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ISSUE 7 FCM TRAVEL SOLUTIONS UK

Elevating business travel intelligence

Service delivery shouldn’t be a game of chance


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Welcome

Issue 7

A

t FCM, we have always prided ourselves on the unique way we service our clients via small teams of dedicated consultants, blending this approach with innovative travel technology solutions. But as booking activity goes increasingly online and other automated functions get slicker, is there a danger that service will be relegated? The lead feature in this issue of Upgrade (starting on page 4) examines what service provision travel managers should expect of suppliers and intermediaries in a digital world. Data privacy has gone into overdrive in our digital world in the wake of high-profile data breaches this year and the impact of GDPR. Data is essential for meeting corporate and traveller expectations but what data do your

suppliers actually need? Turn to page 8 for an insight into getting the balance right. Due to globalisation, social and cultural change, organisations and business travellers are more diverse than ever. Our parent company Flight Centre is no exception, and was recently named Best LGBT friendly company at the TTG Awards. On page 10 of this issue, we explore the steps that travel managers need to take to ensure that their programme takes all travellers into account. On the subject of awards, I am delighted to report that FCM has been shortlisted in three categories at the 2020 Business Travel Awards (see FCM News on page 16). This is a huge achievement and a tribute to the dedication and drive of our people, our agile approach and culture of fluid thinking, all of which enables us to deliver the right solutions for our customers. I hope you enjoy reading this issue of Upgrade.

G raham Ross UK General Manager, FCM Travel Solutions

Contents 4

Dial S for service Finding the right service delivery for the company and the traveller

8

Balancing act What data do your suppliers actually need?

EDITORIAL COMMISSIONING EDITOR Betty Low

16

CONTRIBUTORS Catherine Chetwynd, Mark Frary, Linda Fox

FCM News Nominated for three BTAs and more

18

23

FCM EDITORIAL ADVISER Vanessa Aves

Connecting rooms Corporate hotel programmes are becoming much more dynamic Brain dump How biometrics are changing how travellers move through journeys

DESIGN PRODUCTION & MANAGEMENT WonDesigns, Caren Johnstone LEAD DESIGNER & ILLUSTRATION Leanne Armstrong ILLUSTRATION André Albuquerque, Oliver Sleeman

10 Mixed signals What travel managers can do to support more diverse corporate travellers

PUBLISHING MANAGER Alice Taylor

13 Melbourne Melbourne is the home to some of the nation’s largest companies, with a highly diverse economy

ADVERTISING ADVERTISING SALES Sue Robinson

26

PRINTING REDBOX Group, Ed Cooling

Remote controls Isolated venues can focus delegate attention

©FCMUPGRADE 2019 Images sourced from suppliers, FCM Travel Solutions, and stock photography New business enquiries salesuk@fcmtravel.co.uk Editorial and advertising enquiries enquiries@fcmupgrade.com FCMUPGRADE.COM

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TRAVEL MANAGERS PROGRAMMES

Dial S for service It’s essential to find the service delivery that’s right for the company and the traveller

W

e no longer seek service from our suppliers for only one reason, or expect it to be delivered through one channel. Take your average supermarket trip as an example. Hake is on offer, but you don’t know what to do with it – either you snatch a recipe card from a display or ask the person handing it over to you at the wet fish counter for tips. And when it’s time to pay, you can choose to speed up the process by scanning your own shopping - or you can place your items on a conveyor belt for someone else to do it while discussing the weather. And that’s without even going near the customer service desk when you’ve been overcharged or need to organise a delivery. Anyone who wants to eat at home needs to shop, but different people need and want different service delivery. The same is true for corporate travellers. Business travel is not only about automated transactions. It’s about service. WHO’S IT FOR? Service is needed both by travellers, who might need help with a change of travel plans or cancellations, and by management to fulfil corporate objectives. According to Dusko Kain, Head of Account Management, England for FCM Travel Solutions, “There has to be an equilibrium between traveller satisfaction and delivering cost control/savings.” And travellers have different service expectations and needs. Millennials are much more comfortable online but many travellers, especially in certain sectors and markets, want a more offline service. From disrupting

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Issue 7

technology start-ups to more traditional professional services such as law and consultancy, companies have different cultures and so do their travellers. And it’s not just the organisation that will define the traveller’s profile. As Carol Randall, Managing Director of Sage Consultancy says, “Just because you’re

If it’s an emergency, you don’t want to listen to ‘press 3 if...” Dusko Kain, Head of Account Management, England, FCM Travel Solutions

in the same company doesn’t mean you have same profiles.” Travel needs also affect the kind of service required – online might be cheaper and easy to use for pointto-point trips but for more complex journeys involving multiple flights and nights away with different suppliers, perhaps needing extras such as visas or ground arrangements, a personal service is likely to be more efficient and time and cost-effective. And managers need service from their suppliers whether it’s prompt handling of disputed invoices or supporting a new product or service. WHY IS SERVICE NEEDED? Support Any kind of business transformation – a new online tool, for example – may need training and access to a support desk. Any product or service can break down or be disrupted. When things go wrong, the client will need expertise and service from the provider. Disruption Journeys can be disrupted for many reasons. Flights can be cancelled due to weather conditions, labour disputes, an incident or going ‘tech’.


FCM’S TRAVEL ASSISTANT SAM (FCM’s Smart Assistant for Mobile) is an app which makes all the information, documentation and advice travellers need available in one user-friendly place. FCM clients can have their actual bookings connected, but anyone can receive more general support such as destination information. Travellers can also input their travel arrangements themselves and have some itinerary management. If the traveller shares their trip information and location SAM can send travel updates such as changes to the flight gate or departure time, as well as any relevant security alerts. SAM is a chatbot-based interface backed up by real people who can communicate with the traveller through the app.

“If there’s an emergency or a crisis, you work along with risk management to make sure travellers are safe and okay,” explains Dusko, “except for media customers who you’re trying to get in rather than out.” Booking changes New travel arrangements might be needed because of overrun meetings or traffic. A change in business plans can require a change of itinerary. New flights or accommodation arrangements require service. WHAT COMPRISES SERVICE? In a digital age, there is more variety in how service can be delivered. “Personal” service need not be in person, nor indeed need it be with a person on the telephone. Travel companies also offer online service via mobile apps or online chat. Both Dusko and Carol stressed the value of offline service. “There’s a need for both,” says Carol, “and there’s a real resurgence in the professional travel consultant and the service they provide. “It’s about putting in place the service that meets the needs of the community.”

