Is Business Travel Returning To Normal? – Stories From Home, A Podcast

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Asking the question, Is business Travel Returning To Normal?  But first a quick trip around the interwebs……

Jelly Belly founder hides ‘gold tickets’ in a nationwide treasure hunt, will give away candy factoryWSB TV

David Klein is a modern-day Willy Wonka. The 74-year-old businessman is the founder of Jelly Belly jelly beans and wants to share a bit of his sweet life with multiple lucky winners.

According to a press release, Klein and his partner have been traveling across the U.S. hiding “gold-style tickets in the form of necklaces” in different places. The places they choose all have some sort of interesting story that sparked their interests. Each necklace includes a unique code that, when verified, guarantees $5,000 in winnings.

Growing up the Willy Wonka book and movie were my “go-to”. There’s nothing better than a well-constructed story. Second, I am a huge Jelly Belly fan. Since each Jelly Belly is approximately 41 calories I’m convinced that if they had pizza, taco and wing flavored Jelly Belly’s I’d weigh a lot less. 

There are a bunch more requirements for this contest such as a $50.00 entry fee for clues to the Golden Necklaces. You will need a Facebook account if you hope to win the factory prize. 

From a business aspect, this last bit is really interesting.

While Klein and his business partner sold their share of the Jelly Belly business in 1980, just four years after creating the famed candy, the confectioner maintained some of his candy factories. Klein and the partner agreed to receive $10,000 a month for 20 years in exchange for the Jelly Belly trademark, a decision Klein said he immediately regretted because it cut his candy reign short.

$120k over 20 years, 2.4 million, I agree with Klein’s regret, that’s a pittance considering Jelly Belly’s revenue is over $190 million each year.

Disney World resort creates ‘schoolcation’ option for families, offers supervised class sessions Fox 35

Last month the Ritz-Carlton Orlando was offering a work-from-hotel package complete with a Business Butler, not to be outdone this week Disney followed suit complete with a new COVID term….. Schoolcation.. 

The Four Seasons Resort Orlando at the Walt Disney World Resort is letting parents and their children keep up the vacation vibes, even while school is back in session, through its “schoolcation” initiative, which is providing quiet learning spaces for children to use while they attend classes remotely. 

Parents can enroll their children in the supervised sessions, where kids can attend classes and do their homework before experiencing the “ultimate recess” at the hotel’s water park, and outdoor recreation areas. 

Of course, Disney followed suit, and why not, we’re less than 30 days into this whole “School from home”, “Remote learning” or “Home Education” thing, and parents are throwing in the towel. I’m willing to bet this Schoolcation idea came from some Disney executives partner that was stuck at home teaching these little freaks.

Guests Rearranging Furniture in a Hotel Room?The Gate

Author Brian Cohen wrote, Whenever I stay in a room at a hotel or resort property, I like to try to ensure that I am as comfortable as possible: perhaps I will prop up a couple of pillows; fold over or remove the duvet on the bed; or adjust the television so that I can watch it from the desk at where I am sitting instead of from the bed itself…

…but the other night, I spoke to a friend whom I have known for years and who works at a hotel property — and the friend could not believe how many guests have rearranged the furniture in the guest rooms during the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic.

Pre-COVID, pre-2020, pre-2010 I have always rearranged hotel furniture. When I’m in a hotel room I use maybe four pieces of furniture. The table for my luggage, this never gets moved. The bed, this also never gets moved. However, I might lift the mattress up to see if there are any treasures left behind. Lastly, it’s the office chair and desk and I will move these to get out of the direct flow of the air conditioner or get a better view out the window or a better view of the TV that I always leave muted. All this HGTV stuff aside I will 99.95 of the time move everything back unless I have a 6:30 AM flight. No need to disturb the folks on the floor below me.

We’re going a bit deep on the interwebs tonight, but this Tampa Bay Creative Loafing Story has to get out.

