The Business Travel Magazine November- December 2020

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November/December 2020

TESTING TIMES Are we finally getting somewhere?


Covid flight checks Industry unites Hotel workspaces THE BUSINESS TRAVEL PEOPLE AWARDS 2020 WINNERS REVEALED

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Traveller safety & cost control?


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Contents 18





10 Industry unites: Analysis of how the sector has come together to face the pandemic challenges 14 Touchless technology: The acceleration of the move to contactless travel 18 Business Travel People


Time to meet


the winners 43

29 Air travel: Update on the latest developments in traveller testing

We introduce the winners of the ninth Business Travel People Awards in our report from the live, virtual ceremony


Awards: Report from this year's ceremony, plus full list of winners, pictures, and winners' quotes

33 Flight check: We review the Covid procedures in place at Gatwick and Dublin airports and on flights with easyJet and Ryanair 34 Rail: Are train operators responding to the needs of


business travellers? 38 Accommodation: How hotels and serviced apartments are adapting their products in the new world of remote working

Arrivals 6

Everyone's Talking About:


Speaking Out: Travel wellbeing


The Knowledge: Switching to a TMC

The need for traveller testing

10 29


subscription fee model

The Review

22 News and views, plus comment from the BTA and the ITM


Departures 42 Reality Check

43 The Final Word



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Welcome Power to the people


ne of the things I was most looking forward to in my new job was being part of the legendary Business Travel People Awards. Sadly, this year wasn't the usual glamorous, fizz-fuelled gathering

I'd heard so much about. But chatting afterwards with the winners, and seeing the social media buzz after our live, virtual ceremony, it was still an absolute joy to see how much the awards mean to everyone, particularly at a time when, frankly, there's not much else to celebrate. In our report on pages 18-21 you'll see the smiling faces of some of the winners. The awards, of course, are all about the people in our sector and, if there's anything good to be said about this dreadful pandemic, it's the many ways in which it has brought people together. From the messages of support on LinkedIn for those who have been displaced to the industrywide lobbying and campaigning, the sense of community is stronger than ever. We've explored this further in our 'United Front' feature on pages 10-12, while on pages 29-31 we've covered the issue that's top of the industry's agenda - the need for air travel testing. It's still early days but it seems that steps are finally being made towards finding ways to re-open borders and allow travel to resume. I'm getting a real sense now that the industry is ready for when that time comes. We just need the green light. Our next issue will be out in January 2021 and, like all of you I'm sure, I've never been so happy at the prospect of a New Year. Next year also marks the 10th anniversary of the Business Travel People Awards, making the event all the more special. It will be on the evening of September 15 (put it in your diaries) and by then there will be lots to celebrate, I'm sure.



Catherine Chetwynd, Gary Noakes, Dave Richardson & Gillian Upton STAFF JOURNALISTS

April Waterston


Julie Baxter


Steve Hartridge


Kirsty Hicks


Callum Blackwell



Clare Hunter


Steve Hunter

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Matt Bonner CEO


Bev Fearis, Editor



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The need for traveller testing “IT’S


“You can't mitigate risks to zero, but there is surely more risk going to a supermarket than being tested, twice, and boarding a flight" Drew Crawley, Chief Commercial Officer American Express GBT


We are now seven months into a pandemic with a government that appears to have no thought-out strategy or concrete timescale on testing for travellers, which is creating confusion and frankly utter chaos” Julia Lo Bue-Said, CEO Advantage Travel Partnership


FOR THE TRAVEL INDUSTRY” “Traveller testing is a large part of the answer. Other countries do have testing and it works very efficiently. It’s bemusing and disappointing that the UK does not” Scott Davies, CEO Institute of Travel Management



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DON'T FORGET THE HUMAN TOUCH Mental health expert Matthew Holman believes understanding individuals is key to travel wellbeing


s I write this I am in a reflective mood. I am sat here like many in my home office, the space I have been for the past seven months, thinking about travel, and what I can say? The travel landscape has changed, our world of travelling both for business and leisure has been restricted. When will we be back travelling again? Over the past two years we have seen a considerable increase in travel wellbeing as an important and standalone topic within business travel. But despite this, wellbeing is something that many people in the industry still find challenging to grasp as a concept. We are still some way away from having a clear definition or understanding of it. A year ago I was one of the founding members of the Business Travel Wellbeing Community. This year we have worked hard to bring together a whole multitude of experts across all elements of travel wellbeing.

Travel wellbeing is not just about a single solution. It is not just about using hotel gyms and having a healthy breakfast, or getting a good night’s sleep on a long-haul flight. These are, of course, elements of wellbeing but they are not the whole solution.

What is important in the future direction of the travel industry is to recognise that we are all individuals when it comes to what our expectations are of travel. When the world is a complex place, we can be simplistic in our needs and wants. But does anyone really know me as a traveller? Does anyone capture who I am, what I need, and what my priorities are? We are now seeing the increase in the priority for travel wellbeing, but we do not want this to just become an extension of travel security. Travel security is a critical element of a travel programme and requires its own focus. Let’s work on giving the ‘we care where you are’ (travel security), and ‘we care how you feel’ (travel wellbeing) the recognition they both rightly deserve. Over the coming months we are undertaking a survey to help build a clearer definition of travel wellbeing, one that all travel managers and owners can embrace. Maybe this will also provide the right tools for companies to engage in cross-functional conversations, travel speaking with human resources, and management understanding the impact of their actions on travellers. My reflection on my travel past is that I wish I'd had people around me to support me as a human when I was struggling. I don’t miss travelling for business now, but I do miss exploring and experiencing new cultures and meeting amazing humans from all over the world. I believe 2021 is going to be a new year of opportunities, with a clearer focus, and hopefully a simplification of travel, but most importantly we need to improve our understanding of the humans who are travelling. We are all impacted by the pandemic, but sometimes we just need to ask and understand how.

MATTHEW HOLMAN Matthew Holman is Co-founder of the Business Travel Wellbeing Community and owns Simpila Healthy Solutions. After years of frequent travel working for global TMCs, he had a mental health crisis which fuelled his passion to help others.





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How to... move to a subscription fee model When Inchcape Shipping Services carried out a global tender one of the main priorities was to stop employees straying outside the travel programme. It decided a subscription fee, combined with an online booking tool, was the answer.

about how we could address the pricing model. We liked that they thought a little out of the box.” Blue Cube recommended a subscription fee model – a fixed monthly fee, which varies depending on what services a client requires, a bit like a mobile phone contract or Netflix account. “There are big driving factors, like we know what we’re paying per year and we can only pay for the services we want,” says Potter. But he stressed the transition to the new model also involved introducing an online booking tool, developed by Blue Cube, which helped the TMC bring its costs down to counteract a potential dip in its revenue.

The background

Inchcape Shipping Services provides port management and services globally. It has 300 offices in 60 countries and around 3,000 employees, of which around 500 travelled frequently pre-Covid. Its travel was mostly from its regional centres in London, Singapore, Houston, Dubai, Rio, and Tokyo/Osaka but to a diverse number of destinations. It used a variety of TMCs and travel was managed predominantly at a local level. At the end of 2019, the company’s Group Procurement and QHSSE Officer, Simon Potter, decided to embark on a global tender.

The challenge

“As a travel manager, my biggest challenge had been getting my employees to buy into the travel programme,” explains Potter. “We had been working on a transaction fee basis and it was difficult to get our travellers to book through the TMC. They couldn’t see any value in paying for a flight plus a transaction fee, rather than booking direct with the airline, especially as a lot of the air travel was low cost.” With travellers often flying to volatile places – and now in the pandemic it was even more vital for Inchcape to drive bookings through a TMC. At the same time, the company’s fragmented travel patterns meant it didn’t have big volumes on key

The result

corridors so lacked negotiating power with airlines, making the traditional management fee model, with commissions and rebates, less beneficial.

The process

Inchcape went out to a number of TMCs, big and small, and they all chose to put bids forward. Potter conducted a live pricing exercise, taking 50 flights on specific dates and seat types and asking each TMC for prices. “This showed there was a lot of variation in price for the same flights,” he says. “Blue Cube Travel did well on price but what clinched it is that they talked to us

The new subscription model and online booking tool are both due to be rolled out in November, starting with the UK, and Potter estimates the switch will bring Inchcape significant financial and operational benefits when compared to the traditional transaction fee model. For companies which already have an online booking tool in place, he believes the switch to subscription fees would still bring double-figure percentage savings. Much of the benefit, he says, comes from being able to arrange all the aspects of a trip, such as the flights, hotel, hire car, and taxi, bundled under one fee, paid up front, which incentivises the traveller to use the TMC booking tool for every component. Savings are even higher when travellers use a corporate card, simplifying expenses admin, he adds.

