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Business travel is essential for business owners, executives, and employees in a number of industries. Whether you’re attending a conference, meeting a client, or staking out a new business location, work sometimes requires you to be away from your company’s home base.
According to research by Expedia, more than 60% of travelers extend business trips for leisure purposes. This means that the destination matters more than ever. These so-called “bleisure” (business + leisure) travelers take an average of six business trips per year.
Traditionally, big cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York have been the cities of choice for business travel. However, as companies try to minimize rising travel and operational costs, smaller cities have become more popular.
We set out to find America’s best business travel destinations. Several factors were included in our analysis, including hotel availability and cost, traffic congestion, dining and entertainment options, and transportation.
Key findings include:
Read on to learn more about each of the best business travel destinations for 2020. This data is helpful for business owners, event planners, and executives.
As a business traveler, you need to be able to comfortably reach your destination with minimal delays. We examined airport amenities and flight delays as part of another report on the Best and Worst Airports for Business Travel. Once you arrive at your destination, you should be able to access comfortable and affordable accommodation, easily get around the city, and have enjoyable things to do in your off hours.
Taking these factors into account, here are the areas that are currently best equipped to handle the needs of business travelers:
The beautiful city of San Diego, claiming the top spot in our study, is a big draw for business travelers, especially those in the healthcare, biomedical, and clean-tech industries. This is one of the most efficiently run cities in the U.S., which means residents and business travelers alike can expect high-quality services and infrastructure. San Diego has 483 hotels and over 20,000 dining and entertainment establishments, with hotel rates averaging $201 per night.
San Diego International Airport is conventionally situated near downtown, just three miles and a short 15-minute drive away. The airport-to-downtown drive time is the fifth-best among all the cities we evaluated. San Diego doesn’t have great public transportation, with just 27 trips per capita each year. However, you can always zip around to meetings in an electric scooter. Many scooter companies are operating in the city after the San Diego City Council approved a permitting process for scooter companies.
Phoenix claimed the second spot in our ranking of the best business travel destinations. The city is flush with available hotel rooms that aren’t very expensive. At any given time, more than 450 hotel rooms are available to book at a nightly rate of $162. The size of the Phoenix Convention Center, with over 645,000 square feet of event and meeting space, is nothing to sniff at either. Since 2008, over $600 million has been poured into renovating the convention center, a significant investment that has aided the overall redevelopment of downtown Phoenix.
Transportation-related factors had the biggest impact on Phoenix’s ranking in our study. Sky Harbor International Airport is just four miles from downtown Phoenix and less than a 20-minute drive away during rush hour, making it ultra-convenient for incoming tired business travelers who want to quickly reach their hotel room or next event.
You might associate Miami more with beaches and parties than you would with a business meeting, but several factors make this city one of 2020’s top business travel destinations. The city has 859 hotels, which go for an average of $209 per night. The number of dining and entertainment establishments—36,751—are disproportionately high for a 55-square-mile city, so there’s no shortage of things to do with your team or with clients.
The Miami International Airport is fewer than eight miles from downtown and a relatively short, half hour drive. As you might expect, car culture dominates in Miami. You won’t have any problem finding a taxi or rideshare vehicle, but you can’t always rely on public transit. Miami has a 500,000-square-foot convention center minutes away from beaches, making it the perfect locale for your next business event. With more and more travelers mixing business and pleasure, access to a beautiful climate and beaches only enhances Miami’s appeal.
Fourth on our list of best business travel destinations is San Antonio, Texas. Although you might not associate this city with business travel, San Antonio’s hospitality industry is trying to appeal to a larger number of convention, business, solo, and bleisure travelers. A combination of history, live music, and a diverse culinary scene make this city a fun place to host your next business event.
Affordability and convenience played a big role in San Antonio’s ranking. The average nightly hotel room rate is just $155. It’s also relatively easy to get around San Antonio as a business traveler. Even though downtown San Antonio is nine miles from the airport, it takes just 22 minutes on average to get from the airport to downtown during rush hour. The city has been welcoming to dockless electric scooters and electric bicycles, giving business travelers a more exciting way to get around the city as well.
