How airlines are approaching the corporate market
People Awards photos Taxis and transfers Quality control
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TBTM99 COVER V10.indd 1
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Welcome Special occasions
irst things ﬁrst, here's a date for your diaries: Tuesday September 17th has been conﬁrmed for the 2024 Business Travel People Awards ceremony, back again at the Grand Connaught Rooms in London. Nominations open in January.
I think everyone who joined us at this year's ceremony will agree that it was a fabulous night. Perhaps I'm biased, but for me it's the most special night in our industry's social calendar and I love seeing the joy on people's faces when their names are called. Once again, there was a lot of love in the room – and what a room it was. Congratulations again to all the winners, the highly commended and the ﬁnalists, and thank you to all our expert judges and our sponsors who helped make it such a success. Turn to page 14 for extensive coverage of the glittering awards ceremony. Of course, the photos have already been shared widely online and on social media, but there's nothing like seeing them in print. Talking of awards, and of the beauty of being in print, I'm so proud that The Business Travel Magazine was recently named Best Travel Trade Publication in Print at the 2023 Travel Media Awards. We were up against some tough competition, including our sister publications, so to win – for the second year in a row – was such an honour. We're a small team but we aim high and work hard and it's so rewarding when it pays oﬀ. I can't believe we're coming towards the end of another year and that we're already planning our ﬁrst issue of 2024. It's a special one – our 100th edition – and to mark it we'll be carrying out an extensive survey to make sure we stay completely in tune with you, our loyal readers. We've also got some other exciting plans for next year, so watch this space...
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Matt Bonner, Caitlan Francis and Stuart Crowhurst OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
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Welcome v9.indd 3
NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2023 22
Features 14 Business Travel People Awards 2023: We bring you the best photos from the awards ceremony, a full list of
the winners and some of the judges comments
42 Taxis and transfers: Why the
With their new distribution strategies and shifts in demand, what can you expect from your airline partners?
safety and wellbeing of travellers should be a priority for the whole of a business trip, including taxi rides and
transfers 50 Rail Business Travel Lunch
Forum: An update on the latest developments in train travel from our latest lunch forum in London
Up Front 6
Opening Shots: The most exciting openings in the world
of travel – in pictures 8
Speaking Out: David Chappell at TripStax explains why the travel industry needs to
embrace new technology to implement quality control
10 The Conversation: We check in with Luke Goggin, Virgin Atlantic's new Vice President Global Sales 12 Everyone's Talking About: The 2023 Business Travel People Awards ceremony
News 22 Business travel news, views,
appointments, events and Diary of a CTO
contents v8.indd 4
Departures 46 Reality Check: We review the business class flying experience with Virgin Atlantic and Delta Air Lines, and more 52 Meeting in Budapest: Six great venues that are helping to put Hungary's captivating capital on the map for
meetings and events 54 Final Word: The quirky side of travel, from futuristic puds to Karma Sutra hotel chairs
SWAP SCREEN TIME FOR FACE TIME
f 26% rsoofns 10+ pe
Discover GWR Group Travel by train at GWR.com/Group
GROUP SEATING ON SELECT SERVICES DEDICATED BOOKING TEAM
contents v8.indd 5
UP FRONT OPENING SHOTS
Eye-catching images of the latest news and developments
Named after the well known Cabanes Tchanquées, iconic wooden cabins perched upon stilts, the rooftop restaurant, Le Tchanqué, has views over the Garonne River and the city of Bordeaux”
Hotel Indigo, Bordeaux
With rooms and suites inspired by the Bassin d’Arcachon, its iconic Dune du Pilat and its renowned oyster huts, this design boutique hotel from IHG is in the Chartrons district of Bordeaux. Its rooftop restaurant, on the seventh floor, has panoramic city views. 6
Opening shots V10.indd 6
ECO HomETEL The latest opening from sustainable apartment group Lamington, the room2 Belfast runs on 100% electric and low carbon renewable energy and has 175 rooms across nine floors, a vibrant café, bar, elegant lounge and beautifully-designed tea room, alongside meeting and event spaces and a spacious gym.
Fusing art, design and hospitality within an historic Art Déco building, art’otel Zagreb pays hommage to the late Croatian painter and graphic designer Boris Bućan. The hotel has 110 guest rooms, a destination restaurant and bar, YEZI, four meeting spaces, a spa and an indoor pool. A rooftop bar is due to open in 2024.
Royal living In the former Bavarian State Bank headquarters and the adjacent Palais Neuhaus-Preysing, originally an aristocratic residence, Rosewood's first hotel in Germany has 73 spacious guestrooms and 59 suites, including five exclusive houses, one with a suspended glass bridge connecting its living areas. THEBUSINESSTRAVELMAG.com
Opening shots V10.indd 7
UP FRONT SPEAKING OUT
DATA OVERLOAD David Chappell, Chief Strategy Officer for TripStax, believes it’s time for a new approach to quality control because current systems aren’t up to the task
hen I was six years old I watched my father attempt to wash coffee from a duvet. Not a man much acquainted with laundry, it was a bizarre sight to see this goliath, as he was to me then, shoving some five square metres of 22-tog bedding into our tiny Hotpoint washing machine. I recall him physically kicking it into place, black boot on white cotton, until the final corner was eventually ensconced in the bulging drum. Once the cycle had started, I sat there on the kitchen floor before the straining machine and watched, bemused, as it rattled and danced in its spot. It is an enduring image from my childhood and one that for many years remained just that. And yet now, I am reminded of it almost every day as I look at how we, as an industry, gamefully attempt to shoehorn processes into systems that simply weren’t designed to accommodate them. That is not
to say that they are not functional but they, like the 4kg drum of that embattled brown and beige machine of my father’s, are both limited, and limiting. Quality Control [QC] is a prime example. It should come as no surprise to anyone remotely acquainted with agency operations that customers of TMCs expect a certain level of booking competence and data integrity from their partners. It is therefore, rightly, one of the biggest parts of the offering of many TMCs – that in every instance, on every booking, fares will be checked, rules applied, data collected and service levels met. And yet to do this, worldwide, we still rely on systems that only process data residing entirely within the GDS. Which means that if an agent wishes to QC every booking made for a customer, even those made outside of the GDS must be shoehorned back into the plain text world of PNRs, segments and remark lines. This has to change.
As the industry continues to disaggregate apace, it is folly to continue to kick the proverbial data duvet into place. To attempt to translate every booking, regardless of where it is made, into this machine is to perpetuate a nonsense that only makes sense because the workflows are anachronistic. Please do not misunderstand me, I am not anti-GDS. They are immensely efficient distributors. But in a world where bookings are now created in a multitude of systems, to then rely on a system that can only process PNRs is no longer scalable. QC processes and those associated with them, such as document production, need to be centralised outside of the GDS, on a more modern, API-first connected landscape. Booking data can then be received from any provider, in its original format, be processed, and then pushed to whichever system or workflow is required next, without significant translation or data loss. The possibilities for automation and subsequent efficiencies are myriad. Having a separate QC layer is the future. In doing this, agencies free themselves from the chains of having to put everything into a PNR, the so-called ‘GDS centricity’. This is turn allows them to be more more creative on the kinds of processes that can be put in place for any given customer. It also affords them commercial agility. Bringing in or changing a supplier need not be a challenge when the primary forms of check and balance are already defined, waiting simply for their connection. When my father returned and dragged the sodden duvet out of the wheezing machine, it is fair to say that the coffee had not so much been cleaned but rather distributed about the bedding. For all the effort involved, the machine simply wasn’t up to the task. He was disappointed with the output. I wonder whether there are agencies out there looking at their own systems and thinking the same.
David Chappell joined TripStax in June in the newly-created role of Chief Strategy Oﬃcer. He previously worked for Midoco Group, Fello Travel and spent four years as Head of Technology at Gray Dawes Group.
Speaking Out V5.indd 8
Meet our two new tech modules
On November 15th, we’re officially launching our two new cutting-edge modules – QC and Hotels.
Automate agent tasks with QC, our new quality control logic engine.
More than one million properties now bookable via the TripStax ecosystem.
tripstax.com | firstname.lastname@example.org
Vice President Global Sales, Virgin Atlantic
Luke Goggin, Virgin Atlantic’s new Vice President Global Sales, outlines the airline’s commitment to the corporate market
ince joining Virgin Atlantic, It’s been a whirlwind three months for Luke Goggin. He's been immersing himself in “Virgin Atlantic life”, spending “quality time” with the airline’s global sales team, sampling the in-flight experience of both Virgin Atlantic and joint venture partner Delta, and making his first visit to the infamous Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, enjoying a barista-made flat white, or two. “Before joining, the thing I was most excited by was the focus that Virgin Atlantic has on its people,” he says. “Lots of organisations say this but it’s been amazing to experience that Virgin Atlantic truly lives by that philosophy. It’s in everyone’s DNA, which makes it an amazing place to work.” Virgin Atlantic’s close relationship with Delta has meant Goggin has already clocked up some air miles making two trips to Delta's head office in Atlanta to get acquainted with the Delta leadership team. “Together we are 100% clear,” he explains. “We remain focused on the business travel industry. We will continue to invest our time and resources on this valuable channel and we will continue to work incredibly hard to build and maintain valuable partnerships right across the business travel ecosystem.” The two airlines are coming up to their 10th anniversary as JV partners next year and have more transatlantic flights than ever. Together they now fly 38 times a day between the UK and the US, including 11 flights a day between the UK and New York.
“Along with our friends at Delta, Air France and KLM, we now represent more than 25% of all transatlantic flying – and there’s more to come in 2024,” says Goggin. So, what is Virgin Atlantic’s strategy in the corporate market? “It’s an interesting time in the airline world,” says Goggin. “While some airlines are downsizing their engagement with the industry, we are doing the opposite and focusing in on our business travel partners and business customers. We’ve seen a strong business travel recovery that's been building all year and it seems that where we are now is looking like a new normal. Our customers tell us they’re upbeat about travel volumes for the fourth quarter and into 2024. “Across the board we see strong share from our key customers, which is a testament to our fantastic operational performance out of London Heathrow, our amazing new fleet, with an average age of just six and a half years.” Earlier this year saw the launch of Virgin Atlantic for Business. “Over the past 12 months, we’ve doubled the size of our
While some airlines are downsizing their engagement with the industry, we are doing the opposite and focusing in on our business travel partners”
corporate account team, upweighted our internal support teams and provided our partners with new tools and information to specifically support business travel,” he says. The airline has also established a Corporate Advisory Board, a collective of 15 corporate travel buyers, which connects quarterly to review and feedback on initiatives, "ensuring Virgin Atlantic stays focused on the issues that matters most to the sector". “I get my energy from people and really enjoy working with my team, our customers, and partners and all my stakeholders across Virgin Atlantic, Delta and our Joint Venture partners. My aim is to bring my own energy and focus to all of these relationships and do everything I can to help our teams and airline stay focused on our relationships across the business travel industry. We have such an amazing story to tell and I’m looking forward to working with all my contacts to bring that to life," says Goggin. “We are incredibly hungry to grow our market share and we come to work every day to make that happen. There is a great energy across the team.” This winter Virgin Atlantic launches routes to Dubai, The Maldives and Turks and Caicos, and in March 2024 it launches a new daily service to Bengaluru, its third destination and fourth daily service to India. “Bengaluru is a great addition to our network for our corporate customers, being the tech hub of India and one of the largest corporate markets in the country,” he says.
in brief... What are you priorities for the next few months? I have a number of important things to focus on. I’ll be dedicating my time to meeting our most important customers and partners, attending some industry events and spending some quality time with my global sales team at our annual sales conference in London. On November 28, Virgin Atlantic will operate the first 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) flight across the transatlantic. This is an industry first, and together with a host of aviation experts and the DFT, we will demonstrate that 100% SAF can be used safely within today’s existing infrastructure. I’m very excited by this. A huge amount of work going on with a consortium of industry and government partners to make the flight a reality, where we will be able to prove that if the UK can produce enough SAF, we can fly with it. It’s a big challenge but then Virgin Atlantic has been challenging the status quo for 40 years. What do you think will be your biggest challenges? I will challenge myself to continue to learn. It’s incredibly refreshing to be thinking about similar topics through a completely different lens and I’m really enjoying the stretch.