As a travel manager, my biggest challenge had been getting my employees to buy into the travel programme”

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UNITED front

In its fight to secure a travel restart, the industry has joined forces like never before, says Bev Fearis


t was a tweet of 41 words and three emojis but it spoke volumes about the Government’s complete lack of understanding of the industry’s plight. It was posted by the Transport Secretary on the eve of the ABTA Convention in October, where he was due to address a virtual audience of frustrated and increasingly angry travel professionals. With apparent disregard for the challenges they are currently facing, Grant Shapps chose the moment to tell his social media followers about progress in space travel, boasting how the Government had taken "another step towards space launches from British soil”. The travel sector was stunned by the insensitivity. “I simply cannot believe you authorised your PR team to put out this tweet,” said Clive Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association, who was one of many to post a response. “The travel industry has been ignored by you and this Government, breaking the hearts and spirits of so many great people and you talk about insurance for space travel,” he said. Ever since Covid quarantines and travel restrictions took hold, the BTA, IATA, HBAA, other industry associations, consortia, airlines, and everyone else affected have been working tirelessly to lobby those in power to find ways to allow travel to resume and, in turn, secure the future of the industry. Even arch rivals have put their

quarrels aside. “While we have our differences, we’re all united in our desire to see the economic recovery of this great nation move very rapidly,” said Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss. “We’re working across the infrastructure to form a coalition that’s willing to explore what’s necessary for this industry to take off." It’s not been an easy task, says Julia Lo Bue-Said, CEO Advantage Travel Partnership, who summed it up nicely: ‘It seems as though this government is hell-bent on keeping the industry on the naughty step, with a complete lack of comprehension on how the industry can survive this crisis.” The trouble is, says Wratten, the Government still doesn’t recognise the essential nature of business travel for the economic wellbeing of the country. “They don’t seem to compute that with every export and import, with every manufactured good, there is an element of business travel attached to it,” he said. “There are many civil servants who absolutely do get it. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office understands the issues from a broader travel perspective, while the Department for Transport really does get business travel and has been asking for data which demonstrates the importance of our industry to the wider economy. The Department for Industry and Trade understands it too, but the challenge is getting the message across to the 

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Chancellor and the Treasury and to Number 10.” In many areas, the corporate travel sector has joined forces to lobby with the wider travel industry, but one of the challenges has been to make the decision-makers understand the differences between leisure and business travel. This was one of the BTA’s main objectives even before the pandemic. “We want to be recognised as a separate discipline,” says Wratten. “But the Government doesn’t seem to fully understand the complexity of what TMCs do, the investment they make in technology. "We don’t simply book flights. What we do is so much more intricate and far-reaching.” Indeed, the figures speak for themselves: the leisure and inbound sector is worth over £60bn to the UK but business travel contributes nearly four times that much. It’s been a long, hard slog but Wratten believes progress is being made. There is now an All Party Parliamentary Group set up to help fight the sector’s corner and - better late than never - the Government has finally formed a Global Travel Taskforce to look at quarantine alternatives. “There are some encouraging signs,” says Scott Davies, CEO of the Institute of Travel Management. “It will be many small steps that lead to a shift in the Government’s understanding. Sadly, right now it’s still two steps forward and one step back.” Part of the problem, he believes, is the devolved nature of the Government. “It’s the same as we’ve seen with the health service. It’s so fractured, you have to attack on so many fronts.” The other issue, says American Express GBT Chief Commercial Officer Drew Crawley, is that the industry’s lobbying has been fragmented. “If you’ve got different delegations going with different messages, no-one is going to make any progress,” he said. “Luckily the business travel industry

Testing has to be the way to get this industry back moving again and, in doing so, this will remove the need for direct financial help” 12

has now got itself in order and TMCs, airlines, associations are all attacking this with one single voice and with one agenda, making it easier for the Government to listen. It means the Government can’t be confused and the energy and effort of the civil servants can go towards one thing.” Early lobbying, led by Heathrow, had called for testing on arrival but the consensus now is that tests on departure are the best option. At a meeting in early October, Amex GBT met with airlines, airports and others and agreed that the safest solution is a rapid test, paid for by the traveller, 48 hours before departure and another at the point of departure (see page 29). The mission now is to persuade authorities on both sides of the Atlantic to establish a travel corridor on the key London-New York route for a small and closely monitored trial using travellers who have booked with a TMC. Amex GBT has been providing data to support the need for ‘Project NyLon’ and, encouragingly, a letter outlining the proposals did actually reach the Prime Minister in person. Some progress is reportedly being made on both sides of the Atlantic, but it’s slower here. The UK Government is instead favouring the introduction of a home test designed to potentially reduce the 14-day quarantine to around five days. But this, says Crawley, is not a viable solution for business trips, which are mostly only two to three days anyway. He believes departure testing is the only way to get the sector moving again “and the best way to help the sector is to let it help itself”. Wratten agrees: “Testing has to be the way to get this industry back moving again and, in doing so, this will remove the need for direct financial help.” While the whole sector is uniting to fight its corner, many travel managers and buyers have found themselves in a similar position within their own companies. An ITM survey of 144 buyers in early September found nearly half feel more under pressure to justify their roles in the pandemic. The role of a travel manager has been shifting since March, from reviewing supplier deals and policies to handling repatriations to establishing emergency travel approvals. “It’s now time to pivot and prove,” says Davies, referring to a session at the recent ITM Thrive Conference. “A travel manager

Our industry will recover. We all want to find a way to get through this and a key part of our role is to keep giving people hope, to keep things positive” now has to force their way into conversations with stakeholders, to confidently insert themselves into the decision making, align themselves with security teams, and the facilities team looking after the return to the office.” Anyone on LinkedIn will know there have already been casualties in the sector, from redundancies to early retirements. “When companies are challenged they slash budgets, and one of the most tempting to slash is travel, but forward-thinking organisations with a certain culture will know that it’s vital for their employees to come together and for them to fully connect with customers,” says Davies. The ITM is allowing those who have been displaced to retain their membership. “We know that those looking for roles want to stay in touch so we’re trying our best to keep the communication going." If there is one positive outcome of the pandemic, it’s that it has brought the business travel community together in ways never seen before. ITM’s webinar and training programme has been adapted accordingly and its monthly buyer huddles are more popular than ever. The BTA has launched an initiative, BTA Cares, to support those who have lost their jobs, with discounted training subsidised by Avis. Consultants at Festive Road have developed a free Permissible Travel Framework to help buyers prepare for a restart, while social enterprise Women in Travel has been offering free training and mentoring. Petitions and campaigns have been shared and supported on social media and travel professionals have rallied to lobby their local MPs. “There are no hidden agendas, no sense of competition,” says Davies. “Our industry will recover. We all want to find a way through this and a key part of our role is to keep giving people hope, to keep things positive.”

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Falling out of

contact R

eturn-to-travel strategies are taking many shapes and forms but two items prevail: duty of care to the traveller and minimising human and machine interaction. It seems the postCovid-19 ‘new normal’ is seeing an acceleration towards innovative and digital transformation strategies which redefine hotel, car, airport and airline experiences for travellers. Industry observers hope new contactless technology will help restore confidence in the battered travel industry. “We’re seeing a drive for touchless across all aspects of life but especially in travel, and in every category of travel from air to hotels to car rentals,” says Mark McSpadden, VP Global Product Strategy and Experience for American Express Global Business Travel. Airports are installing AI and biometricpowered face recognition and thermal sensing for a seamless, hygienic customer experience. Star Alliance member airlines in Europe launched a biometric programme in the summer which negates the need for passengers to show their passport or boarding pass at the airport. Their biometric identity will travel with them to any airport or on any airline within the alliance. Airlines including Lufthansa, Austrian, Swiss and KLM have instigated electronic bag tag technology, which has removed passenger 14

check-in from the airport. Lufthansa has taken it one step further with a contactless bag tracing service at selected German airports for passengers to report delayed luggage. The service uses technology from SITA and early trials showed two-thirds of passengers opted to use the service instead of visiting a baggage counter. Emirates has introduced 16 self-service bag drop machines and eight self-service kiosks at Terminal 3 at Dubai International Airport. The kiosks will be continually upgraded to offer new features, including going touchless and enabling customers to make rebookings on their own. More self-service facilities are also planned in the coming months. In early October, Lyon Saint Exopery Airport became the world’s first airport to introduce facial recognition technology which allows passengers to complete the entire airport journey (except for border control) without physical contact. Called Mona, travellers download a free app to their smartphone and use dedicated lanes to pass through the airport – from bag drop to boarding – simply by showing their face. Developed in close collaboration with the French Civil Aviation Authority, the airport’s operator, VINCI, has launched a one-year trial for passengers travelling through the airport with Transavia (on flights to Porto) and TAP Air Portugal (on flights to

Lisbon). If successful, travellers can expect to see it rolled out to VINCI’s other 44 airports worldwide, which are mostly in France and Portugal but also include London Gatwick and Belfast in the UK. Of course, there was a shift towards touchless before Covid. Delta Air Lines launched a virtual queuing feature on its app, which lets passengers know when their seat is boarding. Etihad and Avalon Airport in Australia trialled contactless technologies to control self-service devices using head movement rather than touching a screen. The touchless experience at Heathrow was already underway with increased use of biometric e-gates and trials of 3D security scanners to reduce the need for bag search, for example. It is also looking into technologies that would remove the need for passengers to touch self-service check-in machines, allowing them to control the kiosks from their phones “We understand that it is likely that postCovid there will be a new normal, one which prevents a pandemic of this scale from ever occurring again,” says Steve Armitage, Head of Technology, Design and Integration at Heathrow. “To achieve this with minimal impact to the airport experience, technology will need to play an even greater role. New technology will be key to helping us provide a touchless experience.” 

Photo by isco on Unsplash

The shift towards touchless travel is accelerating amid the pandemic. Gill Upton outlines the latest developments

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Photo by isco on Unsplash


We’re seeing a drive for touchless across all aspects of life but especially in travel, and in every category of travel from air to hotels to car rentals”

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 Armitage believes that in the future there will be a Common International Standard for security screening, similar to the processes in place for security. “These will work together to screen passengers for diseases like Covid and reduce risks of transmission to help restore confidence in flying,” he says.


Hotels have long gone down the touchless travel route, with global operators including Hilton providing a digital contactless experience for touchpoints such as check-in and room keys. For a number of years Premier Inn has offered check-in kiosks where guests can self-check and obtain their room keycard. What’s coming next are mobile apps to open the guestroom door, control room temperature, adjust the lights, operate the TV and order room service. Amex GBT's McSpadden expects to see independent hotels adopt new technology. ”Platforms such as Vouch can provide digital concierge services that don’t require an app, so a larger spectrum of properties can provide digital solutions,” he says.

Car rental

Car rental companies have also been heading in the same direction. Avis for example, began the touchless journey in 2018 with its app’s self-service functionality. “This started our trend to provide an increasingly contactless and touchless rental experience, by reducing the amount of time it takes for a customer to collect their rental keys and time spent at the counter,” explains Jeanette Harper, Director Travel and Partnerships, Avis Budget Group. “With the Avis App, Preferred customers can book and manage their rental through their smart device, including changing or upgrading their rental at the very last minute, choosing the make and model they want and, if their plans change, extending or cancelling their rental.” Over the last 12 months the company has piloted 3D imaging of vehicles to automate the process of inspecting the vehicle for damage, freeing the customer to get on with their trip. It means that customers in connected cars can bypass the exit gate and don’t need an attendant to check the car back in upon return. The data is then automatically sent to the accounting system and a bill is generated electronically in near 16

real time. This summer the group launched digital check-in, an online service enabling customers who book direct to spend less time at the counter. Avis Budget is also piloting WhatsApp and phone check-in. Enterprise is making similar moves, explains Adrian Bewley, AVP European Business Rental, Enterprise Holdings. “Our LaunchPad tablet technology used in every Enterprise branch enables employees to conduct speedy and socially-distanced rental transactions outside a branch or at any external location, even without WiFi, to offer a low-touch kerbside service," he said. 'Key rental information is pre-loaded and vital data on vehicle condition and customer options speeds up the collection process and reduces the need for contact.” Renters have low and no-touch rental options, such as advanced check-in at neighbourhood locations using SMS texts and enhanced kerbside and delivery processes. 