Dusko’s view is clear: “You need a team behind it online to manage 24/7. If emergencies happen – airlines closing down or pilot strikes – you will need to call a human.” SERVICE DELIVERY There are many methods of service delivery – apps (eg SAM, see box), phone, online – and it’s important to have a clear understanding of the pros and cons of different methods and which might be appropriate for what. In Dusko’s words, “If it’s an emergency, you don’t want to listen to ‘press 3 if...” Service categorised as ‘online’ coexists under a very broad umbrella with different individual suppliers providing very different levels of service, some much more timely than others. Online service can be personalised in a helpful way, say prioritising appropriate booking options for a traveller’s regular journeys, or in a less satisfactory way such as bombarding the traveller with hotel offers in response to a search for a flight. HOW TO MEASURE SERVICE? Every travel management company is at pains to highlight the quality of the service and support they offer, but measuring that quality and its value for money is much more challenging than simply comparing the online booking transaction fees. FCMUPGRADE.COM

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TRAVEL PROGRAMMES

4 WAYS TO MEASURE SERVICE

Service availabilty

Response time

Dusko says that corporates might measure service by a range of factors including their online booking tool’s downtime – “this is still a service because it’s something you’re delivering to the customer – response time, and the accuracy of that response, etc." Carol urges all corporate travel managers to agree a means of measuring the service they receive from their travel management company as opposed to what has been promised.

Accuracy

User satisfaction

2 Response time – There should be a prompt resolution of any difficulties regardless of what channel has been agreed to access service. 3 Accuracy – Items such as the error ratio on bookings, data and financial elements should be measured. For example, are invoices and payments accurate and prompt? If the finance department has issues, how long does it take to correct money or data errors? 4 User satisfaction – Both management – and that includes all internal stakeholders such as finance and HR as well as the travel manager – and travellers should be polled. CONCLUSION For the travel management company, these KPIs are invaluable. Carol points out that “If the TMC can prove their value, it helps them and the travel 06

Issue 7

Carol Randall, Managing Director, Sage Travel Consultancy

manager to keep the programme from fragmenting.” For the travel manager, it would be evidence of the value of a travel programme to any doubters.

consultant improves the experience

Of course, not everything will be measurable – you can measure the time on the phone but how can you measure how courteous or nice the consultant was? A friendly and courteous

apply consistently.

“In the past it would be along the lines of 80% of calls should be answered within 20 seconds, but it’s questionable how relevant that will be in the future.” She suggested some more up-todate measures for those looking to create – or revise – their service level agreements (SLAs): 1 Service availability – An organisation’s travellers need to be constantly supported regardless of whether it has opted for offline or online service. Has support been available to the degree expected?

If the TMC can prove their value, it helps the travel manager to keep the programme from fragmenting.”

but measuring whether the user experience was pleasant or unpleasant would be difficult to quantify and

But times are changing. As Dusko observes, “Service is going to become even more important.” 

MAR

LOOKING AFTER THE CLIENT When all doesn’t go to plan, frustrated business travellers appreciate the patience, courtesy and understanding they receive from consultants such as Sara Windsor. “When a client phones up frustrated, they value someone on the end of a line who can listen and help them in a calm way,” says Sara, a senior FCM consultant. “If a flight is cancelled and there are 300 others in the same predicament, travellers are just happy to be able to pick up the phone and get help, especially if they’re desperate to find any way possible to get home for a birthday celebration. “One passenger had a fixed ticket but had booked the wrong return date which he only discovered when

CH

he arrived at the airport to return home. I rebooked him, checked him in online and emailed him the boarding pass so that he could travel. He was very pleased.” The team must not only be knowledgeable in travel but also be able to act as an online helpdesk get any client issues resolved as soon as possible. “One minute you’re talking to someone who’s missed a flight, the next minute it’s someone who can’t complete their low-cost booking.” explains Sara. There are also clients who don’t always know or want to stick by company travel policy which means Sara has to explain diplomatically that if they want to fly business class they will have to get sign-off.


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TRAVEL MANAGERS

Balancing act Data is essential for meeting corporate and traveller expectations, but what data do your suppliers actually need?

A

recent, online click-bait story claimed that a BA passenger was told he couldn't check a vegetarian meal "due to data protection rules". A marketing director had allegedly been told – by ba.com – that he couldn’t find out his menu choice for "privacy reasons". Is this in fact the standard operating procedure in a travel industry hyperconcerned about violating traveller privacy or, as the marketing director described it, GDPR gone mad? Readers wouldn’t know what booking channel the frustrated marketing director used, but the issue of what data travel management companies release, and to whom, is a significant one for many a traveller – and travel manager. So who owns the data? Tony Pilcher, director of consultancy Pilcher Associates, stresses the need to have “the right data for the right people for the right job”, and that starts with understanding who has custody of what data. “In most cases it comes down to who created it.”

You need to get the right data to the right people for the right job” Tony Pilcher, Director, Pilcher Associates

WHAT IS THE DATA FOR? A travel profile holds personal preferences which means that managers must take care when procuring with Virgin, for example, that it doesn’t see that the traveller’s preference is actually BA. “Traveller profiles and booking information is owned by the travellers and the corporate,” explains FCM’s Head of Account Management EMEA, Juan Antonio Iglesias. “We as the TMC make it available in a format which managers can consume and utilise to understand travel patterns and travellers’ behaviour.”

CLASSIFIED

These hold different fields of information, only some of which is relevant to different suppliers. For example, a carrier needs to know if a traveller’s preference is for a window or aisle seat. The hotel does not need to know whether they’ve requested an Asian vegetarian or Kosher meal, but it does need to know if there are any special guest requirements such as an allergy to feathers.

The world has become data-driven. Companies have a plethora of information, so decision-making is increasingly evidence-based. Different information is needed for different objectives. The challenge is to ensure that every supplier partner has what they need to deliver the service required without crossing the line and releasing data which is neither appropriate nor permitted. Corporates create a PNR (Passenger Name Record) for each one of their travellers.

BOOKING CHANNELS As all GDS’s operate their booking processes and management of traveller information in the same way, they are well set up to pass relevant information from the PNR within a booking to the relevant supplier. Juan Antonio explains: “An airline cannot see what’s not associated with their segment. If a traveller has one segment booked with British Airways and the next with Lufthansa, Lufthansa cannot see the BA frequent flyer information.” However, booking through newer systems such as booking.com requires the creation of a false PNR to hand off the needed information to the supplier. “The systems still have some limitations

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Passenger itinerary Destination 1 4th January 2020 Kingston, Jamaica, 3 nights Becking Hotel Name John Smith

Destination 2 8th January 2020 USA, Seattle, 7 nights Spinter Royal Hotel

Address 7 Horden Lane Bishopsgate EN4 8LP United Kingdom

Transfer 16th January 2020 Seattle to JFK Airport

Loyalty Scheme Number PGE938-294-UK Reference Number JSYWHWU2O

– managers must ensure that data is not shared when it shouldn’t be shared,” he adds.

