The collapse of business travel is creating terrific deals for leisure travelers in the short run, but it may hurt us all in the long run.
Leisure travelers have long benefitted from a symbiotic relationship with business travelers. (Some business travelers would call it parasitic, but I disagree.)
The leisure traveler get cheaper rooms on weekends when business travelers don’t want them and cheaper seats on flights when business travelers don’t want to fly. As business travel has declined during this recession, those deals have expanded.
While vacationers have soaked up business travel leftovers at a discount, business travelers have sometimes argued that they don’t get anything out of the deal. They simply pay more. But if leisure travelers weren’t filling those seats and hotel rooms when demand was low, businesses travelers would pay even more.
And it certainly could be argued that, ultimately, consumers pay for all travel — their own leisure travel and the business travel of the companies they buy from.
But there’s little doubt that the deals we leisure travelers have been soaking up will start to dry up eventually. Airlines are cutting back hard on flight schedules and hotels may begin to close floors if they can’t fill rooms during the week.
Business travel guru Joe Brancatelli lays this all out very succintly on portfolio.com, predicting that not only will fares rise in coach, but service will be cut back even further. He also suggests that more airlines may adopt the single-cabin approach of Southwest and JetBlue as businesses refuse to pay for premium travel.