Adoption of contactless corporate payments has been slow to date but Covid may well convert the cynics away from card readers, keypads or pens. In a BCD survey in May, 67% of 1,260 business travellers rated contactless payment systems as the most important regulatory measure to aid safe travel amid Covid-19. Encouragingly, the share of contactless transactions made on all Bank of Americaissued corporate cards in Europe rose by

What's coming next are mobile apps to open the guestroom door, control room temperature” 30% year on year in the second quarter of 2020. The fact that payment card networks raised the amount limits for contactless payment transactions during Covid-19 has helped the conversion. In the long term it is predicted that virtual cards will be the default payment. AirPlus believes that its virtual card, A.I.D.A, will overshadow its plastic card and lodge card to be its biggest product. Virtual payments could also revolutionise traveller expenses as they can be sent to a digital wallet, making reconciliation more seamless. That a virtual card can be sent to an app and payment made via a phone via Apple Pay neatly bridges the gap between a physical and virtual card and may help conversion. The Conferma Pay app, for example, allows payments using ApplePay or GooglePay. But incorporating hi-tech into a travel programme requires strong IT/Compliance partnership and a robust comms plan, says McSpadden. “Ensuring internal security and compliance teams are aware and comfortable with the technology and its data and privacy implications is key to bringing these features to travellers. It's important they know what's available to them and the benefits."

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Save the date

SEPTEMBER 14-15, 2021


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Recognising outstanding individuals and teams across all aspects of the supplier element of corporate travel


The Business Travel People Awards were a little different this year but were the perfect way to boost morale in the industry. Bev Fearis reports


he amazing achievements of individuals and teams in the business travel industry were recognised at The Business Travel People Awards on September 18. Amid the pandemic challenges, the ceremony provided a much-needed afternoon of celebrations for the business travel community and were a reminder that the sector’s most important assets are its people. Due to the current restrictions, the awards were held virtually, screened live from a studio in Leicester. “We’re so disappointed that we can’t be with you all in person today,” said Kirsty Hicks, Publisher and Commercial Head Business Travel for organisers Bmi


Publishing, as she kicked off the event. “Be rest assured we’ll be getting together to celebrate with you all in person as soon as restrictions allow.” Leigh Cowlishaw, Chair of the judges and Managing Partner of Black Box Partnerships, added: “Nothing has impacted us more than what we are experiencing right now, but among all the challenges thrown at us the pandemic has also brought our industry together closer than ever before. Never has it been such an important time to recognise the incredible people in our industry.” There were 18 awards this year, including two new categories recognising a company and individual

for their excellence in approach and actions during Covid-19. TripBAM won the company award and the individual accolade went to Clive Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association, who watched the ceremony while in Cyprus with his wife visiting family. “I am genuinely touched by the award, it’s been such a team effort. It was great watching the ceremony by the pool and I had a cold beer by my side to celebrate with just in case!” he said. Rising Star winner, TAG Director of Account Management Peter Snowdon, had a double celebration. Just a few days after the ceremony, his second daughter was born. "It capped off a very memorable weekend!" he said.


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Reservations Consultant of the year WINNER: Christie Heath, Capita Travel and Events FINALISTS: Paige Welsh, Egencia Corporate Travel • Adam Thompson, Egencia Corporate Travel Reservations Team of the year WINNER: FCM Medical Repatriation Team, FCM Travel Solutions FINALIST: Reservations Team, UnderTheDoormat Operations Manager of the year WINNER: Paul Coates, ATPI FINALISTS: Nicola Harding, Capita Travel and Events • Roberta de Paolis, TripActions Operations Team of the year WINNER: Click Travel Operations Team, Click Travel HIGHLY COMMENDED: Egencia Corporate Team, Egencia Corporate Travel FINALIST: Operations Team, UnderTheDoormat

Sales / Business Development Manager of the year WINNER: Zara Higgins, ATPI FINALIST: Ryan Gray, Capita Travel and Events Sales / Business Development Team of the year WINNER: Client Partnerships Sales Team, Business Travel Direct, part of Reed & Mackay FINALIST: UK Sales Team, ATPI MICE

Meetings and Events Manager of the year WINNER: Katy Johnson, INNTEL FINALIST: Dani Ives, Focus Travel Partnership Meetings and Events Team of the year WINNER: The Meetings and Events Team, Travel Counsellors for Business FINALISTS: Strategic Meetings Team, INNTEL • Events Team, NYS SUPPLIERS

Account Manager of the year WINNER: Gary Dobbins, Diversity Travel FINALISTS: Hayley France, FCM Travel Solutions • Lisa Hyman, Capita Travel and Events

Sales / Business Development Manager of the year WINNER: Jessica Blackmore, Dwellworks Living FINALISTS: Nisa Ford, Cheval Collection • Jessica Land, BridgeStreet

Account Management Team of the year WINNER: Capita Travel and Events Account Management Team, Capita Travel and Events FINALISTS: Corporate Traveller Account Management Team, Corporate Traveller • Click Travel Account Management Team, Click Travel

Sales / Business Development Team of the year WINNER: London North Eastern Railway, LNER FINALISTS: Kelly ONeill, Dorota Mmireku, Jenni Lehtonen, Egle Sapiegaite, Strand Palace

Account Manager of the year WINNER: Graeme O’Donnell, TBR Global Chauffeuring FINALISTS: Dominique Cagle, Nika Corporate Housing • Philip Ariss, South African Airways Account Management Team of the year WINNER: Synergy Global Accounts Team, Synergy Global Housing FINALIST: Nika Team, Nika Corporate Housing INDUSTRY

Best Newcomer WINNER: Ethan Field, Blue Cube Travel FINALISTS: Andrew Whitaker, Reed & Mackay • Jonti Dalal-Small, Capita Travel and Events Rising Star WINNER: Peter Snowdon, TAG HIGHLY COMMENDED: Charlotte Winter, Synergy Global Housing FINALIST: Edgar Bailby, Egencia Corporate Travel COVID

Company excellence in approach and actions during Covid-19 WINNER: TRIPBAM FINALISTS: ClickCare, Click Travel • ATPI • UndertheDoormat Individual excellence in approach and actions during Covid-19 WINNER: Clive Wratten, The BTA HIGHLY COMMENDED: Kyle Daniels, Clarity FINALIST: Debbie Lundon, Synergy Global Housing

With thanks to the generous sponsors of this year's awards


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“It meant the world to me to be recognised by my company and colleagues by the nomination, and then by the surprising news that I’d won this award, for work which I enjoy immensely and which challenges me everyday”

WINNER: ETHAN FIELD, BLUE CUBE TRAVEL “I am absolutely ecstatic about my recent win at the Business Travel People Awards. To get an award early in my career has given me even more confidence every day. I hope to inspire the next generation of what it means to work in business travel”

Jessica Blackmore, Dwellworks Living

“I am thrilled to have won this award. A big thanks to my wider team at Diversity Travel who support me and ensure our clients get the best possible service day in, day out” Gary Dobbins, Diversity Travel

“The team are over the moon to have won this award and there were a lot of virtual celebrations and popping of champagne bottles on the teams chat on Friday” Leanne Fowler, Capita Travel and Events

“The team’s wealth of knowledge and tenacity is extraordinary, making the impossible happen to bring people home safely. The nature of our job means we don’t usually receive customer feedback, so that's why receiving this award means so much to us”



WINNER: PETER SNOWDON, TAG “We need to encourage young people to come into this fantastic industry, so I hope I can use this award to help do that" RESERVATIONS CONSULTANT OF THE YEAR CHRISTIE HEATH, CAPITA TRAVEL AND EVENTS

“Bringing in efficiencies meant we could serve customers faster and in a more robust way, in turn vastly improving engagement and putting a smile on the face of the team" Tom Davis, Click Travel


“I’m delighted to win this award in what has been a somewhat tumultuous year for the business travel sector, but I know this couldn’t be possible without the corporate travel team we have at TBR. They are second to none” Graeme O’Donnell, TBR Global Chauffeuring

“I really do have pride and passion for what I do, so to reach this kind of achievement means so much to me" Christie Heath, Capita Travel and Events



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“To win a People Award this year is particularly meaningful. My team have been truly amazing throughout this difficult period and I dedicate my win to all of them” Katy Johnson, Inntel

“Both Zara Higgins and Paul Coates have shown real dedication to delivering what really matters to the travel programmes of our current and future clients. I would like to congratulate both individuals on their well-deserved recognition. We were also thrilled to be shortlisted for the Covid-19 award, highlighting the hard work and exemplary service of our teams over the past six months"


Adam Knights, ATPI



“It’s been a stressful and chaotic time for everyone and we are proud to play a part in easing any level of stress and uncertainty for partners and peers. We’ll continue to work together to meet the challenges head-on"

“We’re passionate about what we do. We embody our company values in the way we work with and support our partners, so to be recognised with an award, for the fourth time, means a great deal"

“We were very proud to be named a finalist as this is an endorsement of the team's exceptional dedication and pro-active approach to ensuring our clients receive the best possible service"” James McIlvenna, Corporate Traveller

“Being shortlisted shows the team how much not only the hotel appreciates what they have done, but that the wider industry recognises the job they are doing. We are all very proud of them” Ben Chapman, Strand Palace

“"We're delighted to be recognised for our ClickCare product, which puts customer safety in the pandemic at the heart of our service. It's a real credit to the team" Jill Palmer, Click Travel

Samantha McKnight and Mark Plowright, LNER


“I was really proud, honoured and a little bit humbled. After six months of bad news it was nice for me, personally, to have something to celebrate"


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The free-ToaTTend evenT welcomes


BTA to consult on TMC pricing models

'Best thing since the spreadsheet'

A consultation on TMC fees by The Business Travel Association has been brought forward due to the impact of Covid-19 on the business travel sector. Originally planned for 2021, the consultation is now taking place this autumn. The BTA has partnered with industry consultants Nina & Pinta to develop a white paper exploring approaches to three TMC models: transaction fees, subscription fees and management fees. It will be consulting with the TMC and corporate travel buyer communities on each model to develop new industry standards. Clive Wratten, CEO of the BTA, said: “The impact of Covid-19 on our industry has made this consultation more vital than ever, and the BTA is committed to leading the industry with this catalyst for positive change.”