Destination 3 18th January 2020 Germany, 12 nights

Meal preference Vegetarian Airline preference

Departur preference London Gatwick Special requirements 

Ground floor room

onference room C access

Outdoor seating

Priority seating

Tony makes the same point: “You have to include the elements of the trip where there is any risk. It’s no good knowing the flight and accommodation details but not knowing how the traveller is being moved from the airport to the hotel.

PRIVATE

“Ground transport generally sits outside the TMC and PNR and yet in some countries that’s almost the biggest risk.”

Juan Antonio points out that another challenge is communicating data when a client is not working but still on the business trip. “At the end of the day you have to have permission and location data is only handed over if the traveller is willing to do it.”

In addition to the channel used, the individual company’s approach to travel booking is significant. According to Tony: “Smaller companies may have a programme but still let travellers book themselves so they will indicate their preferences at the time of booking rather than there being a profile depository. “The method of booking shouldn’t matter but what does is the bridge, so that when the journey is under way any changes are communicated.”

DIFFERENT CATEGORIES OF SUPPLIER There are also personal data management challenges with suppliers which are part of the chain but not historically booked via the GDS. Rail bookings for example, with the exception of Eurostar, are not tied to specific names so traveller data is not handed off. Car rental is usually not booked though the GDS, nor are airport transfers which Juan Antonio describes as the “main challenge”.

DENIED

ACCESS GRANTED

These are significant considerations given that another important supplier who needs to have the right data to do the job they’re contracted to do is the risk management company.

RISK MANAGEMENT A risk management company doesn’t need to know if the traveller is a vegetarian but it does need to know a traveller’s itinerary including the flight and hotel booking details. According to Tony Pilcher, the abiding principle is a “need-to-know” basis. “You should give them access only to data which is essential for risk management – the financials of that trip are not essential. Inform the source consistently with what they need, no more, no less.” And ground transport can be a headache for risk management companies. “We can know you’ve taken a rental car, but we can’t control where you’re driving it,” says Juan Antonio.

Managers must ensure that data is not shared when it shouldn’t be shared” Juan Antonio Iglesias, Head of Account Management EMEA, FCM Travel Solutions

Some people don’t want it to be known where they are for a weekend – this is getting increasingly challenging because of bleisure. “This is a conflict between company and personal perspective – and you can see both sides,” he adds. For all travel managers, it is a balancing act.  FCMUPGRADE.COM

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TRAVELLERS

Mixed signals Mark Frary looks at what travel managers can do to support more diverse corporate travellers

O

ver the past few decades, increasing globalisation and liberalism have made multinational companies more diverse.

Companies are also wanting to tell others – shareholders, investors and customers – that they are getting more diverse too. The number of companies reporting that they have a diversity and opportunities policy has increased from 39% in 2013 to 85% in 2017, according to research company Refinitiv1. There are solid moral reasons for encouraging diversity but there are also strong business reasons, as revealed by a wide evidence base. Research from Boston Consulting Group says companies that are more diverse are more innovative, and those with more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenue2.

One of the issues for organisations looking to make their travel programmes fit for a diverse workforce is that travel buyers often do not have the responsibility nor the budget for related issues, such as traveller safety. For those companies that have grasped the idea of travel risk, they are treating it as a generic risk rather than one that needs a nuanced approach.

Research by McKinsey found that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. The figure is 15% for gender diversity3.

Saul Shanagher of security awareness training company beTravelwise says that companies are seeking advice for LGBT travellers first and foremost.

Those who argue for better diversity and inclusion in companies argue that if an organisation’s employees are diverse, they will be better at creating products and services that appeal to a wider range of customers.

“Generally, there is buyin from the diversity and inclusion networks within companies and there is a very real risk to travellers that they are happy to talk about,” he says.

And if your employees are more diverse, surely companies need to make sure that the way they are treated in the workplace is not necessarily equal but equitable, where employees are recognised for their diversity and internal processes designed to follow suit? When it comes to travel, there have been strides made in recent years in recognising the specific needs of certain groups, for example female, 10

LGBTQ and disabled employees, and this can only continue to improve.

Issue 7

“We find that the organisation’s DNA matters a lot. If diversity is embraced by the organisation, it is very easy to offer differing advice to different groups of travellers. Those that have successfully offered advice do so freely and anonymously (no tracking of who views it) and

The relationship between diversity and performance Likelihood of financial performance above national industry median, by diversity quartile %

58

54 +15%

47

GENDER DIVERSITY

+35%

43

ETHNIC DIVERSITY

HOW DIVERSITY CORRELATES WITH BETTER FINANCIAL PERFORMANCE

Source: McKinsey & Company, Diversity Matters, 2015


If diversity is embraced by the organisation, it is very easy to offer differing advice to different groups of travellers.” Saul Shanagher, beTravelwise

interconnect it to all their travel safety measures,” he says. Many of the company’s clients are now offering e-learning modules and anonymous email support for company travellers. Saul cites a real-life example of how the latter can help. “At one client, we had a company's junior trainee being sent to do an overseas posting for three months to a country with antigay laws. They felt too junior to say no but were concerned and sent an email to the helpline. Their fears were taken seriously, and another country was found for this placement for them.” When it comes to female business travellers, there is a gap between what travellers want and what their companies do.

take account of female travellers’ specific needs yet just 18% of policies address these. Carolyn Pearson, CEO of Maiden Voyage, which offers consultancy on gender issues in business travel, says the reason for this gap is clear. “Organisations are fairly clear where duty of care and travel safety sit in an organisation – it could be travel security, in other teams it might be travel buyers, health and safety or HR,” she says. “When you add diversity or sexual orientation into the mix, it gets put into the ‘too difficult’ basket.”

Maiden Voyage has one of the world’s biggest oil and gas companies as a client and it has rolled out traveller safety e-learning to all its travellers with a focus on LGBTQ and female travellers. “Yet if you ask those people whether their companies are actually doing it, that falls to the 40s,” says CEO Carolyn Pearson.

“One company, a large bank, put this information on their intranet. When they send the travel booking email out there was a link at the bottom to the

HOW LOW GENDER AND ETHNIC DIVERSITY CORRELATES WITH POORER FINANCIAL PERFORMANCE

+15%

47

ETHNIC DIVERSITY

+35% 54

1ST QUARTILE 1ST-3RD QUARTILE

GENDER & ETHNIC DIVERSITY

-25%

43 58

“If something happened to a traveller and they looked at traveller briefings then they would be on sticky ground.” she says. There is a danger that in better reflecting the diversity of the workforce in the travel programme, it will lead to more calls from those not in minority groups to demand different treatment.

“Where I have seen success is if the person who is the budget holder and decision-maker is passionate about that subject then it gets done really quickly.”

