“Cut Back on Travel? Not Likely!”

No matter how high the prices rise, most business travellers claim that they will travel for work. Executive Traveller speaks to some business travelers across the globe as they reveal their business travel plans for the year 2013.

The World’s a Stage

Come 2013 and the world is braced to see prices rise yet again. With speculations of travel costs increasing by a minimum of 5%, the question arises, to travel or not to travel?

As we spoke to business travellers across the globe, we realized that most stand united in thought. If work beckons, they will gladly spend the greens to fly across the seas to turn up at that one meeting armed with some of their best ideas. Interestingly, a lot of businesspeople out there look at travelling for work as an experience that enriches and teaches.

“I will be travelling more in 2013! I love travelling, experiencing different cultures, the way they live and do business. I have been fortunate enough to have travelled a lot during my life so far, living in different countries is just an amazing experience,” says UK-based Growth Strategist Julia Haydon. Working in a field that requires her to travel often and widely, she is one of the women who has embraced the world of business travel as not just a unique experience, but a wonderful adventure as well. For her, work is definitely sprinkled with generous amounts of fun. “I love travel and business so much I formed a company that takes people away to amazing places like Necker Island for business mentoring, fun and forming friendships with like minded individuals. I was running a business and in order to make myself take a break I used to visit my family who lived abroad, it was the best of both worlds – I love my work but I also love going away and getting more creative in my thinking, not something you can do with the day to day routine of running a business,” she concludes.

Christine Hueber, Marketer, Social Media Marketer, Email Marketer, Marketing Coach, Marketing Trainer, Marketing Mentor and Entrepreneur has a very positive outlook as she tells us that travelling is definitely on her mind. “I will definitely travel more! To more beautiful places,” she smiles.

Budget Blues

While traveling is a wonderful experience, recent speculations about the inflation hitting travel prices overall and indicating towards a 5% increase, budget woes begin to creep into the world of business travel. While opting out of traveling might not be an option, looking at cutting corners will be high on the priority list for not just individuals traveling for work, but also companies.

Not traveling has never been an option as far as work is concerned,” says Krishnaswamy Ajjampur, Founder Voyage World. “But I can tell you that companies will try their best to cut unnecessary costs. Previously guests would be booked in any part of the town and then be driven to the work site, but of late, people are making an effort to cut these costs. They book into hotels closer to the site and keep amongst other things. Globally travel costs are getting lower, this fuels the growth of business travel,” he explains.

According to Praveer Gaur, Executive Director, F Models India Pvt Ltd, the forecast for 2013 is an expensive one. “When was the last time costs came down because of the budget planning? I can tell you for sure that petrol prizes will be hiked and as a result of that all prices related to travel will escalate.” Though he admits that the scope for traveling is much greater in 2013, he also believes that there are very few chances to actually save while travelling. “This is India’s time to rise and shine so deciding that you would rather close a deal over Skype instead of spending a bit to go to the site is not a very smart thing to do. Business development and travelling are synonymous in the current age so the call is entirely yours to take. If you are okay with half hearted attempts and phonecalls, yes, you will be saving a lot of money. If not, there are some serious expenditures you will have to consider,” he concludes.

Kavita Ashok, Etiquette Guru believes that there is no alternative or excuse to not travel because it might be expensive. “The budget would not affect my business travel because there is no compromise for work , if my work demands then I would travel,” she says.

However, the new age business travelers are social, mobile and smart business planners. The younger generation of business travellers are the ones who truly understand the importance of their smart phones and tabs and even believe that this is the perfect time to implement online business and marketing strategies that are taking the world by storm. Brijendra Chaudhary, Human Human Resource Associate, Dodsal E&C Pte Ltd is confident about travelling less this year. “I will turn to telecommunications this year. Conferences held over the internet and the phone are successful so I will turn to the things that make life easier for me and travel less,” he says.