Tripactions has innovated its travel and expense management platform, TripActions Liquid, billing it as “the best thing to happen to finance since the spreadsheet”. The TMC says machine learning and AI-driven automation will put an end to the hassles and compromises from out-dated, legacy expensing tools, including the “dreaded expense report”. Auto-approval technology means managers only need to focus on approvals for flagged transactions. “There isn’t a single person who likes expenses, expense management or expense reports,” said Jim Lundy, Founder, CEO & Lead Analyst, Aragon Research “The concept of expenses, conceived decades ago, is no longer relevant today given advancements in business, technology and user experience." The product has been launched in the US and is set to be rolled out in Europe later this year or in early 2021.

bookers, buyers, arrangers and managers

Amex GBT buys technology start-up

September 14-15, 2021 Hilton London Bankside

TheBusinessTravel For exhibition enquiries contact

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BCD Travel has confirmed that 3,000 jobs could go at the TMC due to a downturn in transactions and said: "like so many other companies in the travel industry we will emerge as a smaller organisation coming out of the pandemic."

American Express Global Business Travel has acquired 30SecondsToFly, a technology start-up specialising in artificial intelligence and messaging for business travel. The deal will see the start-up’s AI developers join GBT’s growing technology team. The firm's technology allows users to book travel through a virtual assistant, called Claire, on Facebook Messenger, Slack, Skype and SMS and will be incorporated into the Amex GBT Mobile App and Apple Business Chat over the coming months.

10/26/20 06:28 PM




Wanted: new Minister for Travel

Flybe looks set to rise from the ashes europeAn regional airline Flybe, which collapsed in March with the loss of 2,000 jobs, is set to resume flights next year after being rescued by a former shareholder. The remaining assets of the Exeter-based airline have been bought for an undisclosed sum by Thyme Opco, a company affiliated with investment adviser and former shareholder Cyrus Capital. The deal, subject to Civil Aviation Authority approvals and regulatory requirements, will see the airline re-launch operations in early 2021 as a 'smaller regional airline' under the Flybe brand. Before going into administration, Flybe was Europe's largest regional airline, serving more than 80 airports.

[ C O V I D I N I T I AT I V E S ] >> HYATT HOTELS has relaxed the conditions of its loyalty scheme, World of Hyatt. Among the changes, reward points, which usually expire when a member's account is inactive for two years, will be suspended until June 30 2021. VENUEDIRECTORY.COM is providing a free automatic three-month extension to all venue distribution subscriptions to support the industry through the pandemic and is replacing its annual subscription model with a perpetual monthly model. WOMEN IN TRAVEL, the social enterprise, is offering a free training and mentoring programme this winter for women based in London who have lost their job due to Covid-19. More details at <<

The Government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis has failed to hit the mark. Take the chaotic launch of the Global Travel Taskforce. Positive murmurings that a vital testing pilot would be set up became a victim of ill-informed speculation. Instead we heard, via Twitter, that trials were being put on the back burner. Our pleas for airport tests seem to have fallen on deaf ears. It's as if there is a huge knowledge deficit in Government about what is required to get our industry up off its knees. Too often evidence is ignored. Some sceptical Ministers seem to conveniently set aside the facts: testing trials in other markets have demonstrated high levels of accuracy and effectiveness. Our industry cannot wait for months as the taskforce decides on its remit, seeks evidence, arranges its opinions and eventually delivers its recommendations. Waiting for wise words to emerge before Christmas just will not do. We will only survive if the taskforce acts on testing in weeks, not months.

Our frustration has been further compounded by the launch of the Job Support Scheme and the relaunch of the Winter Economic Plan swiftly on its heels. Once again the Treasury blatantly failed to recognise the first law of Covid economics, namely that all sectors are not affected equally. By our members’ calculations, the Job Scheme will, on average, save just one job per business travel company. 50% of people in business travel are set to lose their jobs in the coming weeks, with worse to come in 2021. Despite our disappointments, we continue to try to deepen our relationships across Government and argue for workable solutions rather than just asking for unlimited subsidies and grants. We as an industry are ready to play our part, but we need to find a new voice to represent us - a newly-established Minister for Travel, charged with shaking off the inertia around finding safe, positive solutions to re-ignite our economy and get Britain moving again.

Clive Wratten Chief Executive Officer


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Network with more thaN 60 leadiNg travel suppliers at this private exhibitioN aNd CoNFereNCe

Study casts doubt over testing fears AVIATION bosses have accused the Government of being 'flawed' in its claim that air passenger testing is ineffective. A review of modelling by Public Health England disputes that tests on arrival might pick up only 7% of passengers with asymptomatic Covid infections and argues it would instead pick up 33%-63% of all infected passengers. The study, commissioned by IAG, Virgin Atlantic, Heathrow, Manchester Airports Group, Airlines UK, IATA, and others, was carried out by economics consultancy Oxera and health data analytics company Edge Health. It said the PHE paper is "based on a theoretical model and is not calibrated to real-world data" and "therefore fails to provide any real insight unto the relative risk inbound passengers pose to the UK population". See pages 29-31.

September 14-15, 2021 Hilton London Bankside

TheBusinessTravel For exhibition enquiries contact

In the Air.v6.indd 24


Number of reported Covid cases relating to air travel

Since the start of 2020, out of a total of 1.2 billion air travellers in that period, there have been just 44 reported Covid cases where transmission is thought to have been associated with a flight, according to IATA figures.

EASTERN Airways is to bring back flights between Northern Ireland and Wales in 2021, filling a gap left by the collapse of Flybe earlier this year. The services will operate daily, except for on Saturdays, from January 11. Fares start from £79.99 one-way, including taxes and charges. Roger Hage, General Manager Commercial and Operations for Eastern Airways, said: “As the UK’s regional airline serving all four home nations, ensuring the right services and frequencies are offered as passenger confidence returns is essential. "The introduction of a Belfast City service from Cardiff is one so many have been asking for so connectivity between Wales and Northern Ireland is in place as the appetite for travel increases." Meanwhile, Eastern Airways has entered a codeshare partnership with Channel Islands specialist Aurigny, focusing on their Southampton connections and aligning their booking systems.

APD TO CLIMB AGAIN DESPITE COVID HIT AIR Passenger Duty is to rise next year on medium- and long-haul flights, despite widespread calls for a 12-month suspension of the tax due to the pandemic's impact on the travel sector. From April 1, Economy travellers on medium- and long-haul flights will pay £82 each way, a rise of £2. Premium class passengers – which includes Premium Economy, Business Class and First - will pay £180, an increase of £4. But APD on short-haul flights will stay the same.

10/26/20 06:27 PM



IN BRIEF On the menu

Qatar Airways has introduced its first range of fully vegan dishes to its à la carte menu. The newly-crafted dishes use locally-sourced ingredients and are available to all Business Class passengers flying from its Doha hub, Hamad International Airport, and selected flights into Doha

Crew tests

Virgin Atlantic has become the first UK airline to introduce Covid-19 pre-flight testing at its Heathrow base for cabin crew and pilots. Initially on flights to Shanghai and Hong Kong, Virgin plans to extend the trial to select services before a wider roll out to test every operating crew at least once per month.

Air travel crucial for UK business chiefs MORE than two thirds of business leaders regard air travel as key to their future prospects, according to a survey commissioned by London City Airport. A poll of 515 top executives by WPI Strategy also found 88% in businesses with over 250 employees believe air travel is important to the future success of their business. Just under half think the Government’s travel and quarantine restrictions is the single biggest barrier to business air travel and 76% believe airport testing would increase confidence when travelling. Similar findings came from a mid-October GBTA poll, which found 86% of European members believe rapid testing pre-departure was the best way to open up travel. The poll also found 63% of European members cite government travel restrictions as the greatest barrier to travel.

Finnair trim

Finnair has scaled back its flight schedule for the winter season but will boost frequencies from spring 2021. The airline plans to open its new Busan route to South Korea and start services to Tokyo Haneda during summer 2021, but flights to San Francisco, Xi’an, Beijing Daxing, and Sapporo in Japan will remain suspended.

Jet set go

VistaJet has launched a new Dynamic Corporate Membership with the option to pay in arrears, get unlimited flying hours, a dedicated flight manager and a dedicated cabin steward only flying the company’s trips to reduce Covid-19 exposure, plus other benefits.

A380 LOUNGES AND SHOWERS MAKE A RETURN ON EMIRATES EMIRATES has reinstated its A380 Onboard Lounge and Shower Spa, with new Covid health and safety measures in place. The Onboard Lounge, available for First and Business customers, has been transformed into a take-away bar with limited seating capacity allowing social distancing. The bar will continue to serve wines, spirits, soft drinks and pre-packaged lounge bites for

customers to enjoy in their cabin seats. Customers will also be able to place orders from their seats. From November 1, Emirates' onboard dining experience will also return in all cabins with new strict hygiene protocols. Meanwhile, the Emirates app has been enhanced to allow those onboard to browse the menus on their personal devices both online and offline.

ITM Scott Davies Chief Executive

Pandemic challenges have meant that we have all had to re-consider what value looks like to our stakeholders and customers. Arguably no-one is an expert anymore, certainly in the medium term, and so we all need to accept and adapt to be able to thrive. Of course, the role of each supplier in the ecosystem has needed to rapidly evolve. The catastrophic drop-off in travel has exposed the weakness in the transaction fee model, which has led to dramatic restructuring of TMCs' businesses. The skills required and value propositions offered have needed to be re-imagined. We have said farewell (for now) to far too many of our extended family as roles have been lost. ITM’s recent Buyer Business Recovery Survey showed that half of all travel buyers now feel increased pressure to justify their roles at this time. During our Thrive 2.0 Conference, industry leaders told us business travel professionals need flexibility tenacity, innovation, opportunism and limitless energy to succeed. Some good news at least, then, since we all know our industry is built on the talent, warmth and resilience of its remarkable people. We will never, ever give up.