4TH QUARTILE

GENDER DIVERSITY

There is even some doubt as to whether such a passive way of communicating information for diverse employee groups would even stand up in court.

That is not to say that some organisations have not grasped the nettle.

Carolyn says adding a link to travel advice on a travel itinerary email is never enough.

The FCM special report on Women in Business Travel revealed that 77% of women travel buyers and their travellers felt that travel policies should

advice, but the problem is people don’t read their travel itineraries.”

So should companies be moving to individually personalised travel policies? The challenges – and cost – of doing so are probably too onerous for companies to consider this, particularly given the challenges of collecting and maintaining large amounts of highly sensitive personal information “The amount of data that would need to be collected plus the fact that, say, an LGBT employee might not be out at work might make this an unworkable beast,” says Saul Shanagher. “I also don’t think it is needed. Good travel risk training, with a thorough travel risk management programme and advice/ information for different profiles of traveller, does the job well enough.” Ultimately, travel’s answer to the diversity challenge should not be seen in isolation. Diversity policies are rightly seen as powerful recruitment and retention tools by many organisations. To be a diverse employer means getting all processes in the organisation working well for everyone, not just those within the travel manager’s remit. 

1. www.refinitiv.com/en/resources/specialreport/measuring-diversity-and-inclusionprogress

40 53

2. www.bcg.com/en-us/publications/2018/howdiverse-leadership-teams-boost-innovation. aspx 3. www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/ organization/our-insights/why-diversity-matters

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DESTINATION

Melbourne

DOING BUSINESS IN

M

elbourne is home to some of the nation’s largest companies such as ANZ and BHP Biliton, as well as many SMEs and NGOs. Its highly diverse economy includes finance, manufacturing, research, IT, education and transportation and logistics. Its location on Port Phillip Bay means stunning views along the Great Ocean Road which runs for approximately 150 miles along the coast. Additionally, wine lovers will enjoy being very near the Yarra Valley.

STAYING THERE Most business travellers want to stay near the location of their business meetings. In Melbourne this is likely to be one of three main business districts: the CBD or Central Business District (postcode 3000), Docklands (3008) where a significant number of large organisations have relocated to over the past number of years, and the beautiful boulevard of St Kilda Road (3004), a stone’s throw from the CBD. Crown Towers

GETTING THERE The so-called ‘Kangaroo Route’ between the UK and Australia is one of the most competitive in aviation. Qantas is currently trialling non-stop flights from Sydney to London and New York, however it will take quite some time before this becomes the norm. Cathay Pacific, Thai, Singapore and the Gulf carriers have routes between Australia and Heathrow requiring only one connection. Etihad and Emirates allow single connection flights via airports other than London Heathrow, such as Glasgow, Newcastle, Manchester, Birmingham, Gatwick and Dublin. Other UK and Irish airports will require two changes.

CBD • CEOs would be very happy at the Crown Towers, Sofitel on Collins or Westin (also on Collins). Sofitel's No.35 restaurant has some of the best views in Melbourne – a great location for a private one-to-one coffee or lunch with a client. • Excellent accommodation for middle management business travellers can be found at the Crown Metropol, Marriott or Sheraton. • Budget conscious travellers should try the Ibis Budget CBD or the Adina Apartment Hotel for serviced apartments. Docklands • For CEOs, the Intercontinental Rialto is a five-star luxury property housed within a beautiful 1891 building designed by William Pitt. • For Middle Management there are fantastic views of the city, port and Yarra River from the Pan Pacific South Wharf and the Four Points Sheraton, located close to trams going into the CBD. • For travel budget conscious companies there is a Travelodge which has both a coin-operated laundry and room service and rooms with flat-screen TVs, FCMUPGRADE.COM

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DESTINATION as well as minifridges, microwaves, and tea and coffee-making facilities. Quest New Quay offers apartments including studios with kitchen facilities in the same room. St Kilda Road • Both CEOs and middle management will love the Blackman Hotel. It is an Art Series hotel, a group of luxury properties, each of which showcases an Australian artist. The hundreds of examples of Richard Blackman's work at this all-suite property make it seem more personal than many business hotels. •T  he brand new Quest St Kilda Road is one to try for budget conscious travellers. •F  or meetings, the Pullman Albert Park has 32 meeting rooms with a capacity of 500 delegates.

Maha restaurant

St Kilda’s Eating at one of the restaurants near St Kilda Beach where you can dine indoors or outdoors and walk straight onto the sand is an absolute treat. If you’re looking for somewhere upmarket to entertain clients with incredible sunset views, try the upstairs dining room at the Stokehouse.

BUSINESS CUSTOMS Melbourne, once a very formal business city, is much more relaxed these days. Melbourne business people appreciate punctuality, as time is considered a valuable commodity, and an authentic approach.

GETTING AROUND A free City Circle tram runs throughout the CBD (the tramTRACKER app provides live information). Trains also operate underground on the city loop, but visitors need to be careful as they change direction at midday, heading anti-clockwise in the morning and clockwise in the afternoon. Taxi ranks and Ubers are plentiful.

INSIDER’S TIP Julie McLean, Director Global Enterprise Sales Strategy, FCM Travel Solutions "If you like sport and can arrange your trip to align with one of our major events, you will experience an electric atmosphere. My favourite time of year is January when the Australian Open is held. Don’t panic if you don’t get hold of centre court tickets, because all you need is a Day Pass to access all the outdoor courts as well as the grass entertainment, beer gardens, eateries and deck chair cinemas to watch the game that happens to be going on at the time. If your trip is in March or April then you may find yourself here over the Melbourne Grand Prix. Another event that cannot go unmentioned is our Spring Racing Carnival and the world-famous Melbourne Cup which is always the first Tuesday in November. "

TIME OFF As well as using the free tram to reach business appointments, it’s also invaluable for accessing ‘must-see’ attractions such as St Paul's Cathedral, Parliament House and the Royal Exhibition Building as well as Queen Victoria Market and the famous cobbled laneways.

There are wonderful museums – National Gallery of Victoria, Heide Museum of Modern Art – and cultural centres such as the Bunjilaka Aboriginal Culture Centre and Koorie Heritage Trust. But if sport’s more your scene, Melbourne also has you covered (see Insider’s Tip). 

Intercontinental Rialto

EATING France Soir, which has been in South Yarra since 1986, is a bustling, classic French bistro. Its menu has all the old favourites as well as Melbourne’s most extensive wine list. Do book – it is almost always busy at both lunch and dinner! It is also good for dinner on your own or with friends. Maha is a modern Middle Eastern restaurant located in a quiet lane in the CBD which is great for either a business lunch or client entertaining.