LUKE GOGGIN Luke Goggin joined Virgin Atlantic as Vice President Global Sales in August, taking over responsibility for the airline’s global sales performance, with direct accountability for all corporate and agency sales. Alongside joint venture partners Delta Air Lines, Air France and KLM, he is also tasked with exploring new revenue growth opportunities with SkyTeam.
“I’ve never been to India so I can’t wait to experience the culture and diversity and meet all our fantastic partners there. At the same time, we’re adding more capacity to our top business travel routes such as New York and Boston.” A new daily service to Brazil’s key hub, São Paulo, launches later in 2024, offering business travellers the opportunity to fly to South America “Virgin Atlantic style”. A partnership with LATAM opens 12 Brazilian gateways via São Paulo, giving even more choice and connectivity,” says Goggin.
And there are more new routes to come. “We’re always evolving both our product and our network, keeping our customers at the heart of all we do. There will be new news, and I’ll be back to share it when I can.” In the meantime, Goggin will continue to familiarise himself with the Virgin product. He's already grown attached to the Upper Class pyjamas. "I'm a big guy (6'2") and some airline PJs don't fit me very well, but the Virgin Atlantic PJs come in XL and were the perfect aid to a great night's sleep."
Window or aisle seat? Always window. I love to watch the London skyline when we come in on a westerly approach, especially at dusk as the lights come on across the city. The views all the way down the Thames are awe inspiring. What's your preference for in-flight entertainment? I prefer box sets that I can work through over multiple flights. Over the years I've completed Succession, Billions and at the moment I'm half way through the documentary about Dan Carter, the legendary All Blacks rugby player. If I want to relax, my guilty pleasure is a few episodes of Family Guy.
UP FRONT HOT TOPIC
Everyone's talking about the... Business Travel People Awards THE PEOPLE AWARDS ARE ONE OF MY FAVOURITE NIGHTS AS THEY HIGHLIGHT ALL THE AMAZING PEOPLE AND TALENT WE HAVE IN OUR INDUSTRY, AND THIS YEAR THEY WERE THE BIGGEST AND BEST YET
“SO MUCH AMAZING TALENT IN THE ROOM. WE ALREADY CAN'T WAIT UNTIL NEXT YEAR”
Katie Skitterall, Group Commercial Director, ATPI
"Wow, what a great event. Worth attending just to see the look on the winners’ faces, demonstrating how passionate they are about their work”
I felt so proud to see my name up on the big screen (twice!) with such amazing people. Since the nomination I’ve grown so much more, my confidence has been boosted and I’ve expanded my network, which makes it all worth it”
Ian Brooks, Partner & Co-founder, Gail Kenny Executive Recruitment
Sarah Maia, Media Relations Manager, Agiito
Lynne Griffiths, CEO, Sirius Talent Solutions
WINNING THE CHAIR’S AWARD MEANS THE ABSOLUTE WORLD. I CAN HONESTLY SAY THAT IT WAS ONE OF MY MOST VERY SPECIAL ‘LIFE MOMENTS’
Tiffany Casson, National Account Manager, Inntel
“Being voted Buyer of the Year means everything. It is fantastic recognition and something I will treasure forever. When my name was called I was in shock. I couldn’t believe it and I was totally lost for words” Adam Hickingbotham, Category Manager, AtkinRealis
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THE BUSINESS TRAVEL PEOPLE AWARDS
ABOVE AND BEYOND A big congratulations again to all of the worthy
winners of the 2023 Business Travel People Awards
ravel buyers, managers,
Travel Magazine, Kirsty Hicks, said: “What
companies and suppliers
so special is that they are about the people
arrangers, travel management
gathered in London in September for the prestigious Business Travel People Awards 2023.
makes the Business Travel People Awards in our industry. Our awards aren’t about companies, or brands.
"They’re about the individuals and teams
The awards, which have been running
who make the difference, whether they’re
achievements of individuals and teams
career, an accounts team going above and
for 12 years, recognise the incredible
working across all business travel sectors. Winners and runners up in the 15
categories were presented their awards at
a Rising Star who’s just starting out in their beyond, or the person who is making an
outstanding contribution to business travel. “Our awards are about the people in our
a joyous evening ceremony, with a
industry who make it what it is.”
dinner, held at the Grand Connaught
sponsors: JetBlue, Agiito, Direct ATPI,
Winners were chosen by an independent
Solutions, Virgin Atlantic and Delta Airlines.
champagne reception and three-course Rooms in London’s Covent Garden.
panel of 20 industry experts who studied
She also thanked this year’s awards
TripStax, Best Workplaces, Sirius Talent Entries for next year's Business Travel
dozens of detailed submissions, all of
People Awards will open in January 2024.
testimonials from clients and colleagues,
follow The Business Travel Magazine and
which included written or video
Go to thebusinesstravelmag.com and
plus other supporting evidence.
The Business Travel People Awards on
organiser and Publisher of The Business
and for details about next year’s awards.
Opening the ceremony, the awards
LinkedIn for more coverage and photos
2024 SAVE THE DATE The Business Travel People Awards 2024 will be held on September 17 at the Grand Connaught Rooms, London. Look out for details on thebusinesstravelmag com
THE 2023 WINNERS ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT TEAM OF THE YEAR
DUTY OF CARE CHAMPION
BUYER OF THE YEAR
ACCOUNT MANAGER OF THE YEAR
DIVERSITY, EQUITY AND INCLUSION CHAMPION
JetBlue UK Team
Lindsay Cook, Account Manager, Agiito Runner-up: Chris Culpin, Account
Christopher Ollerton, Supply Chain
Ready & Able Inclusion Group, American Express GBT
Director, Diversity Travel
MEETINGS & EVENTS TEAM OF THE YEAR
UK Events Team, TAG
Runner-up: Events Team, veSpace
Anna Snoep, Director of Operations,
Runner-up: Chris Truss, Reed & Mackay
TRAVEL TECHNOLOGY INNOVATOR
BUSINESS TRAVEL TEAM OF THE YEAR
Leadership Team, TripStax
Runner-up: The Advantage Global
PEOPLE MANAGER OF THE YEAR
Navan and Reed & Mackay
Business Travel Team, The Advantage Travel Partnership
Jack Ramsey, CEO, TripStax
Adam Hickingbotham, Category
TMC ABOVE AND BEYOND
Winner Leanne Fowler, Director of Account Management, Agiito
OUTSTANDING INDUSTRY CONTRIBUTION AWARD Suzanne Neufang, CEO, GBTA
Francesca Mendola, Director of Account Management, Global Travel Collection
Nikki Banks, Chief Marketing Officer, TripStax
Tiffany Casson, National Account Manager, Inntel
THE BUSINESS TRAVEL PEOPLE AWARDS
ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT TEAM OF THE YEAR JETBLUE UK TEAM With a mission to bring humanity back to air travel the ‘small but mighty’ team of four successfully launched JetBlue’s first UK routes. One client described them as a ‘breath of fresh air in the long-haul market’.
ACCOUNT MANAGER OF THE YEAR LINDSAY COOK, ACCOUNT MANAGER, AGIITO ‘Focused’, ‘go-getter’, ‘enthusiastic’ and ‘customer service personified’ were just some of the ways colleagues and clients praised Lindsay.
PHOTOS BY GLENN FOSTER
MEETINGS & EVENTS TEAM OF THE YEAR UK EVENTS TEAM, TAG TAG has grown its events team and placed more importance on client retention, relationship development and client care. Based on glowing testimonials from clients, the strategy has clearly paid off.
THE BUSINESS TRAVEL PEOPLE AWARDS
DUTY OF CARE CHAMPION CHRISTOPHER OLLERTON, SUPPLY CHAIN COORDINATOR, SYNERGY Chris identified a gap in the market to develop a web-based platform, SynergySMART, knocking down barriers to create one global standard inspection form, thus championing the entire industry to level-up its approach to duty of care, working remotely from his apartment in Valencia, Spain, with a new born baby.
BUSINESS TRAVEL TEAM OF THE YEAR NAVAN AND REED & MACKAY This award recognises how Navan’s engineers and Reed & Mackay’s consultants went beyond ‘business as usual’ to use their expertise to provide relief to hundreds of Ukrainian families in the middle of a humanitarian crisis with ‘compassion, efficiency and action’ at its core.
THE BUSINESS TRAVEL PEOPLE AWARDS
DIVERSITY, EQUITY AND INCLUSION CHAMPION READY & ABLE INCLUSION GROUP, AMERICAN EXPRESS GBT American Express GBT’s trailblazing and excellent initiative, Ready & Able, supports its colleagues and clients with disabilities, through a dedicated Zoom channel, a special help desk, regular feedback survey and more.
SUSTAINABILITY CHAMPION ANNA SNOEP, DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS, INNTEL
PHOTOS BY GLENN FOSTER
Anna has taken ownership of Inntel’s sustainability focus with a series of initiatives for the company and also for its clients, including ‘Travel Less; Travel Better’ and ‘Meet Less; Meet Better’ campaigns.
THE BUSINESS TRAVEL PEOPLE AWARDS
BUYER OF THE YEAR ADAM HICKINGBOTHAM, CATEGORY MANAGER, ATKINSRÉALIS Despite being thrown in at the deep-end to manage travel during Covid, Adam wasn’t fazed and found practical solutions to problems that have made a tangible difference, including a game-changing callback functionality to tackle long call waiting times and working with an airline supplier to include baggage in the online booking process, which drove in-policy bookings.
RISING STAR FRANCESCA MENDOLA, DIRECTOR OF ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT, GLOBAL TRAVEL COLLECTION Francesca demonstrated she is keen to be a business leader of the future and to make a difference. Her mantra – If you’re not growing, you’re dying – inspires Francesca’s desire to get a deep understanding of the entire business, seek innovations and drive to formulate and execute strategies to drive revenue growth.
TRAVEL TECHNOLOGY INNOVATOR LEADERSHIP TEAM, TRIPSTAX In just one year, TripStax has made a significant impact as a tech disruptor, challenging the industry’s historically complex tech integrations and transactional economics – and all with creativity and flair.
THE BUSINESS TRAVEL PEOPLE AWARDS
SHINING STAR NIKKI BANKS, CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER, TRIPSTAX Nikki has come into the industry as a complete outsider to launch a technology brand in a highlycompetitive and complex market. With a refreshing energy, creativity and passion, she has worked tirelessly to establish the TripStax brand, pushing the boundaries with her quirky ideas and always looking to create the ‘wow’ factor.
TMC ABOVE AND BEYOND LEANNE FOWLER, DIRECTOR OF ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT, AGIITO Described by those around her as ‘passionate’, ‘altruistic’ and ‘inspiring’, Leanne has a true passion for the business travel industry, Leanne is a forward-thinker and collaborator who is always looking for ways to bring people together for the greater good.
PHOTOS BY GLENN FOSTER
PEOPLE MANAGER OF THE YEAR JACK RAMSEY, CEO, TRIPSTAX Jack’s management style is inspirational, visionary and intuitive. He has created an environment where employees feel valued and know they can show their true personality in the workplace. He listens, puts people at ease, gives them freedom to thrive, makes them laugh and inspires them to do their absolute best.
THE BUSINESS TRAVEL PEOPLE AWARDS
CHAIR’S AWARD TIFFANY CASSON, NATIONAL ACCOUNT MANAGER, INNTEL Tiffany narrowly missed out on winning the award for DE&I Champion but was recognised for her incredible work to raise awareness of the strengths of neurodivergent individuals, inspired by her experience as a mother helping her daughter navigate neurodiversity.
OUTSTANDING INDUSTRY CONTRIBUTION AWARD SUZANNE NEUFANG, CEO GBTA Taking the helm of the GBTA at a challenging time, both for the industry and the organisation itself, didn’t faze Suzanne. As one of her cheerleaders put it: “Quite simply the GBTA and our industry needs a Suzanne – someone with an equal balance of IQ and EQ who can also play an ambassadorial role for our industry.”
