Benson: Are there any fundamental changes in business travel?
Carol: Yes, some fundamental changes! Now it is about personalisation. The traveller has to think deeper before booking a trip. What the trip actually means to the traveller? What is the return on investment for the traveller making that trip? Staff have to go through so many channels to travel now and the traveller has to consider whether it is really necessary to travel? With the new technology and the fact that staff are now embracing that technology. Further consideration of non-essential travel; short stay; one-day trips; people need to think about the need to fill in all these forms? Do all these tests? Possibly having to quarantine for just a one-day trip? People will start thinking whether it is worthwhile for all the trouble and then the traveller will make their decision. Of course, there are always people who want to travel regardless. They will think ‘OK I will deal with it’. But there will be some people thinking that the technology works - it has no impact on the relationship with clients, hence, the traveller will be more considered when thinking about business travel.
Benson: Wow, what a new paradigm!
Carol: But having said that there is always a need for travel. But I think there will be a nice balance between travellers, airlines, the hotel industry…etc., the whole travel industry will see a nice change. The business travel volume will suddenly go up and then it will plateau out, but it will be sensible, smart thinking, good travel where we will all be working in partnership. As a corporation, we want the travel industry to revive and flourish again. But we want it to be composed of the 5 S elements, namely: smart, sensible, safe, secure and seamless.
Benson: How about the length of the trip?
Carol: Optimisation of the trip and longer stay with multi-sector trips. Don’t go back and forth to the same destination two or three times during the year. Go only once a year instead. And what that means is also having a better quality of life for the manager, so that it is looking at the traveller’s well-being, as they don’t need to take so many trips. It is also looking at sustainability, as this helps with reducing carbon emissions. And thirdly, there is a reduction of cost element.
Benson: We would love to have your frank view about the future of our corporate travel industry.
Carol: The future is bright! I think we have just passed the lowest level due to COVID. In other words, we are starting from the bottom. So to me, since we start off now from a very low baseline, the only direction will be “UP”! For us to have a bright and strong future, partnership and collaboration are paramount. No longer can we have buyers and suppliers separated. We need to work together in unity. We need to find out what is the best way to work. Look at our data, do the analysis, speak up! There is no reason to hide. If we want the best, we need to share. Leverage and optimise on the opportunities that come our way. Understand each other’s culture, align with each other’s culture. Try and work together on things that matter, that can work, and have a balanced view. Be flexible, be open, be frank! I strongly believe there is a great future for travel. We will move forward, as long as we remember where we were and where we are trying to get to in our journey and do it together.
Many thanks to Carol for her contribution to this tête-à-tête. Her enthusiasm and frank view towards our beloved corporate travel industry are highly appreciated. In the next edition, we will have another iconic industry figurehead to be interviewed. 😊