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CHARITY

Age is just a number FCM staff’s fundraising efforts for Age UK, parent company Flight Centre Foundation’s official Charity of the Year for 2019/2020, are well underway. A total of £40K has already been raised over the last four months for this leading UK charity which is dedicated to helping older people make the most of later life. Quiz nights, Grandparents Day celebrations and Halloween bake sales are among just some of the initiatives that have been organised at FCM offices across the country.

GOING HEAD-TO-HEAD Flight Centre and FCM staff recently took part in an Age UK shop 'take over'. Teams of four to five staff from Flight Centre/ FCM's Fast Track leadership programme ran a selection of Age UK high street shops for a day in a head-to-head competition. The aim was to increase each store's profit on that day compared with the same day the previous year.

Additionally, in the countdown to Christmas staff will not only be raising funds via raffles and Christmas jumper days, but will also be putting together hampers for their local Age UK centres.

RUNNING INTO 2019 Moving into the new year, a team of staff are taking on the London Landmarks half marathon in March on behalf of Age UK and nine employees, including Flight Centre’s EMEA CEO Chris Galanty, will be running the London Marathon in April. Staff will be out in force as a cheer squad along both courses to support the runners and all funds raised will be matched by Flight Centre.

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NEWS

TOP STORY

Hat Trick! FCM Named Finalist for Three Business Travel Awards FCM Travel Solutions has been named a finalist for Best Travel Management Company (annual UK sales over £200M), Travel Team of the Year together with client RSA Insurance plc, and Best Specialist Travel Service for FCM’s Medical Repatriation Team with client AXA Group at the 2020 Business Travel Awards. FCM’s submission for Best Travel Management Company focussed on its continued drive to innovate technology, products and processes in order to meet clients’ evolving needs, the challenge of industry disruption, and future proofing of FCM’s business. In 2019 this included radically restructuring FCM’s UK operations teams into specialist types of servicing to give clients even greater support and personalisation. The FCM/RSA Insurance plc Travel Team have rejuvenated RSA’s entire travel programme. Working in partnership to introduce unprecedented consistency and professionalism, the FCM/RSA team has succeeded in ensuring vastly improved traveller and booker satisfaction levels and creating impressive

BUSINESS TRAVEL AWARDS 2020

efficiencies. Additionally, they have generated cost savings which equate to a 13% reduction in RSA’s overall travel costs – two percent above target. The FCM Medical Repatriation Team provides a specialist service globally 24/7 to AXA Group, managing complex travel and logistics required to repatriate AXA travel insurance policyholders taken ill or involved in an accident whilst on holiday - everything from holiday curtailment to full repatriation of patients requiring inflight stretchers, oxygen and ambulance transfers. Whilst the absolute priority is to repatriate patients as safely as possible, the team have also generated cost savings for AXA of £40K per month by applying their knowledge of creative ticketing and use of policyholders’ existing tickets. “We are thrilled and proud to be named finalists in three categories in the Business Travel Awards. This is an outstanding achievement and a huge endorsement of FCM’s business model, our agile approach and culture of fluid thinking, plus the dedication and drive of our people,” said Graham Ross, UK General Manager, FCM Travel Solutions.

FCM ENHANCES NDC CAPABILITIES IN EMEA FCM Travel Solutions has announced several significant developments in its drive to book and service NDC content for customers in the EMEA region, following extensive testing of NDCenabled solutions with Amadeus and other leading technology providers. As a driver partner in the Amadeus-NDC [X] program, FCM and parent company Flight Centre Travel Group

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(FCTG) have successfully booked NDC airline content within the new NDC-enabled version of Amadeus desktop solution Selling Platform Connect. In the UK specifically, FCM can also now book and service British Airways NDC content via new technology capabilities This means FCM clients and their travellers will have access to British Airways’ latest NDC content,

including British Airways’ short-haul and long haul NDC fares, ancillary bookings, allowing FCM consultants to fully service this content. The next stage on FCM’s NDC roadmap is to ensure online booking tools improve their ability to integrate and display NDC content, and therefore provide a better user experience and wider range of content.


SPEAKING OUT Conference season in the UK business travel industry calendar has been well underway over the last couple of months, and FCM was centre stage as sponsors and speakers at two main events. First up was The Business Travel Conference at Hilton Bankside in London on September 17th. Now in its 13th year, the conference is attended by around 200 bookers, buyers and travel managers. Not only was FCM a sponsor and exhibitor, but Sez Beecher, Corporate Product Manager, also moderated a conference session with the theme ‘Deals on Wheels’. The session was designed to give delegates insights in optimising car hire, taxi and rail travel spend and discover the latest trends in ground transportation. Next on 7th October, FCM was a headline sponsor at Business Travel Tech Talk in London. This annual one-day, buyer focused conference is designed to unite corporate travel professionals and provide an intimate platform for sharing experiences, challenges and solutions. FCM’s Chief Technology Officer Michel Rouse took part in a panel session entitled ‘Rebooting the TMC’. His presentation

FCM APPOINTS UK HEAD OF SALES FCM Travel Solutions has appointed Jason Dunderdale as Head of UK Sales. He joins from car rental provider SIXT, where he was Head of Travel Sales UK & Ireland for the last three years. Jason also brings extensive sales and management experience in the banking and finance sector, as his career includes 13 years in diverse roles within Lloyds Banking Group. He takes on the role at FCM from Graham Ross, former Head of UK Sales who was promoted to UK General Manager earlier this year.

gave delegates an insight into applying new technology to focus on the user experience and what travellers want now and in the future, as well as how NDC will potentially change business models.

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SUPPLIERS

Connecting rooms Corporate hotel programmes are becoming much more dynamic MANY BUSINESS TRAVELLERS SHOP AROUND

“We look at the overall travel of a customer and align a hotel programme with its objectives such as CSR, sustainability and the kind of traveller experience they want their people to have.”

A

s Wimbledon is for tennis fans, the hotel RFP is a long-established fixture in most travel managers’ diaries. But there seems to be a revolution afoot… At last summer’s BTA Conference a panel discussing trends in the corporate travel industry agreed that “Supplier RFPs are now dead.” “There’s a change in how people are approaching things. A lot of people are trying to find a way of moving away from a soul-destroying 250-page document,” says Jo Lloyd, a partner at consultants Nina & Pinta and one of the panellists at the session. Rachel Newns, Head of Accommodation Programme Management for FCM consultants 4D, endorses this sentiment wholeheartedly. “The hotel RFP in its old format, where a customer is approaching hotels in hundreds of locations and getting alternative rates for every property, every year and then loading them into the GDS and publishing them is no longer the standalone, but it can form part of a hotel programme.

