NO two business travellers are alike, which makes the job of a travel management consultant both interesting and challenging.
Regular business travellers are becoming increasingly savvy when it comes to booking their flights and hotels, so it is more important than ever for agents to demonstrate their expertise and knowledge by sharing advice, tips and recommendations.
It is no longer just enough to be able to find the best deals. Travellers are looking for insider tips, personal recommendations and the benefit of first-hand knowledge of hotels, airlines, and other aspects of a business trip.
We asked two frequent travellers to detail their travel needs and preferences and used our own expertise and the trade’s to come up with some suggestions.
Katie Young, 33, director of business development for Europe at London-based human resources consultancy Right Management
Katie Young regularly goes to Paris, Bad Homburg, Milan, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Oslo, Brussels, Zurich, Amsterdam and Madrid.
“When visiting Madrid I like to add on a weekend as I’m learning Spanish. I like to explore when I travel and a large part of that is shopping.
My trips can be exhausting so it’s essential that my hotel is comfortable and I prefer to be in a hotel that’s more interesting than the usual bland business hotels.
Usually I meet colleagues for dinner, but sometimes I go to restaurants on my own.
I hate wasting time queuing at the airport, but I like to get there early so I can have some time before the flight to prepare, look through my work, and, of course, hit the shops.
It’s good to be able to use an airport lounge, but I don’t get to travel business class on short-haul flights.”
Jason Shipperley, business sales consultant, Travelharbour, New Malden, Surrey
“To save Katie time at the airport, the majority of airlines now provide an online check-in service.
For those that don’t, she could use the automated machines by the check-in desks. Then she could just drop her bags at the fast bag drop point and go straight to the shops.
Travelling this regularly, she should enrol in airline loyalty schemes to get access to the lounges, even if she’s not flying business class. Also, she could buy a lounge pass from a number of companies that sell access to communal airport lounges.
When it comes to hotels, the most vital thing is that Katie is in a safe, central part of the city, particularly as she sometimes goes out to restaurants on her own.
As Katie is young and wants more than a bland business hotel, we would recommend a stylish boutique hotel. But for comfort we would avoid the most minimalist of hotels as they can be a bit cold.
Instead, we would opt for hotels such as the Hotel Bel Ami in Paris, which is ultra-chic, but cosy. The rooms have Internet access, DVD players and decent-sized bathrooms. It’s in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, which is great for shopping.
In Madrid, where Katie often tags on a weekend, I would recommend the funky Hotel Quo, in the Puerta del Sol, right in the heart of the city. Tables are communal in the hotel’s restaurant so Katie can socialise with other guests.
We would ensure hotels are notified and supplied with adequate guarantee for a late arrival.”
Marc Hodge, 40, joint partner, Andron Handling Solutions, Slough
Marc Hodge regularly travels to Crewe, Liverpool, Warrington, Newcastle, Manchester, and Swindon, mainly on sales visits or to see clients.
“Sometimes I travel alone, but mainly I’m with colleagues. About half of my trips are there and back in a day, with the rest involving an overnight stay.
I usually drive, unless my destination is further than the Midlands, but I’m worried about the company’s high petrol bill.
When it comes to hotels, I prefer to be near to the nightlife, particularly when some of the other lads come with me. We all stay in the same hotel, which is usually three-star.
My budget is about £100 per person per night. My personal assistant does the booking and I’m not sure if she gets a discount with the hotels we use regularly.
We don’t usually use the gym, although I do like to swim if there’s a pool. The main facility we use is the bar.
When we’re driving, good parking and security are important, especially in city centres.”
Jenny Evans, manager at FCm Travel Solutions, Exeter business travel centre
For Marc’s visits to Crewe, Liverpool, Warrington and Manchester, it would be best to try and combine these in one trip where possible.
As Marc is based in Slough, he could fly from Heathrow to Manchester with British Airways at 6.30am and return the following day at 7.20pm. The return fare could be as little as £16 plus taxes of £47.10. On arrival he could pick up a hire car for about £65 for a two-day rental.
Taking in all four cities would mean an overnight in Warrington. I would recommend the Village Hotel in the city centre as it has an indoor pool, gym, steam room, restaurant and bar and on-site parking. Rates are about £89 per night.
Alternatively, there’s the Express Holiday Inn, just outside the city, which has parking, a bar and restaurant attached and room rates from £41.
It is more practical for Marc to drive to Swindon. For hotels I would suggest the Holiday Inn, about three miles from the city centre with parking and a restaurant, or the Ibis, two miles out, which is about £47 per room.
Getting his personal assistant to book travel isn’t necessarily the most cost-effective way. If Marc’s company were to use a travel management company he could access preferred rates with most hotel groups.
The time his PA spends on each booking would be better spent helping her boss with the company’s core business.”
– Read Travel Weekly’s interview with FCm Travel Solutions director Alan Spence