THE NEWS REVIEW
O N L I N E
F O R
L A T E S T
N E W S
BTA MANIFESTO SEEKS TO SOLVE INDUSTRY PRESSURE POINTS
GBTA poll: travel budgets won't be cut THE LATEST GBTA Business Travel Outlook Poll has found 67% of travel buyers expect their travel budgets to increase (39%) or remain about the same (28%) next year. Only 14% of buyers report they are currently implementing a plan to limit business travel because of economic concerns. However, cost management was cited as a top strategic priority, with 62% of survey respondents emphasising its importance for their company’s business travel programme. Traveller safety (44%) and sustainability (37%) followed closely behind. When asked about their expenses for travel programme management, for example salaries and TMC fees, 48% of respondents said their company’s 2024 budget will increase signiﬁcantly or moderately year over year.
THE BTA has launched a Manifesto outlining a "strategic pathway to tackle industry pressure points and support the UK economy”. The Manifesto says traveller trust is being challenged by “outdated and abandoned infrastructure, such as the HS2 project, connectivity issues, poor sustainability commitments and a depleting workforce”. It calls for trade agreements to include new work visas and permits, an industry standard for carbon oﬀsetting and a strategic multi-modal transport strategy.
TRIPSTAX FORMS STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP WITH GRAPEVINE TRIPSTAX is continuing to scale up its tech proposition for TMCs after signing a strategic partnership with Grapevine, which identiﬁes TMC upselling opportunities. The agreement sees Grapevine become integrated via API with the TripStax ‘Core’, the central data-processing powerhouse that consumes and manages a TMC’s corporate client proﬁle, booking and ﬁnance data across each module in the TripStax eco-system.
[ NEWS BITES ] >> AMERICAN AIRLINES has introduced a new business loyalty programme which rewards both companies and their travellers and is designed to encourage direct bookings >> TRAVELODGE has opened the Travelodge Madrid Coslada Aeropuerto, its sixth hotel in Spain >> PARK PLAZA HOTELS has launched an online booking platform for meetings across the UK and Netherlands called Book. It. Easy >> UNTOLD STORY TRAVEL has launched a new corporate division, Untold Story Corporate, in response to the growing dedication by Boards to their teams’ wellbeing >> BRITISH AIRWAYS will restart year-round daily ﬂights to Abu Dhabi from April 20 following a four-year hiatus >> HOTELBEDS has unveiled a new group brand, HBX Group, to take the B2B travel technology company into its next phase >>
It also pushes for a new UK Global Business Travel Fund to encourage SMEs to travel to new trading partners and unlock new business deals across the world CEO Clive Wratten said: “Our industry should be recognised for its crucial role in the UK economy, and more must be done to improve the wider travel ecosystem. “We demand that the government recognise the value of business travel and work together with the industry to ensure we collectively champion the unique needs of business travellers.”
of meetings and events professionals feeling positive
A global survey by American Express GBT asked meetings and events professionals about the health of the industry and found 82% chose eight or higher on a scale of one to 10, compared to 77% last year and 71% the year before, largely driven by internal team meetings.
General News V18.indd 22
THE NEWS REVIEW
T H E B U S I N E S S T R A V E L M A G . C O M
B TA C O M M EBNTA T U P D AT E
Working in harmony
THE BUSINESS TRAVEL MAGAZINE WAS VOTED BEST TRAVEL TRADE PUBLICATION IN PRINT AT THIS YEAR'S PRESTIGIOUS TRAVEL MEDIA AWARDS. IT WON THE SAME AWARD LAST YEAR AND IN 2021 IT WAS VOTED BEST TRADE PUBLICATION ONLINE.
ON ITS HEAD
TMCs play a pivotal role as the vital conduit between airlines and corporate clients. Their services extend beyond what airlines can directly provide, ensuring a seamless experience for business travellers. Most importantly, when major disruptions occur, such as ﬂight cancellations, delays, or re-routings, TMCs step in to assist aﬀected passengers. Their expertise in rebooking, locating alternative ﬂights and managing last-minute changes are indispensable. The business travel market provides high-yield traﬃc for airlines. Business travellers typically pay premium fares due to their ﬂexible schedules and urgent travel needs. TMCs therefore serve as cost-eﬀective distribution channels for airlines, connecting them with this sought-after revenue stream. By eﬃciently managing the bookings and negotiations, TMCs are able to maximise revenue for both parties. The New Distribution Capability (NDC) standard, empowers TMCs to enhance their capabilities,
streamline processes, and deliver more eﬃcient services to their clients. By embracing NDCs, TMCs gain access to richer content, improve booking workﬂows, and oﬀer highly personalised travel experiences. In essence, NDC serves as a game-changer, enabling TMCs to elevate their service oﬀerings in an ever-evolving industry. The goal is to create a harmonious relationship among airlines, TMCs and buyers. Airlines recognise that TMCs bring immense value by handling administrative tasks, ensuring compliance with corporate policies, and providing 24/7 support. TMCs appreciate the airlines’ commitment to safety, reliability and route networks. Buyers beneﬁt from this collaboration by receiving comprehensive services that enhance the overall travel experience. Ultimately, TMCs are more than intermediaries. As NDC adoption continues to evolve, TMCs will play an ever more critical role in modernising the buying process and delivering exceptional customer experience.
A W A R D W I N N IN G
FIND OUT MORE
Clive Wratten Chief Executive Oﬃcer
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L A T E S T
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I T M C O M M EBNTA T U P D AT E
Stationery, cement or business travel? Many of us who care deeply about this wonderful industry are concerned about how we attract and retain talent going forward. At the recent ITM Autumn Conference around 500 people from a cross section of businesses in our industry gathered to collaborate and learn, so we seized the opportunity to see how they got here. We asked our delegates whether they had aspired or aimed to work in the business travel industry at the start of their careers. Conﬁrming something I have always believed, a sizeable three-quarters of our people said they never intended or dreamed of working in business travel. And yet here they are (I even wonder if some of our 25% of responders were in fact mis-remembering – it was just after lunch…). When asked to describe what made it special to work in this wonderful discipline, they prioritised words including fun, people, community and even sexy. Now, I’ve also often hypothesised that the stationery industry probably boasts with great
Scott Davies Chief Executive
regularity about what a fabulously sociable and raucous bunch they are, and that the cement business loves to tell itself how it knows how to party like no other tribe on Earth. But I can’t speak about them, and I don’t want to. It’s our industry that I’m proud to say I belong in. My own daughter has shown an interest in joining our line of work. But what should be the ﬁrst step on her path? Many young people will have to think about what roles Artiﬁcial Intelligence will change or replace in the medium term. It's not easy to imagine, as only 7% of our event attendees said they understood what AI was and what its role would be. Of course, we all need to play a part to PR our industry better. So, tell stories, be proud and help those starting out in work by giving them some suggestions as to how to sample and seize opportunities in business travel. It’s guaranteed to be fun, the people are truly awe-inspiring and it’s certainly never dull, is it?
Gen Zs most likely to extend business trips JUST UNDER eight in 10 business travellers say they have extended a business trip in the last year, according to research from American Express. Its Business Travel Trendex found 77% of business travellers extended their trip in order to work remotely from their travel location while 79% added on extra days for leisure travel. Gen Z workers were found to be signiﬁcantly more likely than their older counterparts to have extended a business trip in the past year to work remotely (87%) or for leisure (91%). Millennials (86%) are most likely to see the appeal of leveraging business trips as a cost-eﬀective way to travel. The Trendex was based on a poll of 1,007 business travellers, plus a survey of 501 business travel decision makers.
UK AIR FARES STABLISE BUT IN EUROPE THEY KEEP ON RISING UK AIR FARES have stabilised but prices in Europe continue to climb, according to the latest customer data from Travelperk. Analysis of booking data from its global customers in 2022 and 2023 found UK fares increased by just 1% year on year in the second quarter of this year. Data showed that prices for ﬂights departing from the UK, based on average booking value, stayed at around £540 from the
last quarter of 2022 until Q2 2023. This was a big improvement from Q3 2022, when the average airfare was £657, representing an increase of 127% year on year. In comparison, air fares in Europe are continuing to rise, with the price increases seen across Europe for the same period at 9%, and in particular, France (8%), Germany (11%) and Italy (43%). US air fares have risen by only 1% year on year, in line with the UK.
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IN BRIEF On track
Swiss International Air Lines and the Swiss Federal Railways have expanded their joint SWISS Air Rail network to now include Geneva Airport.
Navan has expanded its new expense management solution across Europe. The fintech’s new card-link technology enables businesses to use its expense management platform, Navan Expense, while working with existing bank and corporate card partners.
SITA and Fraport are enabling all airlines at Frankfurt Airport to jointly use face biometrics as identification from check-in to boarding the aircraft.
Play it safe
International SOS has developed an enhanced safe accommodation service, including 24/7 assistance, consulting services and a partnership with Safehotels.
Good Travel Management has become operationally carbon neutral after joining forces with audit, tax and consulting firm RSM to measure its carbon footprint.
Global travel tech specialist, Snowfall, has become a preferred technology provider to CT Partners, Australia’s largest network of independent agents.
Diary of a CTO I LOVE CHRISTMAS, but not for the same reason as most folk. For me, it means my phone rings less, fewer email pile up in my inbox and therefore I can crack on with what I love best: indulging in being a total tech geek in the peace and quiet of my shed. I do have just about enough selfawareness to realise systems development isn’t everyone’s idea of festive fun. So, although I am firmly in the Bah Humbug camp myself, I’m not Scrooge-like enough to make my UK team sweat over a hot PC instead of relaxing with their families. However, many of our programmers are in India. For them, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, indeed the whole Yuletide period, have no special significance. They have numerous festivals at other times of the year, which, for many, signify more importance than Christmas. So, while some people are nibbling on mince pies, sipping sherry and winding down, I’m flying to India at the beginning of December to help agree an intense work schedule for the next few weeks so we can hit the ground running with new releases, get ahead and start the new year with a bang, or should I say a “BOOM’. This does mean I will be ‘on call’ over Christmas, but that comes with the territory when you are a CTO, especially of a tech company, even one focused on business travel. Globally, there are roughly 100,000 flights every day and hotels continue to host guests, so there have to be travel service providers on standby for emergencies, including TMCs and the tech companies like ours that support them. Fortunately, incidents are rare. What is much more likely is that I will get a call from the team in India if they hit a
development roadblock or need a decision only I can make. I really don’t mind doing this. But I think carving out a big block of time off at Christmas is going to become more tricky for any company whose offering includes technology – which means pretty much every business involved in corporate travel. Why? Two letters: AI. The artificial intelligence revolution (and for once that’s not an overstatement) which has swept the world during 2023 means what used to take a year to develop can now be done in a month. That piles the
“I will be 'on call' over Christmas, but that comes with the territory when you're a CTO, especially of a tech company” pressure on businesses to be continuous and fast to market with innovation Before you put a worried call into Workaholics Anonymous on my behalf, on Christmas Day the Wylie family – me, the missus (yes, believe it or not, there is a lady prepared to tolerate me), the children and grandchildren – will all be celebrating in our Christmas jumpers. I will, no doubt, sneak off to my man cave occasionally, glass of Champagne in hand and antler headband wobbling on my head, to check if another urgent email has landed from colleagues in Mumbai, or at least that will be my excuse..
Scott Wylie Chief Technology Officer TripStax
THE NEWS REVIEW
T H E
M O V E
EVENTS NOVEMBER 14-16 2023
GBTA EUROPE CONFERENCE
YASMINE BRATT JOINS: TravelPerk AS: Chief Revenue Officer FROM: Ankorstore
JOINS: Wings Global Travel AS: Chief Operating Officer FROM: Reed & Mackay
Barcelona-based TravelPerk has appointed Yasmine Bratt to the new role of Chief Revenue Oﬃcer to head up sales and marketing and lead its go-to-market strategy.
Gary Povey, formerly Executive VP Global Sales at Reed & Mackay, has joined Londonbased Wings Global Travel as COO, reporting to Chief Executive Tony Soﬁanos.
MELANIE CATLING JOINS: Blacklane AS: VP Marketing FROM: Uber
DECEMBER 4 2023
Melanie Catling has become the new VP Marketing for chauﬀeur specialist Blacklane while Yun Ling, formerly of Lyft, has been appointed Head of Individual Customers.