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The RFP in other words is about more than negotiating rates. Jo says, “You need the RFP process because it covers governance and makes sure that all is fair and equitable.” Rachel explains that an RFP need not be done on an annual basis – it could be for two years or longer if the client is amenable. “The hotel RFP is a starting point to get basic information and establish a framework for key hotels, validate that they’re the right properties to meet the company objectives, whatever they are.” The historical RFP lacked flexibility – there was an inherent assumption that corporates had a constant demand in terms of destinations and kinds of accommodation, that suppliers had a constant supply and that the market was stable.

Hotel RFPs will soon be a thing of the past.” Rachel Newns, Head of Accommodation Programme Management, FCM consultants 4D

73%* spent at least 10 minutes shopping for the last hotel they stayed at

81%* considered at least two hotels before booking their last work trip

*among those who booked through a corporate online booking tool Source: GBTA, Personalization in Corporate Travel Lodging, 2018.

HOTEL PROGRAMMES FOR TODAY’S NEEDS Business needs and business conditions are constantly changing. According to Rachel, “Hotel RFPs will soon be a thing of the past but you might want a subject matter expert to help you navigate the many kinds of rates, different booking platforms, channels and properties – everyone bombards managers to say their property is best. “The challenge now is to find ways to keep a hotel programme relevant for market conditions and the client.”


The process may need innovation, but experts agree that the key is to understand the basics such as a company’s profile and what it wants to achieve through a travel programme. “The key to any category management is foundation – be clear on what you want. If not, the process will be conflicted because you don’t know what good looks like for you.” says Jo.

BUYERS ARE WILLING TO CONTRACT WITH DIFFERENT TYPES OF HOTEL CHAINS TRADITIONAL CHAIN BRANDS

“LIFESTYLE” CHAIN BRANDS (e.g., Hotel Indigo, Cambria, W Hotels)

85%

65%

These views take hotel programmes way beyond purely saving money on transient traveller accommodation. As Rachel points out, “Anyone can make savings – just book cheaper hotels.” But corporates all have different travel needs. Some might have 10 locations and require only 10 good rates with 10 properties in those locations. On the other hand, a construction company is likely to have many projects in many locations so the places where accommodation is needed will be changing all the time because as one project ends, another begins. A DYNAMIC PROCESS For buyers the explosion in available data means sourcing hotels is becoming increasingly dynamic. Hotel programme management is now being done on a regular basis rather than as a once-ayear exercise. “We have so much data now,” says Rachel. “It’s at our fingertips. You can see exactly where travellers are staying. It’s not good enough to wait six months or a year to change your programme. You’ve got to be on top of it all the time.” Rachel stresses the importance that 4D places on identifying their clients’ objectives: do they need to generate savings or is the goal to increase employee retention and traveller satisfaction? The properties that go on the programme and are listed on the corporate self-booking tool will change in line with a client’s objectives. Companies have traditionally opted for properties in close proximity to their various locations, but the quality of the accommodation can also be an important factor. One main objective of a hotel programme for an FCM client in the pharmaceutical sector was to encourage employee loyalty and staff retention. It therefore prioritised including extras which improved the traveller experience such as premium WiFi, breakfast and transfers.

SMALL BOUTIQUE CHAIN BRANDS (e.g., 21C, Kimpton, Joie de Vivre)

58%

Source: GBTA, Are Corporate Hotel Programs Riding the Traveler Experience Wave?, 2019

People are trying to find a way of moving away from a souldestroying 250-page document.” Jo Lloyd, Partner, Nina & Pinta

There are definitely new approaches. Jo Lloyd believes that innovation is key to the successful management of a modern hotel programme. She explains how some will look at their hotel analytics and ask, “How can we go about it in a more creative way? For example, one new disruptor suggests just emailing a hotel in a destination with the message “Company XYZ would like a deal and they will pay a rate of so much.” Some properties apparently accept. “People are trying to manage these programmes dynamically,” she says. “The key is the ability to make informed decisions.” THE HOTEL COMPANIES Corporates may be moving from a once-a-year rate negotiation to a more dynamic programme, but suppliers are not adapting in the same way. They are unsurprisingly reluctant to fix rates for two or three years as markets can be volatile and demand

and supply in any destination can change rapidly. However, the increasing popularity of dynamic pricing means this could be changing. As this method is simply an agreed percentage discount off a property’s BAR (best available rate), a dynamic rate will have an inherent link to market conditions. Corporate programmes could very easily veer towards a blended approach of having fixed-term corporate rates in heavily used destinations, and dynamic rates in less popular business locales. After all, a client is unlikely to want dynamic pricing in a heavily used destination as high usage would signal an increase in demand and trigger a higher rate – not exactly the reward a corporate would want in exchange for giving a property a high volume of business. Rachel observes that “Hotel chains are now ready to promote chainwide agreements – the customer gets a discount across all or many of the group’s properties in exchange for performance at a few top hotels for their travellers.” Accommodation sourcing is no longer about an annual RFP; it’s an on-going programme. 

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INTERVIEW

Heading

I want the corporate travel industry and the people working in it to be fully recognised as a professional service, like accountants and consultants.” Clive Wratten, CEO of The Business Travel Association

Sub

In conversation Upgrade talks to Clive Wratten, who earlier this year became CEO of The Business Travel Association

What brought you into the travel industry? The desire to see the world and as a result, much to my parents disappointment, I avoided further education and joined Thomas Cook in Tunbridge Wells as an apprentice aged 16.

What attracted you to The Business Travel Association (BTA) role? I had aspired to become the CEO of The BTA since my early days as an account manager for British Airways, when I saw first-hand the seniority and influence the role has within the industry. I am extremely privileged to have been given the opportunity to be the voice of the travel management industry.

You’ve worked for TMCs and airlines. How does this help you in your current role? It gives me the insight, issues and opportunities from both sides which I think can only be helpful to me and the industry. I have 20

Issue 7

been associated with The BTA as a partner, member, director and now CEO for over 15 years.

You head a travel organisation. What do you miss about no longer working for a travel company? This role allows me to have the best of both worlds, to be involved in all things travel but not directly at the coal face. So I am lucky that I don’t miss out on too much, but my first love in this industry was talking to and organising travel for customers and I do still miss that.

Who in the industry has influenced you most? It’s hard to suggest one person as I have had the privilege to work for and with many outstanding people. Names that stand out are my predecessor at The BTA Adrian Parkes, John McEwan who was MD at Thomas Cook when I joined (and coincidently my Chairman when I was at Amber Road) and James Hogan my CEO at Gulf Air and Etihad.


You became CEO shortly after the GTMC relaunched as the BTA. Why the change and what are you trying to achieve on behalf of your members? The industry is constantly evolving and we as the association are not immune to that. It’s important to stay relevant, to be contemporary and to evolve along with it. The BTA, or Business Travel Association, is a much clearer definition of what we are and what we do. The BTA is the voice of the business travel industry and we will continue to grow our presence, influence and partnerships.

