reviews on their own site," she said.

Only guests who type in their reservation confirmation number can submit reviews, and Starwood officials promise not to block negative reviews.

On the website for the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point, most of the reviews are positive. But one mentions a problem with service. "When we first arrived, we waited five minutes for someone from valet to take care of us," wrote a guest from North Carolina.

Enterprise offers electric cars at more California locations

Somewhere environmental advocate and actor Ed Begley Jr. is smiling.

Enterprise Rent-a-Car announced last week that it is expanding the number of outlets in California that offer electric cars.

The rental car company had already been offering Nissan Leafs and Chevrolet Volts in six locations, including Pasadena, Santa Monica and Thousand Oaks. The electric cars are now also offered at Enterprise offices in Santa Barbara, Palm Springs, Newport Beach, Encino and Riverside.

Enterprise's rival Hertz Corp. offers electric vehicle rental programs in New York, Washington, San Francisco and London but none in Los Angeles.

Most people who rent the cars are looking for an extended test drive before deciding whether to buy an electric vehicle, Enterprise spokeswoman Lisa Martini said.

The electric vehicles rent for about $65 to $69 per day, about twice the cost of a compact gasoline-powered car. But the electric vehicles come fully charged, with a range of 40 to 99 miles per charge, depending on the model. (The Volt is technically a plug-in hybrid that can run on gas or electricity.)

And if the cars run out of juice, Martini said, both models come with navigation devices that can direct drivers to the nearest charging station.

"The good news," she said, "is we are in markets where there are lots of charging stations."

hugo.martin@latimes.com

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