THE BUSINESS TRAVEL DINNER CLUB Carlton Tower Jumeirah, London thebusinesstravelmag.com
DECEMBER 6 2023
ITM TRENDING SUMMIT ME London itm.org.uk
FEBRUARY 21 2024
BUSINESS TRAVEL LUNCH FORUM SERVICED ACCOMMODATION The Caledonian Club, London thebusinesstravelmag.com
FRANZISKUS BUMM PROMOTED AT: FCM Travel Solutions TO: European Network Leader FROM: General Manager Germany
JOINS: Conferma Pay AS: Chief Commercial Officer FROM: Mastercard
Franziskus Bumm, General Manager FCM Germany for more than ﬁve years, has been appointed European Network Leader. He has worked for the TMC since 2009.
Sonya Geelon, previously Senior Vice President UK & Ireland and Country Manager Ireland for Mastercard, has joined Conferma Pay as Chief Commercial Oﬃcer.
APRIL 11 2024
JOINS: Collinson AS: Chief Transformation Officer FROM: British Airways/oneworld Alliance
BUSINESS TRAVEL LUNCH FORUM
Following a secondment at the oneworld Alliance with British Airways, Rishi Kapoor has joined airport experiences group, Collinson, as Chief Transformation Oﬃcer.
The Caledonian Club, London thebusinesstravelmag.com
APRIL 24-25 2024
ITM CONFERENCE DoubleTree by Hilton Brighton Metropole itm.org.uk
ALSO ON THE MOVE... >> NAVAN, formerly TripActions, has promoted Michael Riegel to CEO EMEA. He previously served as General Manager Navan EMEA >> ACCOR has appointed Julie White as Chief Commercial Oﬃcer for Europe and North Africa for its Premium, Economy and Midscale division >> HABLO has named Greig White as Head of Travel Trade. He was previously at Loganair and before that Etihad >> CTM has named Allan Davidson as Senior Client Manager. He was formerly Global Head of Energy, Marine and Mining (EMM) at American Express Global Business Travel and before that Head of Energy and Marine Development at Hogg Robinson Group >> Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts has promoted Adrian Messerli to President, Hotel Operations - Europe, Middle East and Africa >>
JUNE 5 2024
BUSINESS TRAVEL LUNCH FORUM TRAVEL RISK MANAGEMENT The Caledonian Club, London thebusinesstravelmag.com
JULY 22-24 2024
GBTA CONVENTION Georgian World Congress Center, Atlanta convention.gbta.org
THE B USINESS T RAVEL RECRUIT MENT EXPERTS Contact us to discuss your recruitment needs
+44 (0)1932 562007 | email@example.com | www.siriustalent.co.uk Untitled-1 1
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BUSINESS TRAVEL PEOPLE AWARDS De Vere Grand Connaught Rooms, London thebusinesstravelmag.com
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The Business Travel Magazine
Guests are formally welcomed
The Business Travel Magazine welcomed 14 first-time guests to its October Dinner Club, held at The Dorchester. Buyers and TMCs joined representatives from the four event sponsors – South Western Railway, United Airlines, Premier Inn and SilverDoor – for a champagne reception and a three-course dinner, after which Mental Health Expert and MD Balancing Edges, Gavin Percy, gave an enlightening after-dinner talk.
The Dinner Club ▼
With thanks to the sponsors ▲ 3.8.2022
PHOTOS BY PHILL GAMMON
The Park Suite at The Dorchester
For more photos from the event visit thebusinesstravelmag.com
Dinner Club Oct v3.indd 27
boarding Airlines remain committed to the corporate market but the move to modern retailing and shifts in demand mean priorities, in some cases, are changing. Bev Fearis reports can find this cheaper if I go direct’, ‘I can do this better myself’, ‘Why do we have an agency?’, ‘Why do we have a booking tool?’, ‘Why do we have you?’ It keeps me and my team awake at night,” she told Cumbie.
Jones understands why airlines want to switch to modern retailing “everyone wants to make money, right?” but believes it just doesn’t work in the corporate space. “Treating the individual travellers as customers is fine on the leisure side but on the corporate side it’s us, the organisation, that’s the customer,” she argued. The main issue, of course, is the risk that frustrated travellers will book outside of the programme. “I can’t, in good conscience, let my travellers go and simply book direct because there’s a cost differentiation,” explained Jones. “I need to keep them contained. I can’t even temporarily let them out because getting them back will be like trying to put toothpaste back into the tube.” As airlines increasingly cosy up to their travelling employees, corporate travel buyers are naturally feeling left out, and the strong comeback in the leisure market isn’t helping. “We need you, maybe you don’t need us quite as much as you used to, but the leisure market will plateau and maybe drop off,” said Jones.
'm losing the will to live,” said an exasperated Sue Jones, Global Meetings and Travel Manager for Ingka Group, in a refreshingly frank panel discussion on New Distribution Capability at ITM's Autumn Conference. "We can’t find a way through right now. I feel like I’m doing a jigsaw puzzle where half the pieces are missing, the picture on the box is missing – and I’m trying to do it in the dark.” Based on the round of applause her comments evoked from the conference audience, it would appear she’s not alone. It’s been just over a year since American Airlines made the announcement about its bold shift in distribution strategy and many travel buyers are still struggling. Since April, American has removed up to 40% of its fares from traditional GDS channels and half of its indirect volume is now coming through NDC. “We’ve been really pleased with the results,” said Kyle Cumbie, American Airlines Director of Global Sales, also on the ITM panel. “We expect this figure will only increase through the end of this year and into 2024.” But it’s making life very difficult for Jones and her team. “Where you’re removing content from the channels we use – and we don’t really have an alternative right now – then every day my inbox is blown up by ‘I 28 THEBUSINESSTRAVELMAG.com
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Treating individual travellers as customers is fine on the leisure side but on the corporate side it's us, the organisation, that's the customer” THEBUSINESSTRAVELMAG.com
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Just because you have business travel volume it does not equal a preferred relationship, discounts or other benefits. This belongs to the past”
According to American Airlines’ own data, 35% of its revenue now comes from leisure traffic, 35% is blended and 30% is business travel. “Corporate travel is still very, very important to us but what’s interesting about that 30% is that the managed corporate volume is much less than it was and SMEs are growing significantly more, and to levels we’ve never seen before,” said Cumbie. “That’s what’s driving our strategy. It’s making sure that long-term we’re building out ecosystems, whether direct or indirect, that provide the traveller with the best experience.” Blended travel is emerging as a lucrative market. Back as far as April 2022, American Airlines Chief Commercial Officer, Vasu Raja, noted this trend. “Those blended trips in the system are coming in at yields that are at 75% to 85% of what were true business-only trips, but they are coming through lower cost-of-sale channels and off of negotiated discounts, so the net yields of them are very often the best things in the system,” he observed.
Airlines took a big hit during the pandemic, with industry-wide losses estimated to be close to $220 billion, so it’s not surprising they’re approaching things differently. “We need to start to be more rigorous about how we think about profitability and
how we sustain the business long term,” Cumbie told ITM members. Corporate buyers, even those in the biggest organisations, are having to come round to the reality that they might not have as much clout as pre-Covid. “Just because you have business travel volume it does not equal a preferred relationship, discounts or other benefits. This belongs to the past,” says Paul Tilstone, Managing Partner at Festive Road, who was in the conference audience. Instead, he believes the relationship will depend on other factors, such as an organisation’s business mix, its ability to ‘direct’ travel and whether it can consume content from multiple sources. “Airlines (and other suppliers) are being much more discerning about where they distribute their content, knowing where their business comes from and the importance they place on different types of travel. And not all corporate travel is equal. “It’s no good just saying ‘We achieved 20% discount off market rates in 2019 so we should be hitting that again in 2024’. The world has changed," he warns. While shifts in leisure and business demand will always be subject to economic cycles, Tilstone believes there’s something more permanent about the air volumes of enterprise travel programmes being broadly down as organisations look to cut the time, cost and carbon impact of their travel.
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your terms Onboard, you’ll find everything you need to relax, recharge, or carry on working – from superfast WiFi to lie-flat suites, and warm, welcoming service that’s designed around you. Bespoke, flexible and brilliantly different. It’s business that’s personal.
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“I’m sure business travel will be back in fashion with the airlines someday, but whether they see the existing corporate travel management ecosystem as the route to that demand or whether they will place different values on different channels remains to be seen,” he observes. David Oppenheim, Director Global Sales for British Airways, sat on the same ITM panel alongside his Oneworld partner and told members that while BA’s leisure business has grown “tremendously” business traffic is “meaningfully below what it was”. Changing dynamics means the gap between what a leisure and a business passenger pays is narrowing, he explained. Speaking after the conference, he insisted the corporate market was still important to BA and acknowledged that for many ‘highvalue’ travellers, it’s their relationship with an airline as a business traveller that drives their decisions for leisure travel, largely down to the power of loyalty programmes.
While corporates might be tightening their business travel budgets, they still give their airline partners access to a potentially lucrative travel ‘tribe’, pointed out Jan Jacobsen, Global Procurement Director Travel & Mobility at Accenture, in the lively ITM debate. In his case, that’s a tribe of 740,000 employees who will likely become loyal to an airline they use for their business trips and then book with them for their city breaks or family holidays. Jacobsen and team share promotions and marketing on behalf of the airlines and believe this should be accounted for in RFPs and strategic negotiations. Membership of airline loyalty schemes remain a key driver. “The tension between traveller loyalty to airlines and a corporate programme’s need for compliance has existed for many decades,” says ITM CEO Scott Davies. “The recent evolution of airline retailing represents another chapter in this intense love triangle! Is someone’s heart going to get broken? Only time will tell.” Guy Snelgar, Global Business Travel Director for Advantage Travel Partnership, believes the influence of points and rewards might be waning. “Loyalty schemes are king and always have been for the corporate traveller. However, many of our member
TMCs report that they feel some airlines schemes are becoming more restrictive and the corporate travellers are noticing this.”
Representatives from the TMC community were noticeably missing from the infamous ITM NDC debate, but are crucial players. Their NDC readiness varies significantly and will have a big impact on the experience of their corporate clients. But Snelgar believes things are moving in the right direction. “While this was a potential problem early on, when technology did not always deliver NDC fare options, as this new content begins to appear through the GDS it will become business as usual more and more.” Andrew Clarke, Commercial Director for the BTA, reports that the feeling among TMCs towards the shift to NDC is mixed. "Some acknowledge that airlines may look to shift away from a corporate market focus. Others disagree," he says. Some hopeful TMCs don’t expect other airlines to follow suit on NDC, believing that as leisure volume starts to reduce, they will refocus on the business travel market.
Corporate buyers, even in the biggest organisations, are having to come round to the reality that they might not have as much clout as pre-Covid”
Virgin Atlantic showed its commitment to the corporate market earlier this year when it launched Virgin Atlantic for Business, based on 18 months of research.
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TWO HUNDRED REASONS TO
CROSS THE ATLANTIC. Explore more than 200 destinations across the U.S. with Delta and Virgin Atlantic.
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Virgin Atlantic showed its commitment to the corporate market last year when it launched Virgin Atlantic for Business, based on 18 months of research”
Air New Zealand
Covering all bases, it's aimed at business travellers, travel managers and TMCs, giving them a suite of marketing assets, tools and support. For TMCs, it also runs the Sky High Club, rewarding front line agents for every Virgin Atlantic flight booked with retail vouchers and access to exclusive events and experiences. While American Airlines has scaled back its UK presence, Virgin has doubled the size of its corporate account team and bolstered its support teams for business travel, working closely with its Joint Venture partner, Delta Air Lines. The two celebrate their 10th anniversary next year. "Together we are 100% clear. We remain focused on the business travel industry, we will continue to invest our time and resources on this valuable channel, and we will continue to work incredibly hard to build and maintain valuable partnerships right across the business travel ecosystem," says Luke Goggin, its new Vice President Global Sales (see page 10). Here’s an update on the latest air travel developments aimed at business travellers:
the world's first sleep pods in the sky for Economy travellers. Skynest offers a lie-flat "rest experience" through a standalone monument comprising six bunks. In 2024 Air New Zealand will be adding two new ATR72-600 turboprop aircraft and two new Airbus A32 aircraft into its fleet, adding 768,000 seats per year. It has also redesigned its premium check-in area at Auckland airport, now featuring concierge services and self-serve kiosks.