What outcomes have been achieved by strategy groups? So much is achieved across the strategy groups including engagement with IATA and airlines, resulting in full engagement on NDC scalability, GDPR understanding and compliance across our membership, and member awareness and comprehension of PSD2. We are currently working on our key topics for 2020 which I know will result in another year with positive and tangible outcomes from our strategy groups.

The BTA website describes the organisation as “facilitating leading industry events, commissioning surveys and research and lobbying organisations that can impact and influence our industry”. Can you give some examples?

What is top of your list of places in the world you’ve never visited but would like to?

Heading The jewel in the crown has always been, and will continue to always be, our Annual Conference in which the content and engagement of our members and partners is first class. Our Oxford Economics Report into the value of business travel to the economy remains a valuable source of data. And in 2020 we will launch our APPG on business travel and that will give us direct access to lobby national government. As I am still relatively new into the role I have plans for even more content and events. We will have some exciting announcements coming up soon so watch this space!

What do you do to relax?

Not exactly a place but top of my list is to transit the Panama Canal.

If you could change one thing in the travel industry, what would it be?

Perception. I want the corporate travel industry and the people working in it to be fully recognised as a professional service, like accountants and consultants. The service and professionalism provided by this industry as a matter of course is too often undervalued. The industry is a key driver in the economic strength of the UK and beyond.

What is the UK business travel industry’s biggest challenge? Keeping pace with change and leading the evolution - not reacting and playing catch up.

Winding up my dog, Dudley the labradoodle, into a frenzy and then taking him for a long walk with my wife in the Chiltern Hills, ending with an Americano and a slice of cake in a café somewhere!

What would you like your BTA legacy to be?

Last film you saw

Sushi or fish and chips?

Bohemian Rhapsody at an outside cinema, it was a cracking evening!

Fish and chips. Fish deep fried in beer batter with triple fried chips is the only way fish should be eaten! The question should really be tartare sauce or ketchup.

Desert island luxury

Firstly, it’s to have the BTA regarded as the “go-to” association for all matters relating to business travel from within and outside the industry. Secondly, to have The BTA be relevant to all levels of employees within the TMC community, to make it fully inclusive and be viewed as the association for the everyone in the industry. 

QUICKFIRE ROUND

Richard Wagner or Little Richard? Only one man to listen to in my opinion George Ezra, I love that man’s voice!

Football or rugby? Football, but as Reading FC season ticket holder I could be converted to rugby.

A Reading FC win on a Saturday

Last holiday Just back from two weeks in Kalkan, Turkey which is my wife and I’s #happyplace

Next holiday Not planned yet, in fact you have reminded me that I need to get that organised!

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FRANCE

AND EUROPE ARE JUST A

TRAIN

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TRAVEL WITH YOUR TIME


TECHNOLOGY

Brain dump Linda Fox looks at how biometrics are changing the way travellers move through their journeys

N

ot many travellers stop on their way through airport security to consider what the biometric scanning gates they pass through are really

all about.

There is an assumption that it’s just a part of the process that we have to go through, with travellers inherently trusting both the system and that our personal details will be looked after. After all, a quick glance at the Gatwick Airport’s website for example, reveals that the iris recognition technology used is by order of the UK’s Home Office and is not optional. What’s interesting however, is that builtin trust in these airport systems helps build confidence in biometric technology which is gradually being employed across different pockets of the wider travel industry. There are a number of additional factors which are helping to drive adoption. For one, anything that helps speed customers more seamlessly through

checks and queues, enhancing the experience along the way, is seen as a positive. In April this year, British Airways said that 250,000 of its passengers had used biometric technology to verify their identity to board flights from the US. Global distribution giant Amadeus recently piloted technology with Ljubljana Airport to speed up boarding. This enabled passengers to take a selfie, alongside passport and boarding card details, and have it matched with a photo at boarding. Some travel suppliers are employing the technology to provide a perk for frequent travellers. Hertz, for example, introduced biometric lanes using facial recognition and fingerprint scans almost a year ago, with a claim that they would make renting a car 75% faster. At launch these lanes were open to the company’s Gold Plus Rewards members as well as members of CLEAR,

As biometric technology becomes ubiquitous, consumers are naturally becoming more accepting of it.” FCMUPGRADE.COM

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TECHNOLOGY

2024

5 billion

TRAVELLERS WILL BE USING A GOVERNMENTISSUED DIGITAL ID GLOBALLY

2019

1.7 billion TRAVELLERS USE A GOVERNMENTISSUED DIGITAL ID

the company which developed the technology, who chose to upgrade. Earlier this year it also upgraded its mobile app to enable customers to log in via fingerprint or facial recognition, and then use the app to reserve vehicles, manage their accounts and access other services.

PERCENTAGE OF AIRLINES WHICH PLAN TO INVEST IN BIOMETRIC ID TECHNOLOGIES BY 2021

experience, from enabling guests to access lifts to unlocking rooms through facial recognition. And Alibaba, Fliggy’s parent company, is using biometrics in further innovations. A partnership with Marriott in China was unveiled last year enabling guests to check in using facial recognition.

70%

As these pockets of innovation grow and the technology becomes ubiquitous, consumers are naturally becoming more accepting of it. But should travel managers be concerned about their travellers’ data and whether it’s being looked after?

Biometric technology is also being made use of in the hotel and payments industries.

Some of the answer lies in the counter question: what privacy is there really in a world of social media platforms and seriously smart smartphones that are said to track us and even listen to our every word?

For example, Chinese travel platform Fliggy announced the opening of a hotel, FlyZoo, in Hangzhou, in March 2019. The property uses biometric technology to improve the guest

Many people have heard stories of talking about travel plans and being served advertisements for those travel plans shortly after in their social media platforms, Gmail or ads on Google.

Digital security specialist Gemalto says that while there are no legal provisions specific to biometric data protection, legislation such as Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation do address biometric data. Individual countries are likely to have their own biometric privacy regulations. So far it seems the onus is on travel companies to know the rules and stick within them. Although unrelated to biometric data privacy, both British Airways and Marriott International were handed down multi-million pound fines for data breaches by the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office. Privacy issues around biometric usage will become clearer as the technology advances. In addition to the developments mentioned above, there are wider industry initiatives such as the World Economic Forum’s Known Traveller Digital Identity (KDTI). KDTI is about using emerging technologies to create a more seamless experience for travellers, as well as giving them more control of their data.

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The idea is that identity information usually stored on a passport is encrypted and stored on a mobile phone. Passengers consent to share their data with border security, airlines and other travel partners. The data is checked along each segment of the journey, using biometric technology. A KDTI trial of paperless travel involving Canada, the Netherlands and the WEF, as well as airline and airport partners, was carried out earlier this year.