Atlanta, coming in at number five, is a good option for business travelers along the East Coast and in the South. Many trip planners set their sights on this city because Atlanta offers a combination of amenities and affordability. Visitors can choose from 842 hotels and over 32,000 dining and entertainment establishments. The nightly hotel rate averages $197, more affordable than seven of our other top 10 cities.
The Atlanta convention center is the third-largest among the cities we ranked, with 1.4 million square feet of dedicated exhibit space. Compared to New York and San Francisco, business travelers in Atlanta will also find it easier to get around the city. The airport is under 10 miles from downtown, a drive of about 45 minutes during rush hour. Public transit isn’t a strong point for the city, but electric scooters are available to zip around Atlanta.
The Big Apple is the sixth-best city for business travelers this year. New York has 1,593 hotels, approximately the same number as Los Angeles, even though NYC is 60% smaller geographically. All of those hotels—along with NYC’s 150,000 dining and entertainment establishments—are crowded into a relatively small, but densely packed, area.
New York hotels are the costliest in the country, at $393 per night on average. Commute times from John F. Kennedy airport to lower Manhattan can average a whopping 110 minutes during rush hour. However, savvy business travelers should consider taking the subway like the locals do. New York completes an average of 184 public transit trips per person per year, making it the best place in the country for public transportation. With a fare of $2.75 per subway ride, this is also a very economical way for small business owners to travel.
The City of Angels is next on our list of America’s best places for business travel and the second city in California to make our top ten. This city shined in terms of availability of hotels and dining and entertainment options. Based on Census data, there are 1,596 hotels available in this region and over 100,000 dining and entertainment establishments.
Convenience and cost are downsides, however. Even though Los Angeles International airport is just 16 miles from downtown L.A., the drive can take more than an hour and a half during rush hour. Fortunately, the region does offer some alternative transportation options, including limited public transit, electric scooters, and even helicopter-sharing.
The average nightly cost of a hotel room in Los Angeles is $259, which is the eighth-highest in the nation. Since accommodation is typically the second-biggest travel expense after flight costs, hotel expenses make Los Angeles a less likely option for budget-conscious small business owners, particularly for longer stays.
The sprawling city of Dallas is an economical and centrally located option for business travelers around the country. It’s also the second Texas city to make our top ten. Dallas offers the best of all worlds in many ways. Finding a hotel to stay at or a place to dine your client shouldn’t be a problem, with 1,053 hotels and almost 40,000 dining and entertainment establishments. Plus, the Dallas convention center has one million square feet of exhibit space, making it a great option for virtually any event.
The average nightly cost of a Dallas hotel stay is just $187.93, which is lower than even some less-populated cities (like Miami and San Francisco). The Dallas Fort Worth Airport is 20 miles from downtown Dallas, which is relatively far, but it takes just 40 minutes to reach downtown from the airport during rush hour. The primary downside with traveling to Dallas is the lack of good public transportation. The region is very sprawling, which makes it much more amenable to driving.
Las Vegas is a go-to spot for casino enthusiasts and bachelor parties, but it’s also quickly becoming a top business travel destination. Sin City, claiming the ninth spot in our ranking, surprisingly doesn’t have a large number of hotels. However, the nightly cost of hotels, at an average of $178 per night, is affordable. In addition, the Las Vegas Convention Center, located right near the Strip, offers over 2 million square feet of space. The center regularly hosts business events with as few as 100 attendees and as many as 20,000.
Car traffic can be an issue in Las Vegas. It takes 35 minutes on average to get to downtown from the airport. However, dining and entertainment options abound. The region has over 13,000 dining and entertainment establishments, so business travelers will have plenty to keep them busy between meetings.
Rounding out the top 10 cities for business travel is Boston. Boston is a relatively small city, but also densely packed with many places to stay and lots to do. Accommodations in Boston are costly, behind only New York City and San Francisco. However, if your business can afford the expense, then you’ll have your pick of places to stay, with over 400 hotels to choose from.