Air New Zealand
Air New Zealand won ‘Gold’ in this year’s Cabin Concept of the Year Award (run by our sister magazine, Onboard Hospitality) for its new B787 aircraft’s FACE programme (Future Aircraft Cabin Experience). Air New Zealand's new Dreamliners, due to arrive in 2024, will feature a new Business Premier Luxe seat, designed for customers looking for more space and privacy, and Skynest –
Virgin Atlantic, which won Silver in the 2023 Cabin Concept awards, has completed the rollout of its new-look A330-neo cabins. These feature two upgraded front row Upper Class Suites, known as the Retreat Suites, and a social space at door two, known as The Loft. Each Retreat Suite allows up to four people to socialise in their own private suite. There is wireless charging in Upper Class, the social space (The Loft) and in the Premium cabin too. This autumn Virgin has resumed flights from London Heathrow to Dubai, operating four times a week, and in May 2024 it will launch a direct route to São Paulo, Brazil, plus ManchesterLas Vegas. In March, Virgin Atlantic joined SkyTeam as the first and only UK member airline. Through SkyTeam and with its JV partner, Delta, Virgin Atlantic now offers seamless connections across 1,000 destinations in over 170 countries.
Delta Air Lines Delta Air Lines
Delta One Suites – each with individual privacy door, aisle access and fully flat-bed seats – are coming to more transatlantic
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The tension between traveller loyalty to airlines and a corporate programme's need for compliance has existed for many decades”
routes, including Heathrow to Los Angeles. Delta Premium Select, which offers more spacious seats in a dedicated cabin, is now on almost all transatlantic routes. Free Wi-Fi is now available for SkyMiles members on most domestic mainline flights and will be available globally by the end of 2024. Delta has also rolled out Delta Sync, which features smart TV features unlocked by SkyMiles Membership on select Airbus A321ceo aircraft. Its SkyMiles loyalty programme has also been updated to improve accessibility, flexibility and rewards. The fifth and final Delta Sky Club has opened in Newark Terminal A, with elevated views of the airfield. Delta lounges have also opened at JFK and at LaGuardia on Delta’s new Terminal C facility.
Etihad Etihad has added multiple new routes to its network this year, including Abu Dhabi to Osaka, Boston and Kolkata. Next May it will begin daily flights to Nairobi. In October it welcomed a new Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner to its fleet. Earlier this year the airline boosted its in-flight connectivity by offering new Wi-Fly ‘Chat’ and ‘Surf’ packages on its wide-body fleet. Every passenger will get complimentary in-flight ‘Chat’ messaging with access to popular messaging apps like WhatsApp, Messenger, WeChat and more. At Abu Dhabi International’s new Terminal A, passengers in premium cabins can use kerbside drop-off outside of the First and Business class exclusive check-in area, with porters on hand to assist with luggage.
United Airlines United has enhanced its Bluetooth connectivity with new wireless headphone capabilities and debuted wireless charging. Two new United Clubs have opened at Denver International Airport, including its largest site yet. The lounge will feature graband-go food and drink, a bar showcasing premium local and craft beers, and more capacity. A new digital filter on united.com shows which aircraft can accommodate different sized wheelchairs and Braille has been added to cabin interiors. United has also reintroduced daily flights to Shanghai and added more South Pacific flights.
JetBlue JetBlue launches seasonal daily flights from Dublin to JFK and Boston on March 13 2024 and flights from Edinburgh to JFK on May 22. Earlier this year it upgraded its loyalty
scheme, Mosaic, to allow members to customise their rewards. Depending on the level, rewards include Heathrow Express upgrades, early boarding, fast-track security, upgrades to Mint class, or helicopter transfers from JFK or Newark to Manhattan.
Air France In early 2023 Air France launched a new long-haul cabin concept on its B777-300 ER aircraft. New features include bigger seats with 124-degree recline in Premium, and ergonomically-designed, reinforced seatbacks in Economy. Customers in all cabins can access Air France Connect to send and receive messages and see information about flight connections for free. Paid-for options are also available. In October it began a daily service between Paris Charles de Gaulle and Abu Dhabi, operated by Airbus A350-900. It has also recently reopened its fully-refurbished
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lounge at San Francisco airport, complete with free Wi-Fi, showers and a buffet.
IBeria Iberia’s new fleet of A350 Next aircraft features a Business Class with lie-flat seats, aisle access and sliding doors to provide full privacy. The airline continues to reinforce its commitment to Latin America, with more flights to Peru and Venezuela. Furthermore, Iberia has joined forces with Qatar Airways and British Airways to offer increased connectivity for travellers. As part of the agreement, Iberia will add a new daily service from its Madrid hub to Hamad International Airport from December 2023.
KLM KLM’s new Premium Comfort Class, unveiled in August 2023, has improved space, privacy and other added comforts, including a business travel ad_02_final.pdf 1 17/10/2023
premium F&B offer, amenities, premium baggage allowance and airport privileges. New KLM Crown Lounges have opened at Toronto and Houston airports, both offering complimentary Wi-Fi, work areas and hot and cold buffets.
British Airways Three new routes to India have been added from Heathrow and the airline has restarted flights to Beijing. BA also launched thriceweekly services from Heathrow to Riga and Belgrade, as well as a 12-times weekly service to Cologne. BA’s Whispering Angel rosé bar has opened at Heathrow Terminal 5, and a refresh of its Club Lounge at Heathrow Terminal 5B brings a live food preparation area with new seasonal menu, fresh interior and a ‘quiet zone’. The airline has changed its Avios rewards programme so that customers will earn points based on the amount paid rather than distance 5:28 PM
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travelled. Travellers can also now collect Avios points on ancillary purchases.
Singapore Airlines Singapore Airlines has rolled out free unlimited Wi-Fi for all Business class passengers, PPS club members and PPS Club supplementary card holders. KrisFlyer members can expect free three-hour Wi-Fi plans when travelling in Premium Economy and two-hour plans in Economy class. The service has since been extended to all cabin classes. Singapore Airlines has also ramped up its services to destinations across its network and rolled out a baggage collection service at Heathrow Terminal 2.
Emirates Emirates has unveiled the Emirates Inflight Meal Preordering Service across 92 routes
globally, with 30 new routes including Riyadh, Jeddah, Delhi, Mumbai and Kuala Lumpur. The new service allows passengers in Business to pre-select their main course between 14 days and 24 hours in advance of departure. Emirates has also extended its Premium Economy offering to Sao Paulo, Tokyo Narita and India. A third daily flight has been added to Hong Kong.
Lufthansa Lufthansa has introduced a new Suite Plus private cabin in First class, a separate double cabin with ceiling-high walls and an entirely closable door. In Business class, travellers in the first rows can enjoy extended personal space, with a wardrobe and personal minibar. The First-Class Suite Plus will be introduced in 2024 on new Airbus A350s. Lufthansa has also expanded its selection of pre-orderable main courses in Business class on long-haul flights.
Some TMCs don't expect other airlines to follow suit on NDC, believing that as leisure volumes start to reduce, they will refocus on the business travel market”
Qantas has unveiled the cabin concept of its specially-designed Airbus A350s that will fly direct from Sydney to New York and London from late 2025. First and Business class features a personal wardrobe, extra-wide fixed bed, cushioned leather ottoman and a large dining table. A new Wellbeing Zone sits between the Premium Economy and Economy with sculpted wall panels, integrated stretch handles, a guided on-screen exercise programme, a hydration station and refreshments.
Additional research and reporting by April Waterston and Sheena Adesilu
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breath of fresh air We check in with Maja Gedosev, General Manager Europe for JetBlue Airways
are looking to keep their costs down but without compromising on the quality of products and services. On average, our Economy fares are 20%30% lower than other airlines operating on our transatlantic routes and in our Mint cabin fares can be as much as 50% less, but we are still a full-service carrier.
How is JetBlue working with the UK corporate market?
Our UK team, which was voted Account Management Team of the Year at the 2023 Business Travel People Awards, works closely with TMCs and with travel buyers. We invite them to personally try the product, often flying them to Boston or New York on a fam trip. By seeing our product first hand, they realise that we’re not a low-cost carrier but a high-value carrier with a full service. When their travellers fly with us, we support them through the whole experience, from booking to pre-flight to post-flight. We have been described by our corporate partners as a ‘breath of fresh air’ in the long-haul market.
How are you meeting the needs of business travellers?
What flights do JetBlue operate from the UK/Europe and what's in the pipeline? We fly daily from London Gatwick to Boston and New York JFK, daily from Heathrow to Boston, and operate a twice-daily flight from Heathrow to JFK, so that's a total of five daily flights between the UK and the US. From Paris we have a daily service to JFK, which will go twice daily from June 2024. In April 2024 we will also add a daily service from Paris to Boston. From Amsterdam we fly daily to both destinations. In March 2024 we will launch seasonal daily services from Dublin to both Boston and New York and in May next year we will also start flying daily from Edinburgh to JFK for the summer season. All of these services will be well connected with our very strong domestic network
The corporate market is extremely important to us and is becoming even more relevant as organisations look for high value, low fares” across the US and also to our extensive Latin American and Caribbean networks.
How important is the corporate market to JetBlue?
The corporate market is extremely important to us and is becoming even more relevant as organisations look for high value, low fares, which is the JetBlue proposition. Corporates today, whether SMEs or larger companies,
At JetBlue we do things differently. For example, our in-flight meals aren’t ‘chicken or beef’. Instead we give our passengers the opportunity to select their mains and sides from menus created by their favourite US restaurants. We have free Wi-Fi on board, which actually works, even when you’re flying over the ocean. In fact, we were the first airline to introduce free Wi-Fi back in 2013. We don’t have airport lounges but that’s because we know our business customers want to move quickly through airports. At Heathrow Terminal 2, for example, we're in A gates, which means passengers can go from security to the gate in less than two minutes. In addition, we offer security FastTrack for our Mint guests and for our Mosaic customers, which is the highest tier of our TrueBlue loyalty programme. We also include FastTrack in our ‘Even More Space’ fares, which gives extra legroom, and with our highest Ecomony fares. Our Mosaic members can also customise benefits to meet their needs, including our hugely popular helicopter transfers at JFK, which get you into Manhattan in minutes rather than two hours by car.
Opening doors As car rental giant Sixt becomes a key investor in Blacklane, we speak to the chauffeur specialist’s CEO and Co-Founder, Dr. Jens Wohltorf
What does the Sixt investment mean for Blacklane and its corporate customers?
The second closing of our series F funding, which was led by Sixt – and in the first round by Mercedes Benz Mobility and Gargash Group – will allow us to finance new products, new technology, expand our local markets and our City to City products. More importantly, there are strategic benefits. Through its app and its other channels, Sixt will be able to offer our chauffeur services as an alternative to rental cars and other kinds of transport, giving us new sales and distribution channels, both B2B and B2C. Sixt also has a strong presence in airports around the world and there are opportunities to join forces here.
Where is the initial focus?
North America is the largest and fastest growing market for both companies and this is where we’ll start integrating our inventory and marketing it together. Once we have seamlessly and smoothly integrated, we will 40 THEBUSINESSTRAVELMAG.com
Black Lane V7.indd 40
Sixt will be able to offer our chauffeur services as an alternative to rental cars and other kinds of transport, giving us new sales and distribution channels” look to grow in this market. The market size for premium chauffeur services here is huge – 10s of billions of dollars – and although I don’t know of any other global chauffeur service of our size, we are still relatively small in this highly-fragmented market, so there is lots of room for growth. We have also identified the Middle East as a key growth market and we are already using the UAE as a test bed for new innovations. We have fully electrified our rides in Dubai and earlier this year we opened our first Chauffeur Academy here to train drivers. In Dubai we offer four options – airport transfers, City to City routes
(mainly Dubai-Abu Dhabi), hour leasing services and most recently we have added in-city, on demand mobility options, where drivers will arrive in less than 10 minutes.
What are your plans for the UK and European markets?
The UK is the second largest country market for Blacklane after the US and twice as big as Germany. Airport transfers are very strong in the UK and we are now focusing our sales and marketing efforts on our City to City routes. The beauty of building up these routes is that vehicles never drive empty, which helps us make prices more attractive and improve sustainability. In many cases, these City to City routes challenge that last leg short-haul flights, providing a more sustainable and less stressful alternative where travellers aren’t running through the airport to make connecting flights, and they can also be more reliable than trains too. We recently opened a Chauffeur Academy in London and we also plan to introduce our on-demand, in-city services in both London and Paris. We’ve built up a strong UK sales team, which will continue to grow our market share among our customer base, which includes corporates, SMEs, TMCs and airlines.