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Tribe hotel opens in Paris neighbourhood ACCOR has opened a hotel in Paris, the second under its four-star midscale Tribe brand. The Tribe Paris Batignolles promises “a unique urban space with a vibrant style”, with 79 guestrooms, flexible multipurpose spaces designed for business meetings or gatherings, a bar and café, and fitness centre. Created in Australia with a hotel in Perth, the Tribe brand is “a collective that believes hospitality can constantly evolve to be more stylish and sophisticated while simultaneously remaining authentic and affordable”. Accor said the hotel has been modified for Covid, with hand sanitisers in every space, a minimum of 1 metre between all tables, and a limit of 26 people in the lobby.

INTERNATIONAL serviced apartment agency, SITU, has launched a global network allowing operators worldwide to connect their inventory, availability and pricing to the booking tool. SITU Live: Global Network means travel buyers will have the option to instantly make a booking online and bypass the traditional ‘on-request’ process which is typical within the sector. "We are delighted to launch SITU Live: Global Network in answer to what has been a long-held point of contention for the business

DOUBLE HYATT AT CDG AIRPORT HYATT has opened two adjacent hotels at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, its first dual-branded project in France. Managed by Cycas Hospitality, the hotels - Hyatt Place and Hyatt House - are located in Paris Nord 2 International Business Park, close to the airport. Shared facilities include the restaurants, bar, lounge meeting rooms and event spaces, fitness centre and pool area. Guests at either hotel can also take advantage of a complimentary airport shuttle service, free high-speed internet and a pet-friendly policy.

CAMPAIGN TO KICK-START EVENTS THE HBAA has launched a campaign to help kick-start the meetings and events sector. The ‘Meet Safe, Meet Smart 30’ campaign was created after a survey revealed confusion over the Government’s rules. The research revealed many planners don't know the number of delegates allowed to attend meetings in England (currently 30) which is preventing them booking and organising events. The survey’s 40 respondents, of which 38% were from the


corporate sector; 31% from charities and 31% from a mixture of government, association and education organisations, expressed continued worries over safety. In total, 71% had concerns over employee and delegate safety. Some 65% stated they would only run online meetings and events in the foreseeable future. Almost all of the other respondents said they will organise virtual or hybrid events and leave it to the delegates to decide whether to attend in-person or online.

traveller and business travel buyer – that serviced apartments are harder to book than hotels," said Managing Director Phil Stapleton. "This tool allows our team to work with our clients and build bespoke accommodation programmes that blend online and offline bookable inventory globally which can be connected to third party booking tools or accessed via SITU’s customer portal.” The network launches with over 40 locations across the UK, with the aim of expanding this to over 200 worldwide by December 2020.


Occupancy in London hotels in September

London hotel occupancy dropped by just under 66% in September year-on-year to the lowest rate of any September on record. RevPAR also fell by 81% to £27.64, according to preliminary data from STR, the hospitality data and insights group.


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Peace of mind is not just about safety

Expenses data shows switch to private cars MILEAGE expenses have increased by over 290% since the March lockdown, according to data from Global Expenses App, ExpenseOnDemand. It says mileage now accounts for 90% of all expense claims as employees opt to use private vehicles for business travel rather than other means of transport. Public transport expenses have dropped from 18% to only 5% of total claims but hotel and air travel were the hardest hit sectors, now accounting for just 1% of claims, down from 16% and 20% respectively. ExpenseOnDemand Founder Sunil Nigam said the data highlights that many businesses are still very active and continuing to adapt to new ways of running their business.

CAR HIRE RATES AT A CLICK CLICK Travel has added a direct connection with Enterprise Rent-A-Car for both its Enterprise and National brands, with access to special Click Travel rates. Bookable in the same basket as hotels, flights and more, rates include an all-inclusive package with no insurance excesses, or for cost-conscious customers a Lite rate including mandatory charges. Customers with existing contracts with Enterprise will see their rates honoured, with bookings also being taken on a full credit basis.

Olly Moore, Head of Travel Agency Sales at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, said: “We’ve seen an increase in demand from businesses in the last few months as the Covid-19 pandemic has seen more customers turn to car hire. "We have expanded our already rigorous cleaning protocols following guidance from leading health authorities and we’re delighted to begin this new partnership with Click Travel to take even more business travellers to their destinations safely.”

The impact of the pandemic on business travel will be seen for years to come. At the beginning there was a certain novelty to 'WFH' but fast forward seven months and there is truly a worldwide case of videocall fatigue. We have renewed appreciation for the informal conversations on business trips, the final run-throughs in the

FREE NOW for Business clients have electrostatic cleaned vehicles, reliable drivers, assurance they won’t be stuck in traffic, factory-installed partition screens between them and the driver, cashless and trackable transactions and, importantly, we work to minimise waiting time in public spaces, airports, and train stations.

back of a taxi, face-to-face meetings with valued clients, and reviews of pitches at the airport, perhaps with a cold drink. As we look to cities re-opening in future, it is more important than ever for the business travel sector to help relieve anxiety and give travellers confidence again, by demonstrating that safety and duty of care are at our core.

Safety is top priority, but clients are also increasingly choosing providers offering greener ways to travel. This is not only to help meet their company’s own sustainability goals, but also to give travellers peace of mind that they are doing their bit to help the environment, something that the pandemic has given many a renewed appreciation for.

Jason Dunderdale FREE NOW for Business Head of Sales UK


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Virtual event FEBRUARY 11 2021

TBTM DINNER CLUB Corinthia London APRIL 27-28 2021




JOINS: Hotelbeds AS: Technology and Product Management Director FROM: GVC Holdings

PROMOTED AT: CWT TO: Head up new leadership team AS: President, Traveller Experience and Customer

ELECTED BY: The European Travel Commission AS: President TAKING OVER FROM: Peter De Wilde, VisitFlanders CEO

Simon Matthews has been appointed in a newly-combined role at Hotelbeds to head up both the technology and the product management areas.

CWT has given Niklas Andréen the task of leading a newlycreated Traveller Experience and Customer business unit to help improve global efficiency.

Luís Araújo, who heads up Turismo de Portugal, has been elected as ETC’s President for a three-year term to lead its sustainability efforts.




Brighton MAY 2021 (DATE TBC)

TBTM DINNER CLUB Corinthia London MAY 21-24 2021

ADVANTAGE CONFERENCE 2021 Madeira JUNE 22-23 2021



JOINS: Travelport AS: Chief Marketing Officer FROM: Telaria

JOINS: MIDAS Travel AS: Marketing Manager FROM: Dods Group

JOINS: ABTA AS: Head of Membership FROM: HHD, the holiday homes division of Hotelplan Group

Based in New York, Jennifer Catto has joined Travelport's senior leadership team as Chief Marketing Officer and will report directly into Greg Webb, Chief Executive Officer.

Formerly in marketing roles at Hillgate Travel and Reed & Mackay, and most recently for Dods Group, Ceri Edwards has been appointed Marketing Manager for MIDAS Travel.

ITT Board Member and ViceChair of its Education and Training Committee, Danny Waine has taken on the newlycreated role of Head of Membership at ABTA.

Orlando SEPTEMBER 14-15 2021




TBTM DINNER CLUB Corinthia London





Please note that due to pandemic CY restrictions, some of the above events might be postponed, cancelled or CMY switch to virtual events K

ALSO ON THE MOVE... Travel Manager at Airbus Group UK Geoff Alwright has retired after more than 15 years with the company >> Accor has promoted Duncan O'Rourke to Chief Executive Officer for the extended Northern Europe division, which is a merger of the previous Northern, Central, East and New East Europe Teams >> SITU has appointed Seth Hanson as Senior Supplier Account Manager >> Jan Jacobsen has left AIG after seven years, most recently as Global Accommodation Manager, and is now on gardening leave >> The Carlton Tower Jumeirah, London, which will reopen its doors in December 2020 following a 12-month renovation, has appointed Eliot Sandiford as Director of 1 11/05/2017 15:01 Communications and Charlotte Chiene as Director of Sales >>


We now offer a range of recruitment, training & HR services on an outsourced, project or one-off basis. Contact us for your tailored solution • 01932 562007 • Untitled-3 1


01/09/2020 10:47


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AviAtiON teStiNG

T E S T O F R ESO LV E Traveller testing is progressing - slowly - but scaling it up won’t be easy, says Gary Noakes.


eathrow chief Executive John Holland-kaye doesn't mince his words on covid testing: “There will be no airports and airlines if we don’t solve this problem in the next few months,” he told industry colleagues at September’s world Aviation Festival. like most in the travel sector, he is convinced that traveller tests before departure are the only way to allow airlines to resume something close to normality.

