US, BY THE NUMBERS
By Joe Brancatelli
August 7, 2008 -- We live in a world where everything we do is sliced and diced, focus-grouped and surveyed. Every Web site and publication wants to canvas us, quantify our lifestyles and use the data to help advertisers sell stuff to us. I even got a buck in the mail from the Arbitron rating service last week as a thank-you for the call it was going to make to me.
Which is why we don't do any of that stuff. You get advertised to enough out there. You get surveyed and focus-grouped enough out there. I don't want to add to the noise. Nor do I want to bother you with inane time-wasters.
But last month, when I told you that a friend of mine was gathering data on the mobile lifestyle (that's marketing speak for business travel, I think), you responded with gusto. About 10 percent of you, in fact, weighed in with opinions.
So I thought the least I could do was ask my friend to break out the results of some of the questions. His questions were generic, but these answers are specific to JoeSentMe members.
Broadly speaking, this is who we are, how we travel and what we carry on the road with us.
WHO WE ARE
We're old(er). Without being indelicate, we're basically older than your average American. Just 6 percent of us are under 40, about 27 percent of us are between 40 and 50 years old and 43 percent of us are between 50 and 60 years old. This is consistent with what we know about business travelers. Moving people around the globe is so expensive these days that only the best and brightest do it and they tend to be our more mature and experienced people. (Either that or my writing has become so specific that only people exactly like me read this Web site. I am, after all, a rapidly aging 55.)
We are not this gender imbalanced. When Martin Deutsch created Frequent Flyer magazine in 1980, he learned about 80 percent of the readers were men. That ratio slowly got into better balance over the years. And I think most of us today think the skew of frequent flyers is about 55 percent men/45 percent women. So how come the survey reported that 80 percent of JoeSentMe members are men, a horrifying throwback to 1980? I dunno. And since I do keep a list of members, I know this ratio is wrong. My only conclusion: For whatever reason, this survey attracted more male respondents than female members.
We're well-to-do. A stunning 69 percent of us described our financial position as "comfortable." And almost 10 percent said we're "making it faster than we can spend it."
We're big spenders. About a third of us say we spent upwards of $25,000 on business travel each year. Another third said our spend was as much as $50,000. Most of the rest spend about $50-$75,000. And about 10 percent drop six figures or more on travel each year.
We're the boss. A third of the JoeSentMe members who responded claimed, "I'm the boss." Another third of us described our station as a director, vice president or in executive management. Hey, that's good news. Maybe we can rewrite the company travel policy to let us fly first!
HOW WE TRAVEL
We live on the road. About 20 percent of us say we travel at least once a week. And 65 percent of us do a business trip at least once a month. About 60 percent of us said our average business trip lasts 2 or 3 nights. And about 29 percent said our average business trip lasts as long as a week.
We're mostly domestic. Sixty-two percent of us say our business travel is primarily domestic with infrequent international travel. About 11 percent of us said the reverse. The rest of us say our travel is a mix of domestic and international itineraries.
We're elite. Half of us hold elite status in at least one airline frequent flyer program. A quarter of us hold status in two. But we sleep around more, so to speak. More than 60 percent of us are elite members of at least two hotel frequent stay plans and a third of us are elite in at least three programs.
We don't leave home without it. We overwhelmingly (59.5 percent) use American Express to pay for our business travel expenses. Visa is a distant (25 percent) second choice. Our card usage is a little more balanced (44 percent Amex and 38 percent Visa) for leisure travel expenses. Most notable: Diners Club has fallen off the map, commanding less than 4 percent of our business-travel spending. It's clear that Citibank's decision to turn Diners Club into a MasterCard and gut its once-formidable rewards scheme has been an unmitigated disaster.
WHAT WE CARRY
We're one with our laptop. You're not shocked that 91 percent of us travel with a laptop, are you? But I was sure surprised that just two-thirds of us travel with a cellular phone, Blackberry or iPhone. Are the rest of you out of touch on the road?
Make your own kind of music--or not. Here's a surprise: Fewer than half of us (48.5 percent) travel with an iPod or other music player. I just don't know what to make of that statistic. We were the first and earliest adopters of MP3 players and I can't imagine leaving home without one. What do the rest of you folks carry? A zither? An accordion? A harmonica?
The next best things we love. What else are we taking along with us or using on the road? Nearly 60 percent of us travel with noise-cancelling headphones and a third of us have access to satellite radio such as XM Radio or Sirius. Slightly more than a third of us (34.8 percent) use Skype or other VOIP service. About 22 percent of us travel with audio books.
ABOUT JOE BRANCATELLI Joe Brancatelli is a publication consultant, which means that he helps media companies start, fix and reposition newspapers, magazines and Web sites. He's also the former executive editor of Frequent Flyer and has been a consultant to or columnist for more business-travel and leisure-travel publishing operations than he can remember. He started his career as a business journalist and created JoeSentMe in the dark days after 9/11 while he was stranded in a hotel room in San Francisco. He lives on the Hudson River in the tourist town of Cold Spring.
THE FINE PRINT All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.
This column is Copyright © 2008 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2008 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.