What technology enhancements are you planning?
For our customers, we will be looking to develop technology to simplify the booking process. We will continue to learn how certain cities and routes behave to add more certainty to our customers. At the back end, we will be working on technology to help better utilise our capacity, avoiding downtime and being better prepared for unforeseen outside influences.
You have ambitious sustainability goals. Are you on track?
We have led the way with carbon offsetting, offsetting all rides back to our inception in 2011. Meanwhile, we are committed to electrifying our rides. In the UK and other leading cities more than 25% of our rides are already in electric vehicles and in two years we aim for this to be at least 75%. In Dubai, we're already 100% electric. Our partnerships with Sixt and Mercedes-Benz Mobility means our chauffeurs will have access to deals on new cars, helping them to replace their combustion cars with electric vehicles.
Find out more firstname.lastname@example.org
taxis and transfers
safety Travellers should be protected at all stages of a work trip, so are you paying close enough attention to who's driving them around, asks Bev Fearis
e have experts there who will spend an hour talking to our drivers about how to open a door for a passenger – no kidding,” says Blacklane CEO and Co-Founder, Dr Jens Wohltorf, referring to the training academy the chauffeur specialist opened in London earlier this year. Course modules teach the art of chauffeur driving down to the finest detail, from how to dress and keep cars pristinely clean to how to accelerate or brake more smoothly. “But, crucially, our drivers also learn how to read the state of their guests’ minds. They need to recognise if their guest is in the mood to be chatty, or if they’re going to
an important meeting and need some quiet time to focus, or perhaps to prepare themselves for a meeting they’re feeling anxious about. Our drivers must learn emotional intelligence,” explains Wohltorf. Indeed, it’s difficult to think of any other element of a business trip where your travellers are in such close proximity to the person responsible for their wellbeing and safety. Whether they’re going to the airport or to a meeting, or being driven home, exhausted, after a long-haul flight, your travellers will be in the company of, and in the hands of, one person who can have a major impact on their welfare. “Our drivers will live and breathe every moment of their guests’ experience, from the moment they greet them and open the door,” says Wohltorf. “Passengers might want to listen to music or they might not, they might want to chat about a successful meeting or make a private call. Our drivers need to be able to adapt to all of these scenarios.” A report by mobility app FREENOW concluded that taxi drivers, particularly during the Covid pandemic, have become “unsung therapists” for communities. Its research, published as the pandemic lockdowns eased, showed that 20% of Brits have shared their personal struggles with their driver and at least 68% of drivers said
they have had a passenger bring up their mental health during a ride.
Lack of control
So, with drivers having so much responsibility, why do so many organisations fail to make taxis and transfers part of their travel programme or policy, instead leaving it to their employees to book and pay for their own journeys, often with local operators that neither side know anything about? “While organisations are careful to vet hotels and manage their travellers’ flying experience, often travellers are left to their own devices to organise the first or last part of their trip," says Carolyn Pearson, Founder and CEO of travel safety specialist Maiden Voyage. "Whilst they are in control of how they do that, the company still has to comply with its duty of care obligations.” She shares the experience of one female business traveller who used a local mini-cab
Taxis and Transfer V13.indd 42
taxis and transfers
third of business travellers fail to inform anyone of their transportation details. CMAC’s research found reduced availability means travellers are often resorting to less reputable or unverified transport options. “While cost-effective options may exist, compromising on safety measures can expose employees to unnecessary risks. Emphasising the importance of safety in taxi selection should be a key consideration for businesses to fulfil their duty of care,” says the study.
firm and was made to feel uncomfortable as drivers would ask her if she lived alone or why she was unmarried "at her age". “Other travellers have told us they will book a local taxi pick-up a short distance from their home because they have heard stories of houses being burgled as a result of mini-cab drivers knowing that the house was being left unoccupied," says Pearson. “There’s additional risk of whether or not the car will arrive on time or whether the driver will cancel the ride at the last minute, creating immense stress for those who have onwards trains and planes to catch.” Among those corporates who already include ground transport in their travel programme, traveller safety and duty of care are the number one priority, according to a survey by the GBTA and FREENOW For Business. Their survey of 200 European travel managers found 68% said traveller safety was the top priority, followed by policy
It's difficult to think of any other element of a business trip where your travellers are in such close proximity to the person responsible for their wellbeing and safety” enforcement (51%) and cost savings (50%). But according to a recent survey by ground transport specialist CMAC Group, 50% of business travellers independently source their own taxis and 46% use local private hire companies or taxi ranks, often without the review or guidance of their organisation. They survey also found 76% are travelling alone more than 75% of the time and a
Travel safety expert Pearson says a road traffic incident or accident presents the biggest risk to business travellers. “Aside from doing all you can to procure the best and safest services, it’s also vital to drill your business travellers to mitigate risk along the way,” she says. “Basic travel safety training should include things such as ensuring that passengers correctly identify their driver, using an alternative to having their name displayed on placards in public places." She also advises business travellers to do a visual inspection of vehicle and driver, to make sure that both look safe. “If a driver looks to be exhausted, intoxicated, or under the influence of any substance, or is remarking on having been driving for a long period of time without a break, travellers should avoid getting into the vehicle,” she recommends.
Taxis and Transfer V13.indd 43
taXIs aND tRaNsfeRs
“It’s also prudent to take a photograph of the number plate and share the journey with a colleague or loved one, if anything at all has made the traveller nervous about their personal safety.”
Recognising the specific needs of business passengers, earlier this year ride-hail giant uber introduced a new product tier for its dedicated product, uber for Business. Promising a ‘business-class experience’, Business Comfort gives business users additional benefits, such as priority pick-up from the highest rated and most reliable drivers, and in the most spacious and comfortable cars.
“We knew we had competition from the specialists so we had to do something that would really work for our business customers, who want more reliability, a high-rated driver, and a safe ride in a more spacious car,” says Susan Anderson, Global head of uber for Business. Business Comfort also offers customers preferences, such as requesting a quiet car or at a certain temperature, and gives them access to a 24/7 support service.
While organisations are careful to vet hotels and manage their travellers' ﬂying experience, often travellers are left to their own devices to organise the ﬁrst and last part of their trip”
One of the major obstacles to including taxis and transfers in a travel programme has been the fragmentation of the market, which means many travel managers simply don’t know where to start. But the emergence of tech solutions is helping to make it easier. Start-ups like Jyrney are making in-roads with TMCs, OBTs and GdSs, consolidating bookings for taxi, ride-hail and chauffeur rides on its platform. Mobility iQ from The Miles Consultancy is a 'super app' which aggregates multimobility suppliers into one solution. Meanwhile, the recent investment by car rental giant Sixt into Blacklane will mean its chauffeur services will be added to the Sixt app alongside other forms of transport. With the Sixt funding – and its bolstered sales team – Blacklane is primed to capture more of the uk corporate market (see page 40).
Taxis and Transfer V13.indd 44
NEW REPORT ON THE EVOLUTION OF GROUND TRANSPORTATION.
Reality check FLI GHT : DELTA AI R LI N E S, D E LTA O N E , HE AT HRO W-N E W YO RK J FK I flew on a B767-400
kindly hung my jacket in the wardrobe
aircraft from Heathrow Terminal 3,
and then helped us take the obligatory
leaving at the very civilised time of
photos, Champagne in hand!
11:15 and arriving into JFK at 14:25. One
The Delta One cabin has
of the benefits of the Delta Air Lines/
nine rows of leather padded 'suites' in a
Virgin Atlantic Joint Venture is that,
1-2-1 configuration, cleverly staggered
whichever airline you're flying with, you
for additional privacy. I was in 2C, one
can make use of all the Virgin facilities
of the central seats of two, which was
at Heathrow, including its Upper-Class
perfect for chatting over dinner with a
Wing for VIP, super speedy check-in and
colleaugue, but when it was time to
its legendary Club House.
sleep there's a pull-up privacy divider.
It was my first time
With one button, my seat went from
at the Upper-Class Wing but thankfully
upright into fully-reclined, with plenty of
my Blacklane driver knew it well. It's a
room to stretch out. The duvet was so
world away from the usual airport
soft I wanted to keep it. A side table was
check-in chaos and more like the lobby
great for storage and a large tray table
chip cookie snack). By the time I woke
of a luxury hotel, with relaxed seating
slides out, with plenty of room for a
up, there was time for one more
and posh loos. I was checked in with a
laptop. My amenity kit had an eye mask,
documentary, with the effective noise
smile and directed to a private security
Humble Co. bamboo toothbrush and
cancellation headsets, before pre-arrival
lane, and within minutes I was gliding
toothpaste, and Grown Alchemist lip
'tea' was served. Still full of sugar, I
balm and lotion. The bag and eye mask
managed to resist the afternoon tea of
are made by Mexico-based eco-friendly
fruit scones, jam and clotted cream and
brand, Someone Somewhere, which
opted for the ploughman's – a plate of
preserves artisan traditions and
roast beef, beef bresola and an array of
empowers the artisans.
cheeses with fruit, fig relish and rye
Post take-off drinks – for
me a perfectly-chilled glass of Gavi – were served with warm nuts. For lunch I enjoyed creamy corn soup and croutons followed by chicken tikka
I WAS ACTUALLY DISAPPOINTED WHEN WE LANDED AN HOUR AHEAD OF SCHEDULE
bread. It was all very fresh and tasty and washed down with a hot cup of tea. THE VERDICT
As a pretty frequent
traveller, it's not very often that I wish a flight was longer, but on this occasion I
masala with basmati rice and paratha
actually felt disappointed when we
bread, all served to me by the efficient
landed in New York an hour ahead of
up the black marble staircase to the
and charming crew. I saved room for
schedule. With such a wide choice of TV,
Club House. It's changed since I was last
pudding and treated myself to the ice
movies and documentaries to keep me
there – the hair salon and spa have
cream sundae from the dessert trolley,
entertained, a super comfy seat (when
been replaced with Peloton bikes (with
with all of the toppings – whipped
upright and when flat) and such well-
fabulous runway views) – but the
cream, chocolate fudge sauce and
excuted meals and refreshments, I
midcentury modern style hasn't dated
biscotti. Tummy full, I put my suite into
could have easily enjoyed a few more
at all. I joined colleagues at a table in
the sleep position, snuggled into my
hours. It was also a real treat to
the Brasserie, where we used the QR
oversized pillow and dozed for a few
experience a dose of Virgin Atlantic
code to order breakfast. My Eggs Royale
hours (and missed the mid-flight choc
glamour at the Club House and the
were perfecly cooked and then I helped
dedicated check-in in the Upper Class
myself to more smoked salmon (and a
Wing. Sadly I was brought right back
few choc chip cookies) from the self-
down to earth with a bang when I had
serve buffet. The delicious Mockingbird
to join the ridiculously long, snaking
smoothies – Raw Defence or Raw Boost
immigration queue at JFK, during which
– were a highlight. The lounge has
I made a mental note to get Global
plenty of seating, workstations and an
Entry before my next US trip (it gets you
outside deck with airfield views. It's the
through immigration quicker).
only lounge at Heathrow to have one. THE BOARDING
The flight was
Delta One return
flights start from £1,989, available for
called at 10:15 and it was a short walk
selected departures and are subject to
to the gate. Boarding was super easy
change. Thanks to the Virgin/Delta JV,
and we pulled away on time, with just
fares are jointly filed, which means they
enough time to finish our welcome
can be booked on either airline's flights.
glass of Champagne. The friendly crew
Reality Check Delta-Virgin V4.indd 46
FLI GHT : VI RGI N AT L AN T I C UPPE R C L ASS, N E W YO RK J FK-HE AT HRO W THE FLIGHT
much sleep as possible on this seven-
With Virgin Atlantic's
40th anniversary coming up in 2024, I
hour flight, the crew set my bed up
flew on the aptly-named ‘Ruby Slipper’,
before take-off so I could quickly recline
an A350-1000 aircraft. It was the final
into a 6ft 7" long fully-flat bed and
flight of the day out of JFK, due to leave
snuggle down for the night. In the
at 23:00, and although we took off over
morning there's an option of an express
an hour late, we made up some time
breakfast of warm bacon roll or
and arrived at Heathrow just a bit
chocolate pastry. Instead I choose to
behind schedule the following morning.