Boston-area traffic is known to be bad, so planning to use a car everywhere might not be the best plan. However, Boston is a walkable city, and business travelers can explore the nearly 36,000 dining and entertainment options on foot in their off hours. Alternatively, public transit is quite accessible, with 79 trips per capita per year, the second-highest in our study after New York City. Electric scooters have arrived in some cities across Massachusetts, with Boston debating a pilot program. If that passes, business travelers might soon have yet another way to get around Beantown.
See how your city* compares to others as a business travel destination:
*All cities are listed separately here, even if part of the same metropolitan area, to allow for an easy comparison of metrics. However, some metrics overlap for cities that are part of the same metropolitan area.
We started our analysis with a ranking of the 51 largest U.S. cities by population. Then, we evaluated each city based on the metrics listed below. Census data treats some nearby cities as part of a single metropolitan area, so where appropriate (Long Beach and Los Angeles, for example), we’ve referred to the metropolitan area. After assigned each metric a weight proportional to its importance, we developed a ranking of the best business travel destinations for 2020.
One of the most important requirements for business travelers is convenient, affordable accommodation. The more hotels that a city or metropolitan area has, the easier it is for business travelers to find an appropriate option, even if booking a trip last minute. Availability of more hotels also makes a region well-suited for hosting a large event or conference. Hotel cost is an important metric in its own right and acts as a proxy for other expenses, such as rental cars and food.
Data on the number of hotels in each destination comes from the Census Bureau’s 2016 County Business Patterns Survey (latest available data). Hotel cost data comes from Business Travel News’ 2018 Corporate Travel Index. Together, hotel availability and cost account for 30% of the ranking.
Being stuck in traffic can delay you for an important meeting or event, so we evaluated distance and travel time from each destination’s major airport to downtown. We used rush hour (8 a.m. on a Monday) when checking travel time, given that this is when most business meetings or conferences would occur. This data comes from Google Maps and comprises 25% of the ranking.
Business trips afford many opportunities for dining and entertainment. You might want to dine with a client, participate in a fun team bonding activity, or explore the city after a long day of meetings. We used the Census Bureau’s 2016 County Business Patterns Survey (latest available data) to find out the number of dining and entertainment establishments in each city. The Census data displays duplicates establishment numbers for some industry codes, so this data is approximated and accounts for 15% of the ranking.
Globally, business travel expenses are increasing, and businesses spend more than 20% of their travel budget on car-related expenses, such as car rental, taxis, fuel, and tolls. Utilizing public transportation can help small business owners cut back on travel expenses. We used the National Transit Database’s 2017 Service Data (latest available data) to find the number of public transportation trips per capita in each destination. Public transportation access accounts for 15% of the total ranking.
According to a survey by American Express, the number of in-person meetings and events is expected to increase globally this year. Business events are also expected to have more attendees and last for a longer time. This means that the best business travel destinations should be well-equipped to host events. We evaluated each city based on the square footage of the local convention center. Data comes from the websites of the individual convention centers and accounts for 10% of the total ranking.
Some business travelers are relying more and more on alternative methods of transportation. Electric scooters have popped up in dozens of cities across the U.S. Together, Bird and Lime, the two most popular scooter companies, have provided more than 30 million rides. Many cities are instituting regulations to authorize scooters or regulate scooters that are already in use. Scooters cost $1 to rent plus $0.15 per minute. Helicopter sharing is much less common than scootering, but significantly more expensive.
We assigned a low weight—5%—to this category because scooters and helicopter-sharing still haven’t become mainstream transportation options for business travelers.
Business travel can be essential at times, but it isn’t just a need. Choosing the right business travel opportunities can positively impact your company’s bottom line. Based on research from Certify, every $1 spent on business travel yields $9.50 of revenue and $2.90 of profit. If you want to capitalize on the advantages of business travel, consider one of these top 10 business travel destinations for your next trip.