This Florida condo is completely covered in empty beer cans, and it can be yours for $100K

Located at 4707 Lucerne Lakes Blvd E, Apt 102, in Lake Worth, Florida, listing agent Kristen Kearney says the previous owner, who has since passed away, was a lifelong fan of Budweiser beer. “It was his life’s mission to wallpaper his home in beer cans,” said Kearney to, “and he did it.”

The site adds this…..

Entering the spacious 2BR/2BA corner-unit condo, you immediately reminisce of long road trips and the inevitable belting out of the beloved song, ”99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall!” Budweiser’s biggest fan meticulously adorned the walls and ceilings with Budweiser beer cans to display and showcase their intense love for one of America’s favorite domestic brews! Whether you keep the current decor for your Youtube beer show or decide to renovate the home, this property offers tons of entertainment potential! 

I’m a total beer nerd with close to 1250 unique beers going across my lips, I understand this guy’s passion. Looking through the pictures there has to be upwards of 20,000 cans tastefully, and I mean tastefully affixed to the walls and ceiling. Not sure how much the local recycling site would pay you for the contents, but it might shave a few thousand dollars off of the 100K asking price.

Onto tonight’s topic, and a question is business travel returning to normal?

In the last 30 days or so I’ve managed to spend around 7 or 8 nights in hotels, bringing my YTD total to 31, far off pace from my 2019 total of 225 nights spent in hotels.

This past week was my first business travel trip since March. This was a 4 night 1200 mile odyssey and it took on a different look & feel or as the kids say feels than the casual one or two-night adventures I’ve taken in the last month.

Since this was a road trip my first feeling was that of relief. Relief that I didn’t have to clean out my backpack or luggage of items that TSA won’t permit. Things like knives, strike-anywhere matches, odd food items, flasks, and knives. Like I said this was my first business trip since March….. Don’t judge. 

The next feeling that set in was fear. And this is a completely justified fear with all that’s happened in the last 6 months. No, it’s not COVID it’s whether or not my dress clothes would still fit. After 6 months of home-cooking, excessive snacking, and the occasional adult beverage I can report that my dress clothes still fit.

My last fear was anger, again not related to COVID but directed toward the travel portal that I use for booking business travel. It took me a solid 15 minutes to recall how you navigated around the site.

The only real COVID precautions I took was to grab a few additional masks, and a bottle of hand sanitizer, that was it.

So what changes have I seen related to COVID? One single word describes it as “inconsistency”. Take into account that my hotel stays have been corralled into two US states, Georgia, and thank you Florida.

In regard to hotels, what has changed, keep in mind the word inconsistency?

Check-In – Every hotel employee that I’ve engaged with has been wearing a mask, even if they did have to pull it up when I entered the lobby. To points deducted, I completely understand. 

However, each and every check-in has been a unique and personalized experience. Some check-in desks are surrounded in a plexiglass style riot shield, others, no precautions have been put in place. At one check-in I was required to sign, with a pen, a paper statement, they let me keep the pen.

When checking in I asked each desk clerk what their occupancy was, and it was between 20 – 30%.

Rooms – Again, inconsistent. Since March I‘ve stayed exclusively at Hilton properties. All rooms had stickers on the bathroom mirrors detailing their stepped-up cleaning procedures.

This is on Hilton’s website.

The CleanStay experience

Our new hotel experience follows guests from pre-arrival to their journey home: 

  1. Before travel, guests can go to for details about what to expect. Property websites will also be updated with specific information and a pre-arrival email is sent outlining the procedures in place. TRUE, but every confirmation e-mail reads the same.
  2. At check-in, Hilton Honors members can use the app to bypass the front desk. Non-Honors members will still stop at the desk, which has enhanced disinfectant features. TRUE, the app has sent me a notification allowing remote check in for each stay.
  3. Lobby seating is spaced out to accommodate social distancing. TRUE
  4. Sanitizing stations are available throughout the property and at all elevators. TRUE, including inside some of the elevators
  5. Rooms are closed with the CleanStay seal to show they’ve been cleaned and inspected according to our new procedures. All but one property had seals across the doorway.
  6. Dining areas are spaced out for social distancing; some brands will still offer to-go options instead of seated. I haven’t really noticed, as I haven’t spent any time in the dining areas since March. However, every single Hilton Garden Inn property had its restaurant and bar shut down and most Hampton Inns were offering brown bag you can take with you.
  7. Fitness centers have been rearranged to accommodate social distancing.