‘build my own’ breakfast, combining an
American breakfast of buttermilk
The private Upper
Class check-in area, which is shared
pancakes and maple syrup with fresh
with Delta Air Lines' Delta One
mango wedges with sea salt and mint,
passengers, was completely empty so
along with a coconut yogurt with
we checked in immediately and went
passionfruit coulis and granola. It was all absolutely delicious. Upper Class
directly to the fast-track security. There are two Delta SkyClubs at JFK – both
window seat. The design is genius, with
passengers can also stop off at The
shared with Virgin customers. On the
lots of storage options, an 18.5-inch
Revivals lounge at Heathrow, open from
advice of the Virgin team, we chose the
touchscreen, charging points and
5am to 12.30pm daily, for breakfast,
one closest to our boarding gate in
complimentary noise reducing
showers, luggage storage and even to
Concourse B. It's a vast space,
headphones. It was so comfortable I
get their clothes pressed so everything
separated into sections for working,
dozed off briefly before we even took off.
is ready for a business meeting. Sadly,
socialising or dining. There's also an
due to the storm, we arrived just a few
Once in my seat I
outside space where DJs play some
was offered a flute of Champagne and
nights of the week. The lounge was
asked what I would like to be served
busy at first but emptied out quickly
after take-off. There was a 'Speedy
after a few flights departed. I enjoyed a
Supper' option of potato and watercress
light dinner of antipasto, hummus and
cream soup with a smoked cheese
freshly-prepared salads, along with a
fondue toastie, or a more extensive
couple of margaritas from The Bar,
selection of starters, mains and
which were delivered to our table.
desserts, including poached shrimp
minutes too late to take advantage. THE VERDICT
This is a rock star
experience from the moment you arrive
A ROCK STAR EXPERIENCE FROM THE MOMENT YOU ARRIVE AT CHECK-IN
at check-in to the minute you land, making you feel like the most important passenger on board. Upper Class delivers everything you'd expect from the brand. It’s a stunning product, from the clever
cocktail, a Florentine ravioli and
cabin and seat design to the cool pink
the flight was delayed and there was a
warmed pineapple, chocolate and
hued lighting, and the food is excellent
short queue for boarding, but once the
coconut bread pudding. Virgin Atlantic
too. Best of all, Virgin Atlantic is about its
gate opened we were first through and
has partnered with London wine
people, and the ground and in-flight crew
merchants Jeroboams to offer an
remain the most friendly and genuine I've
impressive selection of fine wines and
come across in the skies.
Due to a bad storm,
Champagne. There was also premium
Upper Class return
beers, softs, spirits and signature
flights start from £1,989, available for
cocktails, including the exclusive ‘Ruby
selected departures and are subject to
Slipper’ – Hambledon Classic Cuvee with
Fever Tree Light Rhubard and
Raspberry Tonic Water. I had already eaten (and drunk margaritas!) in the lounge, so I opted for maximum sleep time. A member of the crew helped me pick my size for the cosy, cotton PJs. My greeted with warm smiles from the
‘goodie bag’ amenity kit contained
flight crew. I stopped briefly to admire
sustainable treats including a pen,
the communal area behind the Upper
socks, REN lip balm, a bamboo
Class cabin where the crew showed me
toothbrush/paste, day cream and
the choice of in-flight snacks available,
Atlantic kelp and magnesium energising
including olives, pop corn, shortbread
hand cream. The bag itself is made
biscuits and Savoursmiths crisps.
from responsibly-sourced, recyclable
On this aircraft,
kraft paper. I was impressed to see
Virgin has 44 Upper Class cabins in a
Virgin has also ditched plastic in favour
1-2-1 configuration. My seat, 3A, was a
of water in cans. As I wanted to get as
Reality Check Delta-Virgin V4.indd 47
Reality check APART HOT E L: BE RMO N D S LO C KE , LO N D O N home-from-home feel. The adjoining
A 10-minute walk
from Tower Bridge and London Bridge
bathroom, with a great power shower,
stations, this modern apartment block
was modern and stylish with large
is featured by Silverdoor Apartments. It
pump-bottle toiletries. A three-quarter
has a relaxed, trendy vibe and is a
height dividing wall separated the
popular meeting and work space for the
bedroom from a kitchen/dining area
local community as well as for visitors.
where floor to ceiling windows ensured
a light and open feel and views over
entrance was full of young and trendy
Bermondsey. The well-equipped
professionals using the large co-working
kitchenette included a washing machine
space, which offers plentiful stone
and dishwasher, hob, toaster, kettle and
desks with multiple power points and
plenty of pans and crockery for self-
low tables with giant bean bags. The
catering. A mobile kitchen island
welcome was warm and cheerful and
provided further worktops and storage.
check-in was quick and easy. The staff
A buzzing coffee
were dressed casually and were very
shop in the reception area serves
accommodating, insisting: “this is your
pastries, snacks and some hot meals
home, use it how it suits you”.
from 10am-4pm but the larger Bermondsey Larder restaurant was
Apartment was fresh and bright, with
closed for refurbishment during my
wood effect floors and sunny peach and
stay. A relaxed central courtyard, with
blue decor. A small lobby had coat
hammocks, outdoor seating and much
hanging space, leading to the bedroom
natural foliage, provided for a quiet
could be delivered to the reception. THE VERDICT
A well-located, well-
equipped studio with stylish communal
STAFF INSISTED: 'THIS IS YOUR HOME, USE IT HOW IT SUITS YOU'
areas that have a relaxed and cosy vibe. This place has bags of character and is well set up for modern business travellers. THE DETAILS
start from £175 per night,
area with twin beds, widescreen TV,
garden escape. Bermondsey Street, with
more hanging space and storage. Linen
its many cafes, bars and restaurants,
throws, plants and paintings gave a
was five minutes' walk. Take-aways
CHAUFFEUR D RI V E : BL AC KL AN E , SUSSE X -LO N D O N HE AT HRO W THE BACKGROUND
Blacklane offers a global network of professional chauffeurs with options of
which I also did, and received email confirmations for both journeys. PRE-JOURNEY
I received an email
one-way, City to City and by-the-hour
the day before, with tips for my next
services. In London it has the largest
ride, and 90 minutes before my pick up
share of EV vehicles. Blacklane offsets
simultaneous text and emails arrived
all other rides. A tiered loyalty scheme
confirming the name of my driver
is in place for frequent travellers, plus a
(Athanasios Tsiardakis), along with his
VIP scheme. Bookings include one-hour
car type and registration. Another text/
wait time for airport bookings and 15
email let me know he had arrived at my
minutes for other journeys.
house, which was 15 minutes prior to
Downloading the app
and booking was easy. I simply just
my scheduled pick-up. THE JOURNEY
popped in my pick-up and drop-off
out of the car the moment I left the
details. I entered the preferred time and
house, greeting me with a warm smile
the app reassuringly estimated how
and offered to carry my bags. He was
and kept an appropriate distance from
long my journey would take. I had a
smartly dressed and the car equally
the vehicle in front.
choice of vehicles and selected an
immaculate, with comfortable black
Electric car (Jaguar I-PACE or Tesla),
leather interior, a phone charger and
although I could have had a slightly
cup holders, lowered to give two
cheaper S-Class Mercedes (non EV) or a
individual seats in the back. He showed
larger Mercedes V Class or similar. I
me the SAT NAV, which had our ETA.
entered my flight number and filled in
After a bit of polite chat I opened my
details to create an account, adding my
computer to work. I’m a nervous car
credit card for payment. The app
passenger but felt very safe. Athanasios
tips and any tolls. blacklane.com
prompted me to then book the return,
drove within speed limits at all times
I'M A NERVOUS CAR PASSENGER BUT FELT VERY SAFE
A slick experience
which took the pain out of my early start, with just the right amount of pretrip alerts to reassure me. I arrived for my flight feeling fully relaxed. THE DETAILS
Prices depend on the
journey and are all-inclusive of taxes,
Reality Check V13 Blacklane and viridian.indd 48
HOT E L: V I RG I N HOT E LS N E W YO RK Apparently a life long
the bed has an armchair back, so you
dream of Sir Richard Branson, Virgin
can work in bed. The views from my
Hotels New York opened earlier this
window were incredible. There are also
year. A 39-storey new-build, it has 460
larger suites with kitchenettes (and red
rooms but still feels 'boutique'. It's in
Smeg fridges), which can be inter-
the heart of Manhattan’s NOMAD
connected to become a 'party palace'.
district, close to Madison Square
The hotel is one of
Garden, Herald Square and the Empire
only a handful in New York with a pool,
State Building, (which seems to be in
which is on the fourth floor and has a
almost every view from the hotel).
large deck with sunbeds and cabanas.
While the exterior
The pool isn't long enough for lengths
shouts 'Virgin' (windows emblazoned
but worth a dip, if only to take in the
with images of a Virgin plane and cruise
sight of the surrounding elegant high
ship behind a bright red 'OMG' and
rises, including the iconic Empire State.
'NYC') once you're through the
Next door is the Pool Bar and down one
automatic glass sliding doors there's
level (via a sumptuous red carpeted
after, with even more jaw-dropping
surprisingly little red. The intimate Art
staircase) is Everdene, the restaurant,
views and a vast outside space.
Deco-style lobby was buzzing and the
where we had memorable burgers and
smartly-dressed staff gave us a warm
fries. It has a leafy outside terrace too.
New York-style welcome.
A second restaurant is set to open soon,
The rooms, known as
'Chambers', are compact but have some great design touches. Sliding doors
while an Exhale spa, in the basement, is due to open by January. THE BUSINESS
The events space
THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING SEEMS TO BE IN ALMOST EVERY VIEW FROM THE HOTEL
As you would expect
from the Virgin brand, this hotel is sexy, playful and glamorous. It's already hosting New York Fashion Week parties and other VIP events, and that's even before its events space is fully open.
separate the dressing/bathroom area
wasn't fully open at the time of our stay
with the sleeping/working area and
but we had a preview tour and the top-
1227 Broadway, New York, 10001
double as a mirror, while one corner of
floor space is going to be very sought-
APARTMEN T : V I RI D I AN APARTME N T S, MAYFAI R, LO N D O N THE APARTMENT
towels and White Company toiletries.
refurbished apartments are part of the
The kitchen was well stocked with
Signature Collection for Viridian
utensils and featured a Nespresso
Apartments, previously known as Flying
coffee maker with pods, a selection of
Butler. In a super central location in
teas, instant coffee and chocolate along
Gilbert Street, just three minutes' walk
with basic cleaning products, full oven/
from Bond Street tube, it was just
hob, dishwasher and washer/dryer. The
enough distance from Oxford Street to
Queen bed had fluffy quilt and pillows,
feel nice and quiet while having a huge
a relaxing chair, iron and board/airer,
choice of amenities close by.
along with a vanity area that could
double as a small desk. The open plan
Marino Cato, arrived within a minute of
living space was light and airy with sofa,
me pressing the buzzer and welcomed
chair, coffee table and dining table and
me warmly, showing me to Apartment
chairs, which is where I chose to catch
H on the first floor. I was given two fobs
up on emails. The whole apartment was
which operated both the front door to
beautifully decorated and presented
the building and the door to my
with everything immaculate.
apartment. Marino showed me around the apartment and facilities.