This same generation also boasts of people who are careful, cautious and great planners. According to Neelam Agarwal, an actor, writer, singer and stand-up comedian, “When I travel for business purpose, I don’t spend more than required and neither do I spend less in order to save up. Comfort is one of the most import features of travelling, for business or otherwise, so I am willing to spend whatever is required to be comfortable.” However, she is not for the team who believes that not travelling is a solution. “I think travelling opens up a whole new world of experiences. Yes, there are difficulties you have to face and overcome, but nowhere else do you get such opportunities to learn, explore, go on an adventure and grow. I would never advise anyone not to travel,” she concludes.

The Side Not so Bright 

But while some cannot shrug off the responsibilities, they advice us to keep a look out for things that might go wrong or make us incur more expenditures and even losses. “I will travel for business and networking activities, but I definitely will be more cautious this year,” says Muntazir Abbas, a Delhi based journalist. “Last year I lost my notebook while returning from San Francisco on an Emirates flight. It was a 15 hour long journey and I had to take a connecting flight from Dubai and though I lodged a formal complaint and reminded them several times to look into my loss, nothing really came out of it. All my efforts went in vain,” he continues. Surprisingly, this isn’t the first instance of complaints we encountered.

According to Adityoa Basottia, Chief Strategist, LNOD, airlines woes are a part of travelers… business or otherwise. “Yes, airlines have great offers, but they only look nice in the advertisements. Recently an Indian airline, SpiceJet, offered tickets for dirt cheap, but when people went to the site for the bookings, some technical snag or the other kept cropping up. And there was no way to get in touch with the officials about this. And this is exactly what makes people believe that these are just gimmicks by companies. I am not saying that people cannot avail the offers, but these are largely reserved for a few choice corporates and companies. For the general population, even people who don’t know the tricks of the trade and people with their own businesses there are very few chances of getting to avail these offers,” he says.

Tech Tools

Virtual avatars to help better your travel experience, in flight connectivity and the million odd apps that help you with everything but packing is the sign of technology rapidly changing the face of business travel. In fact, so great is the need to be online that a recent survey conducted by the BusinessTravelDestinations.com showed that Wi-Fi actually impacts buying decisions.  One quarter of survey respondents said that the availability of in-flight Wi-Fi impacts their choice of airline and flight while 73 percent said that they look for free Wi-Fi when selecting a hotel. Similarly, business people all over the world are turning to participate in online surveys and forums to not just talk about their personal experiences but to help fellow travelers gain accurate insights that are not clouded by advertising sweet talk. With social media strategies being implemented by almost two thirds of the business traveler population, a CWT survey states that this is a key action to improve traveler experiences.

In fact, more travelers will explore the hybrid events of online meetings all across the globe. “Technology is extremely essential for the growth of a business,” says Anil Verma, COO, Delsey India. “It isn’t about being cheaper. It is about managing time efficiently. Delsey’s head office is in Paris and we cannot organize physical global meetings every month, put two or three days on hold and try to accommodate everyone concerned all over the world in that one meeting. With Webex, we can have these meetings regularly and people from all over the world can participate from their own offices.” But this in no way means the end of physical meetings. “For us, we will be travelling almost twice as much as we did last year. Delsey is new in India and from just the major metros we are expanding to smaller towns and cities and to establish ourselves in the market here, we have to travel.”

Likewise, Biswajit Chakraborty, General Manager, Movenpick Hotels and Spas believe that though essential, technology has not yet reached the place where it can overtake physical meetings, conferences and seminars that enhance your business. “Yes we turn to Skype and con calls to make life easier, but as a business traveler, I do not think that is a reason to believe that physical meetings are taking a backseat.” But he does agree that without social media, life could have been much harder. “Social media management is extremely important these days. Almost everyone has an online presence and you have to admit that Facebook is an integral part of everyone’s life these days. From sharing information, sharing events, and even helping people get a general idea about a company, a hotel or even an airline, social media marketing is something that is on the rise and the best way to keep up with the world is to learn the tricks of the trade,” he signs off.

With experiences, innovations and whole new worlds waiting to be discovered out there, business people all over the world are indeed going to make the most of travelling this year.

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