InterviewsCoporate Travel

Interview: What We’ve Learnt…. Corporate Traveller

Andrew Stark, Managing Director Flight Centre Travel Group Middle East and Africa

Into the mind of Flight Centre and Corporate Traveller as we uncover what’s next for business travel. Here’s what we’ve learnt.

Compared to February 2019, what has the last 12 months been like for Corporate Traveller?

Andrew Stark, MD Flight Centre Travel Group Middle East and Africa.

We’ve seen a gradual recovery in the corporate space since July 2020. In December, we hit just under 40% of travel volumes as compared to prior year levels. This exceeded our expectations.

However, since the second wave and the renewed lockdown restrictions around the world, we have seen a 15% drop in the recovery numbers. For January, our forecast is that travel will reach around 25% as compared to other years. As with the first wave, we forecast a gradual recovery over the next three to four months.

Are you confident business travel will return to its pre-pandemic levels? How long do you think it will take?

Andrew Stark, MD Flight Centre Travel Group Middle East and Africa.

Once the vaccine is more widely available, we expect to see a stabilisation of the numbers. For the next two years, our projection is that corporate travel will recover to 60% of pre-pandemic levels by June 2022.

Do you see a value in digital nomads, bleisure travel and remote work for business travel clients?

Oz Desai, GM Corporate Traveller

There seems to be two ‘camps’ when it comes to remote working: some people believe that remote working will be the future, while others are completely opposed to the idea of remote work.

Although, we have all gotten used to working remotely, the simple truth is that people still value human interaction and connectiveness. We have also all experienced the challenges of running workshops or strategy sessions virtually. The future workplace will, therefore, be a blended workplace where remote work, collaboration days and face-to-face meetings all have a place, which will provide increased flexibility. It is highly unlikely we will move to a completely remote working environment.

The fact that we have learned to adapt and ‘work from anywhere’ is likely to boost bleisure travel in the future. For the moment, however, business travel is still very much about getting travellers from point A to point B and back as quickly and safely as possible.

Do you think trends like flexible cancellation policies, providing contactless amenities and in-app messaging will become a norm in a post-covid world?

Oz Desai, GM Corporate Traveller

COVID-19 has fast-tracked the path towards technological innovation on which the travel industry embarked well before the pandemic. Our industry was at the forefront of implementing touchless technology and accelerated the adoption of these technologies when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world. These technological innovations are here to stay.

Corporate Traveller’s mobile app Sam :] (Smart Assistant for Mobile) was in place before the pandemic hit. This app gives travellers up-to-the-minute information/alerts around flight time changes, baggage collection – even traffic delays or the weather at their destination.

Many traveller suppliers have also already embraced contactless technology to help flatten the curve, but the advancement of this technology will continue. Travel suppliers will opt to partner with tech companies to create bespoke solutions for their clients in order to provide their customers with maximum peace of mind. This will see the implementation of touch-free experiences, gadgets, and devices across the corporate travel experience. If experts are to be believed, soon enough, it won’t even be necessary to touch a door handle to use the bathroom on a plane or flip a light switch inside your hotel room. The vast majority of these daily ‘touch tasks’ will evolve into effortless, sensor-controlled actions.

Parting Shot – Any comment you’d like to add.

Oz Desai, GM Corporate Traveller

Working with a professional travel consultant will become a non-negotiable as these experts will be able to advise travellers on the documentation that is required, the airline regulations and requirements as well as the safety guidelines put in place by hotels and other accommodation establishments. They also bring the human element back to the experience and can advise clients from a place of experience, expertise and empathy.

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