IATA's Chief Economist Brian Pearce is right behind him, particularly after calculating that global air travel will be down 66% this year. “Quarantine, even if the market is open, is equivalent to a full travel ban, which is why we need a mechanism - such as effective testing – in order to open these markets up,” he warned. Heathrow’s passenger numbers remain at 15-20% of normal levels and testing facilities in Terminal 2 and 5, set up back in August in

partnership with Collinson and Swissport, sit unused because the UK Government has not yet given its approval: “The thing that stops people from travelling is inconsistency between governments,” Holland-Kaye said. While a co-ordinated global approach still seems a long way off, there have been pockets of progress. A trial began at Heathrow in mid-October inviting travellers heading to Hong Kong and Italy to take a 'rapid saliva swab', known as a Loop

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AviAtiON teStiNG

Quarantine, even if the market is open, is equivalent to a full travel ban, which is why we need a mechanism - such as effective testing - in order to open these markets up”


mediated Isothermal Amplification test, or Lamp test, which doesn't need to be sent to a laboratory so gets quicker results (around 20 minutes) than the widely-used PCR test. Costing £80, it's available with British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Cathay Pacific. This scheme is also being run by Collinson and Swissport. “With countries around the world adding the UK to their list of ‘high risk’ countries, we need to find a way to work with governments, leading travel brands and other commercial entities to safely open up travel out of the UK,” said David Evans, Collinson Joint Chief Executive, on the day of its launch. In another Collinson/Swissport initiative, trials of a ‘health passport’ took place on a United Airlines flight between Heathrow and Newark. Known as the CommonPass system, the scheme is backed by the World Economic Forum. The UK Government has promised to take a lead in establishing a common international standard, but its shortterm focus seems to be elsewhere. It insists airport testing will not work because it would only pick up about 7% of those who are asymptomatic. Instead, it is favouring a 'test and release' system, where those arriving from 'high-risk' countries take a home test around a week into the 14-day quarantine and can end their isolation early if they test negative. The Department of

Transport has, however, confirmed that it is now "talking to the US" about a transatlantic testing regime working with the International Civil Aviation Organisation. An air corridor between London and New York has been high on the business travel wishlist since the early days of quarantine, strongly championed by American Express Global Business Travel. Known as 'Project NyLon', Amex GBT and others in the corporate travel sector believe there should be a bi-lateral quarantine exemption for travellers who book through TMCs. They argue that corporate travellers should be the pioneers because they represent only 15-30% of passengers, making it easier for airlines, airports and governments to test new protocols. “In addition, business travellers are well briefed and their information and itineraries are available for contact tracing purposes,” adds Martin Ferguson, Amex GBT Vice President of Public Affairs. Clive Wratten, Business Travel Association CEO agrees. “If you are limiting it to business travellers to test it on certain air corridors, then the capacity is there. The cost of PCR testing is proving to be a bit of a barrier, but it’s minimal when you get to some sort of scale and within the corporate world it is not prohibitive.” Wratten contrasts progress made in Germany, the Middle East and Singapore

AMeriCAN AirliNeS



American Airlines has begun pilot tests at Dallas/Fort Worth on flights to Hawaii and at Miami airport for passengers to Jamaica. It is in talks to expand testing to 20 Caribbean countries. As well as airport testing, there is the option of home self-tests observed by a professional on a virtual visit, with results “expected in 48 hours on average”.

Air Canada has ordered a sample of 25,000 rapid testing ID Now kits to be used initially on staff. Early studies showed it a viable quarantine alternative, but the airline added there was no date for passenger use. Since September 3, nearly 13,000 international arrivals have been tested at Toronto-Pearson airport, with fewer than 1% testing positive.

Dubai Airport is open to arriving and departing passengers with a printed negative PCR Covid-19 test certificate obtained within 96 hours of departure. Arrivals in Dubai may be retested and must quarantine in their accommodation until the result is known. All Emirates passengers get free Covid insurance for health and quarantine costs.

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AviAtiON teStiNG

with the UK. “Our biggest worry is that we are sitting right at the back from a UK Government perspective. There’s a change, but not as fast as we would like, but now they see the long winter without an economic upturn and pace is increasing.” Wratten recognised concern from public health officials that testing at ports could impact the NHS, but said new generation tests “do not need lab capacity”. “The other issue is over the accuracy of testing and the belief that it does not mitigate anywhere near enough of the risk. Again, that is rapidly becoming an out-ofdate view,” he adds There remain practical issues, as IATA chief executive Alexandre de Juniac admitted: “Finding sufficient, fast, highaccuracy, affordable, easy to use tests will not be easy and, of course, the priority will be to fulfil medical needs before the requirements for travel.” This is neatly explained at Frankfurt airport, where Lufthansa’s testing facility is open to all passengers on both departure and arrival. In September it increased capacity to more than 10,000 passengers a day. A standard 12-hour test is €59 and a six-hour express process €139. Lufthansa says results are “generally within 4-5 hours”, although it admits not all are processed as quickly. The airline said capacity was currently “more than sufficient during times

of high demand”, but universal Covid testing needs significant progress. Frankfurt’s initiative is impressive, but 10,000 a day is a fraction of the airport’s 2019 figure of 193,000 daily average passengers. Frankfurt’s total 70.6 million passengers last year compares with Heathrow’s 80.9 million – proof that testing currently remains an answer for only a slim proportion of previous passenger levels. However, Lufthansa Group Chief Executive Carsten Spohr is adamant testing will bridge the divide until a vaccination is developed. Lufthansa’s current scheme is a PCR test, which he described as “slow and expensive”. The alternative, an antigen test, is “just around the corner”, he said. “We actually went through them at our training centre and it took only 15 minutes for all 50 of us to get our results…this eventually will be how we board our aircraft, I’m sure. Antigen is a game-changer for our industry.” As well as the time advantage, antigen tests are €5-7, according to Spohr. “The costs of this are not going to be in our way.” He predicted its introduction “by second quarter next year” across global networks, proceeded by use on air corridors from Germany to the US by Christmas 2020. IATA is similarly optimistic, with De Juniac saying testing was “ready from October” costing only “$6-$10”.

PAriS AirPOrtS

tHe NetHerlANDS

Antigen tests were due to be introduced at Paris Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports by the end of October, initially on flights to the U.S. and Italy as well as for arrivals from countries on France's high-risk list. Due to Paris curfews, anyone arriving at or leaving the airports from 9pm-6am must carry a proof of travel and a special certificate.

KLM Health Services offers a €145 PCR Covid test, by appointment, at the Hague and two Schiphol sites. Results come back within 36 hours. Tests are for passengers on any airline, not just KLM. Arriving passengers must complete a health screening form. Those from the UK are currently required to quarantine for 10 days.

The industry hopes he is right, as currently test-enabled air corridors are few. United Airlines’ boast of becoming the first US carrier to offer testing was tempered by it being restricted to San Francisco to Hawaii flights. Launched on October 15, the sameday tests at San Francisco cost a hefty $250 or $80 for a home testing kit used 72 hours before departure. United stressed Hawaii was “basically a pilot programme” but added extensions were “all contingent on testing capacity”. So is testing the panacea to cure corporate travel reluctance? “No, it probably isn’t, but it’s a huge part of achieving that and for some it’s what they need,” says Wratten. “It’s about reducing their exposure to any duty of care claim - to know that you send and receive an employee back Covid-free will achieve that.”

The cost of PCR testing is proving to be a bit of a barrier, but it's minimal when you get to some sort of scale and within the corporate world it is not prohibitive”

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Air travel

Flight check How does the airport-to-arrival experience in this age of Covid protocols differ from airline to airline and airport to airport? Our reporter found out by flying Gatwick-Dublin with easyJet and back with Ryanair THE AIRPORTS

Gatwick: Only North Terminal is currently operating. The shuttle from South to North was quiet, with passengers observing face coverings rules. It was a Sunday morning but North Terminal was a lot busier than I expected. Even at 7am the Red Lion, a Wetherspoons outlet, was packed and there was a steady line of people queuing to get in. The place operated a QR Code (track and trace) stipulation. Those whose camera phones couldn't pick this up were asked to fill out a short form, with personal details, before entering. Once inside, tables were distanced at least two metres apart from each other and patrons were encouraged to order food from an app. I was surprised that Boots and WHSmith were not limiting the number of people moving in and out. Many

of the fashion retailers were closed, although this might have been because it was early on a Sunday. Nearly everyone but not all - was observing the face covering requirements whilst travelling through the airport. There were plenty of hand sanitiser stations throughout the terminal and dedicated ‘PPE bins’, marked for the disposal of face coverings and gloves only. In some areas of the airport, a one-way flow system was in place. Dublin: It was late afternoon on a Thursday and the airport was very quiet. I was carrying only hand luggage but Plexiglas screens have been installed at the check-in desks to minimise contact between passengers and airline staff. All passengers are asked to wear a face mask during their

full airport journey and once airside there were several vending machines disposing these. Many retail shops were closed and the large Duty Free area didn't have many takers. One large bar was serving alcohol but only when ordered with food bought somewhere in the airport (a bag of crisps seemed to fulfil this requirement). A large group were laughing, joking and moving around the bar without face masks, and gathering at the counter despite signs saying 'table service only', which made myself and a few others feel uncomfortable. SECURITY

Gatwick: Although there were plentiful open lines and I was through the body scanner quickly enough, it seemed like more bags than usual were being directed into the 'to search' channel, which meant there were a number of people hanging around waiting to have their hand luggage checked. Mostly this was because small liquids hadn't been put into plastic bags or, even pettier, they had been deposited in two plastic bags instead of the allowed one. In the circumstances, this seemed over-zealous and counter-productive to have groups of people waiting in the same small area. This was the only time at Gatwick I felt that social distancing measures were laxer than they needed to be. Dublin: I went straight to security, where floor markers had been put in place to maintain social distancing. I noticed a member of staff sanitising a pile of security trays and was told that if a body search were required security staff would wear a full-face visor. I was through and walking airside in less than five minutes. BOARDING

easyJet: The gate number was announced 45 minutes before departure. I immediately headed to gate 55C - a 10-minute walk - and went straight onto the plane. There was no one staffing the check-in desk, which had a protective screen in place, with passengers able to walk straight through and down the jet bridge. Tickets - mobile phone downloads have come of age during the pandemic - were 32

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Air travel

procedures. The 50-minute flight felt relaxed and very safe - although this was no doubt partly due to the rows of empty seats.

checked at the aircraft door and we were directed straight to our seats. Ryanair: The gate number, 105, was announced 50 minutes before the flight. With far fewer departing flights from Dublin and lots of empty gates, there were plenty of unoccupied seats nearby. Passengers were asked to queue to board and tickets were checked before boarding. However, everyone kept their distance and there was no bottleneck situation or sense that it was all a bit too busy and cramped. The cabin crew stopped us at the aircraft's door, to ensure social distancing whilst finding our seats. ONBOARD / THE FLIGHT

Ryanair: I had a window seat, with the middle and aisle seats unoccupied. The flight was relatively busy - around threequarters full - with the three rows ahead and behind me full. Surprisingly, there were no Covid-specific announcements or any guidance as to safety measures we needed to adhere to during the flight. Before take-off, a passenger in a window seat in the row opposite was on his mobile phone for a lenghty time, with his mask down below his chin. During the 55-minute flight the aisle remained mostly passenger free as a request to stay buckled during the duration was observed. Although busier and noisier than my outbound easyJet flight, the flying experience felt as safe, 'normal' and reassuring as it could be during these times. ARRIVAL