Some travel suppliers are employing the technology to provide a perk for frequent travellers.” The International Air Transport Association is developing a similar paperless concept involving biometrics called One ID. The airlines’ organisation highlights benefits of the development such as enhanced security, a seamless experience and cost and efficiency gains. In many ways, it already feels as if biometric technology in travel is a tide that won’t be held back.

A recent report from SITA1 - 2025: Air Travel for a Digital Age reveals that by 2025, the number of travellers using a government-issued digital ID will rise from a predicted 1.7 billion in 2019 to more than 5 billion in 2024. The research also reveals that most airport and airline IT executives believe that tech-savvy travellers have the most important influence on their passenger solutions strategy. It also reveals that by 2021, more than 70% of airlines plan to invest in biometric ID technologies. Further developments are also likely to fuel the spread of biometric usage in travel. Voice recognition technology is an other one to watch. Younger generations are already comfortable with voice search via mobile devices and are growing up with Amazon Alexa and Google Home devices.

This might indicate a general shift away from biometrics such as fingerprint scanning and a move towards other measurements such as voice recognition. Time will tell. 

Anything that helps speed customers more seamlessly through checks and queues is seen as a positive.” 1. SITA, 2025: Air Travel for a Digital Age, 2019

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EVENTS

Remote controls Catherine Chetwynd finds that isolated venues can focus delegate attention

T

he risk with any conference held in a city centre is that delegates might absent themselves in order to enjoy the temptations of the metropolis or even slip back to the office. One way to counter this is to take them to a remote venue: once participants have been transferred from the nearest airport or rail station, they then have to stay put for the duration. This is particularly valuable when the material being discussed is sensitive, whether that is a new product or service that the launching company wants kept away from prying, competitive eyes or financial news which should not be revealed until a set date. Having all delegates confined to one site could also lead to more efficient use of time and greater concentration on the content. In addition, if the host organisation chooses to contract for exclusive use of the venue, there will be ample opportunity for branding, pop-up stands and other promotional outlets. This is particularly true of the medical and

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pharmaceutical industries: “A conference about paediatrics might have makers of supplies that are used in that sector and for a fee, are offered a sponsorship package to include time with delegates, a stand in the coffee break area and an opportunity for networking,” says cievents Business Leader, Martin Rottiné. There are, of course, also downsides to remote locations. Travel can incur additional cost and take more time, and arrivals may have to be staggered, especially if people are arriving from outside the UK. There is also the question of free time. If participants are in a city centre, they can be given an evening off, an allowance for a meal and the ability to enjoy opportunities that are on their doorstep. In more remote venues, it is the organiser’s responsibility to manage down time. Distant areas may also have a limited mobile signal – something that delegates may view as a problem but perhaps not organisers. During a programme that lasts several days, it will be necessary to take

Glenapp Castle, Ayrshire

A remote venue is particularly valuable when the material being discussed is sensitive.” delegates offsite for some meals. “We did a big programme for a drinks company and they wanted to visit distilleries in Scotland during the conference. If you are in a remote area, it is more difficult to do that,” says Rottiné. In fact, accessibility is generally a priority for event organisers. “In our experience, the practicality of ease of access and the associated cost are usually some of the prime considerations for venue selection.”


The practicality of ease of access and the associated cost are usually some of the prime considerations for venue selection” Martin Rottiné, cievents Business Leader

A FEW EXAMPLES Nonetheless, for those looking to contain delegates far from temptation, here are some options for splendid isolation.

Portsmouth Harbour, 20 minutes from dry land by boat. The location boasts a function room at the top of the fort, with excellent views across the Solent, as well as a library and games room.

The Celtic Manor Resort’s facilities range from boardrooms to ballrooms and most recently, conference centre ICC Wales. There are also spaces in the Celtic Manor Golf Club and The Twenty Ten Club House. Situated in 2,000 acres of parkland close to Newport, Wales, the property has championship golf courses, an academy and driving range; treetops high ropes course, two spas and 554 rooms in four hotels. Seven restaurants should cater for most culinary requirements and the hotel can be reached from the M4, Cardiff and Bristol airports and Newport rail station.

Or head north to Glenapp Castle in Ayrshire for history, 36 acres of gardens and some bespoke service, as did one of the top five global management consultancy firms, who took 160 delegates for three nights’ glamping. They were transferred from Glasgow airport to Glenapp by coach, checked in on the coach and given luggage labels with a name and tent number so that they could go straight to a welcome dram and lunch.

Strong associations with motor sport and horse racing mean The Goodwood Hotel lends itself to team building and competitive activities; two golf courses and clays complete the picture. And for those not satisfied with staying on the ground, Goodwood Aerodrome not only provides a means of access to the hotel but also a flying school. There are three main meeting spaces, plus syndicate rooms. As the name suggests, The Vineyard in Stockcross near Newbury sets its store by its wine list, particularly those from California. Less sybaritic, the hotel prides itself on events organisation, “style and discretion”. The California Suite (160 capacity) is in the hotel but those looking for greater isolation could take advantage of the Atrium Suite, comprising 16 spaces and a dedicated entrance, or the Sonoma Suite at the top of the hotel, with syndicate room.

Glenapp Castle glamping

For those pulling in delegates from across the UK, a central venue such as Mallory Court near Leamington Spa combines 10 rolling acres with a number of meeting rooms (150 capacity). Activities that can be arranged in the grounds range from duck herding to archery. Elevating isolation to art form is Spitbank Fort (60 capacity) in

Meetings and a conference took up Day 1, and on Day 2 guests could choose between a two-hour Pro Golf Clinic at Turnberry, a 5-mile walk along the Ayrshire Coastal Path with a guide or a smuggling orienteering challenge, reflecting Ballantrae’s smuggling history. This involved finding their way on foot to the harbour, rowing to collect contraband from Ballantrae Bay and returning to Glenapp via the river Stinchar and Kilpin Glen, with the risk they would be caught with the contraband by local excise men. A five-course gala dinner and ceilidh took place on the first night and on the second night, after a pre-dinner whisky and craft gin tasting, guests enjoyed an informal hog roast, followed by music from a young local band. Everything about the event was wellappointed, including luxury shower and toilet units, towelling robes and slippers; tents were serviced by housekeeping three times a day; and a phone charging point was set up in a second marquee with labels and pens to ensure guests could identify their phone. Even castle owner Paul Szkiler welcomed guests and told them about the castle’s history. That’s the kind of conference no delegate in their right mind would try and sneak away from – but the isolated location also ensured they did not try. 

The Celtic Manor Golf and Resort Hotel

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Upgrade Magazine - Issue 7  

Upgrade Magazine - Issue 7