This was a mixed bag between some being completely closed to others with signs encouraging social distancing, but none showing any noticeable rearrangement.

  1. To check-out, guests can use the app or call the front desk before leaving. I never tell anyone that I’m checking out, I just walk out the door, this is called being a travel-snob. That being said I normally get a notification from the Hilton app offering me remote checkout.
  2. If shuttles are in-use, disinfectant wipes will be available. Haven’t used a subtle since my last trip to Newark.

So what’s my take on hotel stays? For me, I’m completely comfortable. However, the one thing that bugs me is the fact that every single hotel chain claims to have “stepped up” their “cleaning game”. What this says to me is that 8 months ago you’re cleaning game sucked, but suddenly with the same employees in place everything is suddenly “super-clean”. You should’ve been cleaning everything thoroughly from the get-go.

When it comes to dining, it’s certainly not the same for business travel or for anyone else. For instance last weekend we left the three adults in charge of Chateau’ Relaxo and headed for Disney Springs. The crowds were a bit light, so light that we were able to get a table at Splitsville without a reservation. We were able to walk in and get seated inside and upstairs on a Friday night. In 2019 that never would’ve happened. 

This past week most meals were a grab and go, or drive-thru. Honestly, the best road trip meal of the week was at Publix. A roast beef Pub-Sub accompanied by a bag of salt-n-vinegar chips. See business travel is glamorous. Here’s another Chateau’ Relaxo to English translation. A Pub-Sub is any sub sandwich from Publix. They weigh more and taste better than anything Subway offers. The second best meal was from Ingles grocery and it was fried chicken. Again, business travel is glamorous.

The next logical question has to be….. What about traffic, gas stations, rest stops…. Etc.? It makes sense right?

My first leg was from Central Florida to Dublin, Georgia not Ireland. Minimal traffic up I-75 and that dropped to non-existent as I took 257 into Dublin. The next leg was Dublin GA to Duluth GA, and as one could guess the traffic around the perimeter sucked. I predict that we could be on the precipice of the world ending, everyone could be sheltered in place and Atlanta traffic would still suck.

My drive back required a few stops, and my places are either Pilots or Flying J’s. And next to Walmart those places have damn near everything a road warrior might need. 

If you spend any amount of time traveling the same route you find yourself tending to stop at the same gas stations and rest stops…. Kidney synchronization. For me, the standard stop according to my kidneys is the Pilot in Vienna, GA, which I did last week heading north and then heading back south at the end of the week.

There’s a McDonalds attached to the Pilot, and I’m not a fan of food joints attached to or inside gas stations, it’s one of my kinks, I can’t explain it, ask my therapist. On my northbound trip, my stomach requested a burger and fries, so I listened. Most of the McDonalds staff were wearing the required face masks tucked under their chins. Giving them, the benefit of the doubt, busy, short-staffed whatever I decided to revisit this location on my southbound trip…. Guess what… most of the employees still had the required facemasks tucked under their chins.

Like I said inconsistency is the word of the day, month, and possibly the pandemic.

Here’s the take from someone that has spent 50% of the last 20 years being on the road.

All of this comes done to your comfort level. If you’re concerned about the safety and cleanliness of a hotel room then ask yourself…… “What would give you 100% certainty that you won’t catch COVID?”… the answer is to stay at home. 

There’s no airline, rental car company, or hotel chain that plans or hopes you get COVID. Every single one of us is their target market and if we do any less traveling they will soon be out of business.

Traveling has to come down to what you are comfortable with.

If you have a comment you can leave a voicemail on Anchor or send me an email

Each day we’re getting closer to traveling and returning to “travel safe” until then stay safe and thanks for listening.

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