Easy Jet: Exiting the aircraft was swift, with social distancing protocols perfectly observed. Belfast International was neardeserted, with all shops, retail outlets and cafĂŠs, etc, shuttered, aside from a small WHSmith. The emptiness and lack of arriving planes and people felt a little eerie. From

There was no one staffing the checkin desk, which had a protective screen in place, with passengers able to walk straight through and down the jet bridge� disembarking to catching a bus to the city centre took less than 15 minutes. Ryanair: After landing at Gatwick we waited 15 minutes for a gate to become available. This was probably the tensest part of the flight, with people anxious to get off the plane. Once the aircraft door was open, several passengers started reaching for their luggage at the same time and gathering in the aisle. I had purposely chosen a forward seat near to the front exit door to avoid this and was one of the first off the plane. Passing through Gatwick was seamless, although the shuttle to South Terminal was crowded. There seems to be no measure in place to restrict the number of people boarding, which made the two-minute journey feel that much longer.

easyJet: I had pre-selected a window seat near the front of the aircraft. Both seats next to me were empty, as were the three rows immediately ahead, behind and opposite. I counted only around 25 passengers on the flight. Announcements were made regarding the requirement to wear a mask during the duration of the flight, which we could take off only whilst eating or drinking. We were told to stay in our seats and, if wanting to use the lavatory, wait until the vacant sign was lit before unbuckling our seat belts. Before take-off we were advised that, on landing, we should stay in our seats and not reach for our baggage until the people ahead of us had moved towards the exit door. A limited food and beverage service was served onboard. Cabin crew and passengers kept their masks on throughout and observed all social distancing

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R A IL I M P ROV E M EN T S Demand for train e-tickets and other business travel initiatives is stronger than ever in the pandemic, says Dave Richardson


ven before Covid came along, business travellers were frustrated by the patchy availability of rail e-tickets and the reluctance of train operators to offer any kind of loyalty scheme. The pandemic, of course, has made both of these all the more important as travellers look for a lowtouch experience and train operators struggle to attract any kind of passengers back onto their services. Passenger revenue in the lockdown months from March to June was just 6.9% of what it


had been in 2019, and since then rail has lagged far behind road transport in recovery. Usage of the rail network had reached about 40% of normal levels by September, but then came renewed advice to work from home and local lockdowns. Estimates that 20% of last autumn’s passengers are still travelling looks optimistic. Train operators were given another bailout by the Government in September, with an 18-month deal paying them a management fee of up to 1.5% of revenue. This incorporates performance targets and

is down from the 2% fee paid from March to September, but with the franchising system now abolished pending an ongoing review of how to run the railways, what incentive is there for train operators to motivate the business market? Perhaps they could look to Europe, where the Eurostar for Business initiative was announced in September. While described as suitable for businesses of any size, it is clearly aimed at SMEs, with benefits starting with an upgrade to Standard Premier for every 15 return trips in Standard class. 

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At SWR we are doing everything we can to keep you safe when travelling by train. Get our free Touch Smartcard and you can book a range of tickets online from home, before you travel, to minimise contact at every stage of your journey. Search ‘SWR smartcard’. Stay safe. Travel Smart. Untitled-2 1

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Once the account is set up it can be used by an administrator or by individuals, while the Club Eurostar rewards scheme continues with discounts for travellers towards future leisure trips. Something similar would be welcome from domestic rail operators, but Nick Bamford, Associate Ground/Rail Services for consultancy Black Box Partnerships, says we will have to wait for the Covid dust to settle. “There is nothing positive in the British rail sector at present, and the time for such initiatives is not now,” he explains. “Many of the key long-distance and regional train operators have a business offer for SMEs which provides basic account management facilities, but none of them has a full business travel management product. This is why Trainline saw an opportunity a few years ago, appealing to companies not using a TMC.”

It remains the case whatever the size of business - that the complexity of the UK rail fares structure makes it difficult to access best value fares without a specialist booking tool” 36

The availability of e-tickets had become fairly widespread pre-lockdown, when the advantages of not having to touch anything or queue at stations became apparent to those who still had to travel. But Bamford says the non-availability of e-tickets to all business travellers is a frustration shared by travellers and train operators alike. “The problem is that while the main business booking tools Trainline and Evolvi have enabled it, many other online intermediaries have not,” he says. “These are often global businesses, and enabling it for one sector in one country may be an issue.” Trainline for Business offers SMEs a dedicated online tool, which has the added advantage of compliance with duty of care by informing companies exactly where their employees are or have been – which is now crucial in light of Covid-19. General Manager David Higgins says: “Given the pandemic and its financial impact on many businesses, we have also updated our travel policy feature so that it now allows companies to put flexible booking restrictions for their employees in place, for example restricting first class bookings or allowing only the cheapest ticket to be booked.” Evolvi is the main booking platform used by TMCs, and Managing Director Andrew Cantrell says many of them have tailored their service to SMEs.

“It remains the case – whatever the size of business – that the complexity of the UK rail fares structure makes it difficult to access best-value fares without a specialist booking tool,” he adds. “What really drives any corporate traveller, whether a multinational or a smaller business, is the ability to optimise travel budgets – and this is where online booking tools come into their own.” TMC Click Travel has developed its own booking and ticketing system and Chief Product Engineer Robin Smith says the focus this year has been on the wider adoption of e-tickets. “Our own platform is fully compliant with the latest barcode ticketing specification in preparation for wider support of this at more stations,” he explains. “We have seen significant adoption of barcode ticketing away from traditional paper tickets when the route supports it, and we hope to make barcode ticketing our default option. “Before the lockdown we were seeing huge uptake of traveller experience improvements with companion apps gaining popularity, and we expect this to return strongly once people are back on the move. We also expect the question of sustainability to return to the forefront of people’s minds.” A source close to the ITM says it is "frankly disappointing” that road congestion is getting worse while rail usage slumps. He adds: “Business people will go in their own cars or hire cars, but many are scared of sitting in any space with people they don’t know. “We hear that younger travellers are keen on the sustainability agenda, but most people have returned to the old ways. What would be good are apps telling you which trains or parts of trains are least busy.”

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ROOMS Hotels and serviced apartments are transforming their spaces to align with the new ways of working - and fill empty rooms, says catherine chetwynd


hile many of us are embracing working from home, for others it can be isolating or simply impractical. Zoom calls to colleagues will quickly show you that not every home comes with an office, or even a spare room with space for a desk. Instead, many new homeworkers are having to make do with the edge of the kitchen breakfast counter, or the dining table, battling with interruptions from hungry children and pesky pets. No surprise, then, that some versatile accommodation providers have turned their hand to offering bedrooms as office space on day lets, spotting a potential new market and, in turn, helping to counteract the dramatic dip in demand for overnight stays.



One of the quickest groups off the block was Accor, whose Hotel Office product is available in 320 properties in Europe, in brands from Ibis to Sofitel, ensuring something for every budget. “In Russia, one business booked multiple Hotel Office rooms in one hotel for two months for its team to use; and we’re seeing interest from younger professionals in house shares, where they are competing for work space and Wifi bandwidth,” says Jonathan Pettifer, Director of Corporate Sales and TMC Partners UK and Ireland. Serviced apartment group Ascott has launched Work in Residence in 60 of its properties providing rooms for day use, and Space-as-a-Service, working with corporate clients on options such as hosting cloud kitchens and Starbucks kiosks, or fitness activities in apartments. Work suites can be booked on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. In the UK, participating properties include Citadines Barbican London, Citadines Trafalgar Squar, Citadines Holborn CoventGarden, Citadines South Kensington and Citadines Islington, which opened this autumn. Ascott’s Chief Development Officer, Leong Teng Wui, said the group was capitalising on the rising telecommuting trend to offer a comprehensive solution for guests to live and work in a safe and private space. He


said Ascott’s interior design service team is working with properties and owners to reconfigure and customise Ascott’s spacious apartments to “not only provide a home away from home, but also create a conducive, productive and well-designed workspace”. In March, Cheval Three Quays converted 21 apartments into a trading floor for a company needing a central location and super fast WiFi, and companies are able to book single apartments or blocks in Cheval properties. “We believe remote working is here to stay as a long-term trend,” says CEO George Westwell.


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For those requiring a touch of luxury with their remote working, The Dorchester and 45 Park Lane are two Dorchester Collection properties providing Working Away, which includes private suites from 7am to 7pm, £100 spa and dining credit, on-call IT

Companies recognise some workers are struggling to maintain productivity or even morale at home”

concièrge, working area with stationery and unlimited tea and coffee, which will set you back £1,275 and £925 respectively. Alternatively, Bvlgari Hotel London has introduced B.Business, an "elevated workation" that provides use of a spacious suite, the hotel’s pool and gym, and includes refreshments throughout the day, a lunch and even an after work drink at the end of the day. Packages are available until March 31 for groups of up to six or solo guests. House of Fisher has responded to demand by adding desks and improving WiFi performance where required. The company has also turned the guest lounge at

aparthotel 100 Kings Road in Reading into a co-working space, which is free for in-house guests and will eventually be offered to external visitors. The public spaces in Lamington Group’s Southampton room2 always comprised bookable meeting space and working areas, and inspired by its success and the current climate, the group has decided to move development of The Mission in London’s Hammersmith, previously destined to be tenanted offices, to flexible co-working space for both guests and non-guests; plus have a secondary site within the room2 hometel in Belfast. 


