Sunday 22 September 2019

Companies must take wishes of travelling staff on board

More business travellers want access to the kinds of booking tools used by leisure travellers.
More business travellers want access to the kinds of booking tools used by leisure travellers.

Mark Evans

The modern business traveller isn't happy to be told where to go, when to go and where to stay, without any input themselves.

A recent report, Modern Traveller, by business travel organisation ACTE, in collaboration with American Express Global Business Travel, reveals that travel managers are still failing to take new technology on board and put employees going out on the road at the heart of decision-making.

Almost four out of 10 travel managers reported an increase in concerns by staff about work-life balance, with more than one in three saying their workers enquired about adding a day or two or leisure - the 'Bleisure' phenomenon - onto a busy work trip. And while travel managers are still divided about the merits of non-hotel accommodation, 22pc saw growing interest by workers in sharing a serviced apartment or Airbnb property with colleagues. And 13pc said more workers were keen to stay with family or friends while travelling and receive compensation in lieu.

Interestingly, there was also a slight move away from workers demanding business-class flights, with a rise in demand for premium economy air fares or even basic economy seats.

But while frills are in less demand, the opposite is the case with technology: 61pc of travel managers in the worldwide poll saw more demand from workers for better travel technology tools. And that's important, with a battle of wills developing, as workers go off-grid and look to their own booking tools, to tailor trips to their own preferences, which could take them out of their company's booking programmes and policies.

What hasn't changed is travellers' safety concerns; almost half of travel managers saw increased enquiries from travellers about their safety abroad. While the rate of increase is slowing, it might be due in part to the fact that 40pc of firms said they have introduced traveller safety training in the last six months. What's clear is that rigid company policies on how their employees travel need a shake-up to keep staff happy.

- With the launch of Cathay Pacific's Dublin to Hong Kong service next month, this column caught up with Europe manager James Ginns at the recent Routes to Growth conference, in Dublin's Aviva Stadium. It's a crowded space to the east. We've got daily (or multiple-daily) flights via the Gulf or Turkey with Qatar, Etihad, Emirates and Turkish; connections via Paris or Amsterdam with Air France/KLM, plus the shorter route to the likes of Japan with Finnair via Helsinki. And now there's the 21-hour direct flight from London to Perth with Qantas.

There's also the long-awaited route from Dublin to Beijing with China's Hainan Airlines, following months of negotiations and lobbying from Irish interests. But Ginns is confident that business travellers will look to Cathay and its Hong Kong gateway. "No one else has a non-stop service from Ireland to Asia," he said, a reference to the fact that Hainan's service will have a stopover in Edinburgh on certain legs.

And he sees a big advantage over Gulf rivals in the market to and from Australia: "You arrive at 7am in Hong Kong, travel onwards, or enjoy your business day in Hong Kong. It's better to break your journey after 12 hours than to break much earlier and have a longer leg later on."

The airline's new 280-seater A350-900s, which started to come on-stream last year, have made routes like Dublin, Barcelona and Copenhagen more viable and Ginns says of its philosophy "we believe there's a difference between simply travelling and travelling well".

- Much of the focus of Irish transatlantic connectivity is on US routes, but there's good news for business travellers on Canadian routes too.

Air Canada has just introduced its new 'Air Canada Signature Service' on flights from Dublin to Toronto Pearson. It's a more luxurious take on business class with the carrier, promising curbside-to-curbside services, including access to airport concierge services, smoother check-in and security clearance, priority baggage handling and preferential boarding. Customers also get Maple Leaf Lounge access and also access to the exclusive Signature Suite, featuring a la carte restaurant dining. The big plus though will be fully lie-flat beds on its widebody aircraft.

From June 1, the international service will begin to be introduced on transcontinental flights within Canada and onwards to the US. Air Canada has been ambitious in recent times in the Irish market, dropping its more leisure-focused Air Canada Rouge product from Dublin and reintroducing mainline Air Canada services.

Sunday Indo Business

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