A 24-hour concierge
answers within a few rings, but Marina
With the central
location and spacious living space, I
I WAS RELIEVED THERE WERE NO CRAZY LIGHTING SYSTEMS TO NAVIGATE!
could easily spend an extended stay here. I also felt secure and safe, thanks to the digital entry systems and 24-hour
had done such a good job of talking me
apartment was a total of 667 square
through the facilities I didn't need to call
feet and had a double bedroom with
again. I also had no issues connecting
Queen-sized bed, a bathroom and open
to Wi-Fi and everything was easy to
living space of kitchen, dining and living
operate, including the huge TV. I was
room. My bathroom featured a deep
relieved there were no crazy lighting
020 3743 0331, viridianapartments.com
bath and rainforest shower, plenty of
systems to navigate!
concierge, making this great choice for a solo traveller. THE DETAILS
from £550, two-beds from £850,
Reality Check V13 Blacklane and viridian.indd 49
BUSINESS TRAVEL FORUM
THE RIGHT SIGNALS Buyers and rail experts joined forces at a lunch forum to discuss ways to get business travellers back on trains
orporate travel on UK domestic trains is still only at half pre-Covid levels, travel buyers were told at the latest Business Travel Lunch Forum. Figures were shared by Paul Bowden, Commercial Director at the Rail Delivery Group, who said leisure travellers have been quick to return but business travellers have been slower to get back on board. Joe Thurgood, Sales Manager for South Western Railway, said this was despite many corporates now looking to encourage their travellers to use more sustainable modes of transport and recognising that rail journeys are often more productive. “What’s more, if your employee is on a train, you know where they are at any one
DID YOU KNOW?
TRAVELLING FROM LONDON KING’S CROSS STATION TO EDINBURGH WAVERLEY STATION BY TRAIN PRODUCES 12.5KG OF CARBON EMISSIONS PER PASSENGER, WHICH IS 10 TIMES LESS CARBON EMISSIONS PER PASSENGER THAN THE EQUIVALENT CAR JOURNEY AND 13 TIMES LESS THAN BY PLANE
point. It’s better for safety, duty of care and for your travellers’ mental health,” he added. According to a recent Buyer Priorities Survey by the ITM, 44% of corporate travel buyers expect to see a significant modal shift from air to rail this year, largely for sustainability reasons. Some buyers raised concerns that rail was falling behind the airline industry in the availability of carbon emissions data but were reassured that significant progress was being made in this area for UK domestic rail journeys. As part of RDG’s Green Travel Pledge initiative, more granular carbon emissions data is now being provided for key business routes with plans to make it available for the entire network. Taking into consideration additional factors, such as fuel type, number of carriages and class configuration, the data will be more accurate and meaningful than measurements from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra). RDG hopes the new data will be used by corporates, TMCs and online booking tools to help show the environmental benefit of rail versus air or car, influencing decisions at
the point of sale and also for ESG reporting. Based on this more granular data, studies showed that rail travel creates 10 times less carbon emissions per passenger than the equivalent car journey and 13 times less than travelling by plane, making rail even more sustainable than first believed. Participants at the Lunch Forum discussed whether the UK Government might follow the lead of France, which earlier this year banned domestic flights on routes doable by rail in less than two-and-a-half hours. They heard this was unlikely to happen in the UK, with rail infrastructure not high on the UK Government’s agenda. In September Prime Minister Rishi Sunak confirmed that under his leadership there would be no more additional imposed taxes to discourage flying and weeks later he confirmed the HS2 development would be significantly scaled back and would be replaced by Network North, an investment project to improve rail connectivity and roads in the north of England and Wales. With a general election looming, corporate buyers were encouraged to lobby all of the political parties to call for investment in the UK’s domestic rail network. While all buyers agreed that they should be pushing more rail travel within their organisations, they cited several major barriers, including the recent strike disruption, inconsistent levels of service, high fares and complex ticketing. RDG’s Bowden accepted that recent strikes were denting traveller confidence but outlined several initiatives that were addressing other pain points. As part of a rail reform, a major overhaul of fares is underway to remove many of the existing complexities.
PHOTOS BY PHIL GAMMON
RETURN TO RAIL
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BUSINESS TRAVEL FORUM
With a general election looming, corporate buyers were encouraged to lobby all of the political parties to call for investment in the UK's domestic rail network”
This event was kindly sponsored by South Western Railway
But buyers were told changes would not happen overnight and that recommendations for fares reform were initially made to the Government back in 2018. “Everything goes through mass scrutiny by the Treasury,” explained Bowden. “The big challenge is that the Government will know that lowering fares will mean less Treasury revenue, but logically it could encourage more rail users so revenues don’t fall.” One buyer complained that high peak travel prices meant it was often cheaper to travel the day before and pay for a hotel, but this would increase a traveller’s carbon footprint. Buyers asked if it was possible to sit down with a particular operator and negotiate a reduced fare or other incentives, similar to the way that corporates work with airlines. Thurgood at SWR said operators would be open to this and advised bringing TMCs into the discussions. But he said in his personal experience, some TMCs lacked interest in rail bookings. Buyers questioned whether these TMCs were overlooking rail travel because they do not earn the same levels of commissions as for air bookings.
Bowden said RDG was aware of this issue and that commissions would rise by 0.5 percentage points to 3% from April 2025, in an effort to better incentivise agents. Buyers said online booking tools did not make it easy to book rail and said ideally they need to display both air and rail options, side by side, so that travellers can compare prices, carbon emissions and other factors that would influence their decisions. Bowden said huge investment is being made with “multiple partners” to make sure improved booking technology is available to buyers. In addition, RDG is developing technology to ensure that rail passengers get timely information about their journeys,
such as warnings about train delays and notifications of departure platforms. Longer-term, there are plans for a UK-wide loyalty scheme for rail. Some operators have already run loyalty programmes, with varying degrees of success, but this would be across the entire network. Buyers agreed this could help encourage their travellers to switch to rail. Complications relating to who should be compensated for train delays were also debated and revealed a mix of approaches. While some buyers said they were happy for refunds to go to inconvenienced passengers, others said it should go back to the traveller's employer, which had paid for the ticket.
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Meeting in The Hungarian capital is making a renewed push into the MICE space, with the nation keen to make showcase the city’s convenient central European location, modern facilities and highly-skilled workforce. Hungary’s economy continues to boom, in recent years becoming a
Spoon the Boat
Hungarian Railway Museum
Venues don’t come any more central than Spoon, a sleek floating restaurant on the Danube sitting opposite Buda Castle. Five bars and three traditional dining rooms seating 50, 70 and 120 people can be reconfigured should standing be required. Two additional outdoor terraces offer incredible views of Budapest’s neoclassical and Baroque architecture. Vigado Ter, Pier 3, 1052 Budapest spoonboat.hu
major centre for pharmaceuticals, food
Keep delegates on track at this fascinating former station and workshop to the north of the city. Spread over 17 acres, the museum features more than 100 locomotives, buildings and vehicles from Hungary’s state railway network in the Soviet era. There are three conference rooms and a central hall, or you can hire the whole space. Tatai út 95, 1142 Budapest vasuttortenetipark.hu/en 01908 374 708 / tnmoc.com
check out the incredible views
On a shoestring
K+K Hotel Opera Boutique chain K+K Hotels sets great store in the location of its European properties and the Budapest outpost is a fine example. In a tiny side street next to the State Opera House and bustling Andrássy Avenue shopping and entertainment district, it has 200 modern rooms in muted tones, with seven flexible event spaces for parties from 10 to 50. Room hire starts from €190 a day. Revay Utca 24, 1065 Budapest kkhotels.com
production and electronics, writes Neal Baldwin
Small but perfectly formed
Getting there British Airways, easyJet, Ryanair, Wizz and Jet2 all fly from London, Manchester, Edinburgh, East Midlands and Liverpool. Alternatively, visitors can take the Eurostar to Paris, then on to Munich for a sleeper service into the Hungarian capital. Further information The Budapest Convention Bureau (budcb.hu) has knowledgeable Englishspeaking staff to assist with event planning and advice. Sales manager Ildiko Lippai is a good first port of call +36 30 899 2835
Out of town
Felix Kitchen & Bar
House of Music Hungary
Built in 1875, this Grade 1-listed former water house has been a club, café and casino in past lives. Today it simply oozes elegance as Buda’s premier dining venue, Wine tasting events, private chef’s table dining, cocktail experiences and receptions are all available in a selection of indoor and outdoor spaces, all equipped with modern AV facilities. Food is top-notch.
Sitting in the heart of City Park Around 40km from central like a giant alien crumpet, Budapest, this grand you can't ignore the House Imperial palace is one of It's a real of Music. Built as part of Hungary’s most important feast for the the £1bn Liget cultural royal residences. It fell senses project (alongside the new into decay in the Soviet Museum for Ethnology and era but has been extensively planned new National Gallery), restored and now has seven it's a real feast for the senses. impressive function rooms, Two high-tech interior spaces including the aptly-named are suitable for workshops and Grand Hall, which can cater for presentations while classrooms banquets of 110 people, and a upstairs cater for smaller events. stunning English-style garden.
Royal Palace of Godollo
Ybl Miklós tér 9, 1013 Budapest felixbudapest.com
Olof Palme stny. 3, 1146 Budapest ligetbudapest.hu/en
Grassalkovich Kastely Godollo 2100 kiralyikastely.hu
Food is topnotch at this elegant venue
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Meet in Budapest
That’s Budapest. JUST MAKE A WISH!
Make the vibrant and exciting city of Budapest the choice for your next meeting or event. The Pearl of the Danube is a leading global congress and MICE destination with a commitment to sustainability.
Budapest is affordable and offers varied accommodation and world renowned cuisine – and all within two hours of major European hubs. State-of-the-art venues include HUNGEXPO, which has a brand new Congress Centre with 26 rooms and a 2,000-seat plenary hall with a 72-sqm, highdefinition LED wall behind the stage.
JUST MAKE A WISH!
Chat with Budapest Convention Bureau to find out more about this destination, which offers the perfect blend of excitement and relaxation for your attendees.
Find out more at https://budcb.hu/
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The final word
Still got room for dessert?
hocolate lovers, enjoy it while you can because according to research by train line LNER it might not be around forever. It hired a food futurologist (yes, that’s an actual job), who predicted that in future we won’t be indulging on chocolate brownies or profiteroles. No, we’ll be tucking into puddings made of spirulina, mushroom and amaranth (whatever that is). To mark the rail operator’s 100th anniversary, LNER’s chef team instructed food expert Robin Fegen to look at how we may be dining 100 years from now and to design the dessert we’ll be apparently be "enjoying" in the year 2123. The pud is being served in a special pop-up LNER 1923 Restaurant at The Cookery School at The Grand in York, once the former headquarters of LNER, as part of the celebrations.
“Sustainability, ethics, and nutrition are becoming increasingly important when it comes to food,” says Fegen. “High in protein, spirulina and other types of algae are healthy and easy to produce, but have an acquired taste – which is why they aren’t as popular right now. But genetic modification
Barking mad for dogs
rits are a nation of dog lovers, we know, but we were still surprised by the results of a poll of 2,000 pooch owners by St. Pancras Station which revealed that one in five Brits have returned home early from a holiday because they couldn't bear to be away from their furry friend. Among those brave enough to stick it out, 39% admitted they couldn't stop wondering what their pet was doing, 26% wished their dog was with them, and 17% insisted on having regular video calls. More shocking still was that 23% said the nicest thing about their holiday was arriving home and seeing their dog again.
could mean we can make these ingredients taste just as good as the likes of chocolate." Really? According to Fegen, insects are also set to become a regularlyused ingredient, so future generations will be feasting on bug burgers, cricket cakes and mealworm macarons. Thank goodness we won't be around!
NO CHARGE Based on the latest stats from the DfT, Bonnet ranked the best and worst towns in the UK for public EV charging based on how many charging points there are per 100,000 people. We thought the worst would be more useful, so here goes: 1
Castle Point, Essex
Bury, Greater Manchester
Sandwell, West Midlands
Walsall, West Midlands
Tameside, Greater Manchester
North Kesteven, Lincolnshire
Analysis by EV charging app, Bonnet
Anyone who's been to an industry conference will recognise the usual first night questions: "When did you get here?" "How was your flight?" "Which hotel are you staying at?". Well, at the recent ABTA Convention, held at the luxury all-inclusive Lujo Hotel in Bodrum, Turkey, there was a new one to add to the list. "Do you have one of 'those' rooms?" The resort's Indigo Clubber Rooms, as they're officially known, come with poledancing poles, mirrored ceilings and Kama Sutra chairs. They were the talking point of the conference. We won't disclose who had them, but we'd love to know how they were allocated...
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SERVICED ACCOMMODATION BUSINESS TRAVEL LUNCH FORUM
February 21 2024, The Caledonian Club, London For more information or to register your interest, please contact: Kirsty.Hicks@bmipublishing.co.uk
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