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Perhaps propelled by the 'new normal', I believe this trend we are witnessing in the industry is here to stay”


 Taking bedroom-office working to another level is Synergy, whose Work/Stay packages range from full executive office suites to a Swiss ball and a desk. The company sees these services as potentially a standard requirement in future corporate accommodation programmes. “These initiatives will give our employees some new options and variety but it would have to be expensed, which would not be that easy in the current environment at our company,” says the UK travel manager of a large aerospace company. He says it would only advantage the few who travel to see customers and cannot get on to their site,

but added: “We do not see this being a longterm solution.” American Express GBT, however, sees this as an enduring trend. “We’ve seen a need from our customers and even within our own teams for work and meeting spaces that meet a “work solo, collaborate local” balance,” says vice president, hotel strategy, Wesley Bergstrom. “Citizen M, for example, is running a subscription-based working room and we expect more hotels to develop similar offers.” With social distancing now a pre-requisite, these packages are a safe alternative to co-working spaces. “Companies recognise

some workers are struggling to maintain productivity or even morale at home. For solo workers, individual rooms with private bathroom facilities and room service may provide a more enjoyable, productive work environment,” he says. Some groups do not have an official package but respond positively to requests. “If a guest wanted to book a room to work for the day and get some much needed peace and quiet, they would be likely to get a great deal, as there is a lot of good value available in Premier Inns across the UK at the moment,” says a spokesperson. This type of offer is also available from 25hotels, Locke aparthotels, Q apartments, Radisson’s Hybrid Rooms and some RBH properties, including Holiday Inn London – Camden Lock and DoubleTree by Hilton Edinburgh City Centre. Across the Atlantic, resort hotels are getting in on the act. Hyatt is pitching its 'Work From Hyatt' package to people who are working remotely and schooling virtually as "a welcome change of scenery, encouraging work- and school-life balance with more space, better weather and a respite from daily routines". Its extended-stay offer is available at more than 60 participating hotels in the

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14/10/2020 17:33:59 15/10/2020 09:13 10/26/20 05:51 PM

17:33:59 20 09:13



U.S., Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean with resorts offering perhaps a complimentary round of golf and spa treatment or activities and educational experiences for children. 'We are seeing a pent-up demand for travel and, as such, strong interest in Work From Hyatt, with U.S. travellers more likely

to travel to warm-weather destinations such as Florida, Southern California and Mexico. We’ve seen that families and pairs make up most of the Work from Hyatt bookings, as guests take advantage of the offer and resort amenities," said a spokesman. Hotels are also teaming up with established workspace providers. U.S. boutique brand Proper has partnered with Industrious, while Soho House is offering secluded retreats in partnership with Getaway, and in the latest stateside pairing NeueHouse has joined with Design Hotels. "We have seen the confluence of work and leisure, as well as social, intellectual and creative moments fundamentally evolve over the past seven months," says NeueHouse CEO Josh Wyatt. "Making moves together with Design Hotels highlights our commitment to providing for the myriad of needs that creative professionals and explorers now have."


The Ascott Limited A leading international lodging owner-operator, Ascott's award-winning portfolio spans more than 190 cities across 30 countries, with Citadines Islington London being the newest addition to the UK portfolio. Ascott provides a safe home from home with its comprehensive health and safety guidelines, Ascott Cares, and it has signed a global agreement with Bureau Veritas to provide independent audits and certification for the hygiene and safety standards of Ascott’s properties worldwide.


Madison Hill A Safe & Secure Home Private Front Door Dedicated Work Space Fast Reliable WiFi Private Outdoor Space Parking Available Central London - 15 Minutes ISAAP Quality Accredited with 2020 Infection Control


Markus Schreyer, Design Hotels Senior Vice President, added: "We are looking into adding more member hotels around the world to the programme, which we believe are highly relevant for the NeueHouse community. Perhaps propelled by the 'new normal', I believe this trend we are witnessing in the industry is here to stay."


Nika Corporate Housing

Premier Inn

As part of the International Serviced Apartments Association, Nika Corporate Housing is implementing new cleaning procedures in between guest stays that are beneficial for the peace of mind for essential industry travellers in temporary housing scenarios, down to the last detail. For example, high-touch items within a furnished apartment, such as the television remote, are not only being sanitised but are being placed in a plastic bag for added peace of mind for our valued guests.

With over 800 hotels, Premier Inn is the UK’s largest hotel chain. Many of our hotels are close to city centres, major motorways and train stations, so a great choice for your business stays. We’re renowned for our comfort and consistency at great value, and our all-you-can-eat cooked breakfast is back – now plated and served to your table. Our enhanced hygiene promise, Premier Inn CleanProtect, ensures you can stay with confidence every time you book with us.


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The Grand Central


My executive suite

Hotel is part of Hastings Hotels. The

(2203) opened to uninterrupted views

group's other Belfast hotels include The

over the city's historic red-brick

Europa and Culloden Estate and Spa.

buildings and, in the distance, Belfast

This five-star property is very centrally

docks and the Titanic-themed hotel and

located and, with 300 rooms, is the

museum. It was spacious - full of tactile

largest hotel in Northern Ireland. With

green, brown and beige hues - with a

Stephen Meldrum, the hotel's GM,

king-size double 'Cloud Bed', a writing

president of the Northern Ireland

desk and walk-in rain shower. ESPA

Hotels Association and a key member of

amenity products featured in the

the country's Tourism Recovery Group,


Grand Central has been centrally involved in developing new guest experiences in the age of Covid.


The stylish Seahorse

on the ground floor is three spaces in one: restaurant, lounge and bar. It is bright and airy, with high ceilings and

business traveller, with two meeting

open during the summer lockdown and

walls of windows flooded with light

rooms - the Blackstaff and the Farset,

housed NHS staff and other key

creating a feeling of 'relaxed space'. The

named after the rivers of Belfast - two

workers. When it reopened to paying

tables are set with plenty of distance

boardrooms and the Panorama Suite,

guests on July 3, it did so with health

between them and breakfast is served

an 80-seat reception room that comes

and safety protocols in place that had

directly to the table (no menus or

with distracting views. Each event space

been developed and assessed by the

buffets stations). Staff, although not

Belfast Hospital Trust. These include

wearing masks, spray-cleaned

hand sanitising stations in the lobby

tables (with a two-chemical

and clear social distancing signage and

liquid) immediately after guests

guest lifts limited to a maximum of two

left. Unfortunately, The

people or one family group (although

Observatory, a cocktail lounge

this is very much down to the guests to

with fantastic views of the city -

adhere to). The rooms are cleaned with

it's the tallest bar in the whole of

particular attention to sanitising all

Ireland - was closed. Valet parking

'touch points'. An innovative 'ozone

is available at a hefty ÂŁ25 a night,

in this age of living with Covid. There is

machine' fully sanitises the room by

although free and meter parking is

a general sense of space and distancing

extracting all dust and any germs from

available on nearby streets.

throughout, and all the staff were warm


The hotel stayed

can be adapted for business and social conferences, private dinners and


media events.


surfaces and 're-oxygenates' it with 100% fresh air. Members of staff then

events: from meetings to




This classic and

timeless hotel has done everything possible to offer a seamless, enjoyable and worry-free experience

and helpful - starting with the doorman THE BUSINESS

During the pandemic

who walked to a street corner with us

stay away from the rooms - no evening

The Grand Central's corporate business

and kindly pointed out a place where

turn down - unless otherwise requested

has, unsurprisingly, dropped away and

we might park for free.

by guests.

been almost non-existent outside of Northern Ireland's domestic market.


New measures in

But the hotel is well geared for the


Grand Central Hotel,

9-15 Bedford Street, Belfast BT2 7FF

place made this very speedy. I arrived at

Tel: 028 9023 1066

3pm and my key was waiting for me in


a 'sanitised' envelope. There were none

of the usual protracted registration

Rates start from ÂŁ130 for a midweek

details required as these had been

stay in an Executive Double room in

done in advance. While this offers

January 2021. There's no deposit

customer reassurance, it necessarily

required and the hotel offers free

lacks the warmth and customer service

cancellation up to 24 hours before

levels for which the hotel has won many


'Best of in Irish hospitality' awards.

Steve Hartridge

"Getting the balance right in providing customer safety and not losing the

NOTE: Since this visit there have been

integration that is the essence of the

rising numbers of Covid-19 cases in

hospitality industry is a challenge,"

Northern Ireland, so the hotel temporarily

admits Meldrum.

suspended all services on October 16.



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The final word

I'll have the chicken please...


here are lots of things we’re all missing about travel - discovering new places, meeting new people, getting away from the kids. But, if the initiatives of some airlines are anything to go by, some of us are also pining for the delights of in-flight catering. Really? In September, Thai Airways created a pop-up restaurant in its Bangkok head office and opened it to the public, kitted out with cabin seating and other aviation-themed decorations – fan blades, cabin windows – each with a QR code attached so plane-enthusiasts can look up information. Singapore Airlines took it one step further in October by turning a whole A380 into a restaurant for two weekends. While tucking into a Peranakan menu, specially designed by local chef Shermay Lee, diners

Come rain or shine As the winter nights draw in, a survey of 6,446 Brits found which areas of the UK moan most about the weather. Here are the biggest grumblers: Bristol (average of 1 hr 18 mins moaning each week) 2 Burnley (1 hr 14 mins) 3 Hull ( 1 hr 12 mins) 4 Southampton ( 1hr 10 mins) 5 Birmingham (1 hr 7 mins) 6 Bradford (1 hr 3 mins) 7 Bournemouth (59 mins) 8 Sunderland (57 mins) 9 Lincoln (55 mins) 10 Oxford (54 mins) 1

Survey by

can even watch a movie on the airline’s famous KrisWorld in-seat entertainment. Now, the trend has come closer to home thanks to Finnair, who is selling readymade Business Class-inspired

Santa goes virtual


on't tell the kids, but it looks like even the north pole is being impacted by the pandemic. Santa break specialist, Santa's Lapland, has cancelled all December trips amid concerns that new safety measures would 'take too much away from the magic'. Hopefully, the man in red will be back in action in January, but until then you can treat the family to a personalised, live video experience, where an elf will guide you through the snow to see Rudolph and friends before introducing you to Santa Claus himself. Let's hope he's got the hang of the dreaded mute button!

meals in a shop by Helsinki Airport so you can enjoy them at home. Simply rearrange your dining chairs into rows, strap a belt around you, set your washing machine to spin, and it'll be just like the real thing.

While we'll be relieved to see the back of most of the new travel hygiene procedures and products forced upon us by Covid, there are a few that we'd quite like to stick around, mostly relating to making aeroplane toilets completely touchless. Foot-powered flushes, seats that lift up and down on their own (hopefully not during the necessary activity), and even a door you can slide open and closed with your elbow are all being developed and tested, but please make sure you still wash your hands.

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Recognising outstanding individuals and teams across all aspects of the supplier element of corporate travel For sponsorship enquiries contact

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