Sarah Wilson - ACE Travel CEO - Summary of 2019
As we start the new year, it’s really interesting to reflect upon 2019 and try to prepare for the new decade ahead. At the risk of stating the obvious, it has been a turbulent year for all due to the Brexit debacle and political uncertainty. Travel is always immediately impacted by either political, economic or natural disaster events and 2019 has seen plenty of unsettlement in the industry.
Disruption has continued to blight the traveller with plenty of airline strikes, the drone impact of last Christmas and of course the huge disruption of the Thomas Cook failure. Another reminder to ensure you book your leisure travel arrangements with an ATOL approved company and your business travel is supported by an emergency service who can take the pain and strain out of travel disruption.
It would be unfair to describe it as a “trend” but mental health and traveller wellness has never been discussed so much. The needs and profile of the business traveller has changed substantially over the years. Companies no longer have the budget to put everyone in the front cabins and the PA/Secretary who manages the whole process is being taken over by technology so the traveller takes responsibility for doing everything themselves. I personally am always guilty of leaving everything to the last minute, how shall I get to the airport – should I book parking? Should I stay at the airport the night before to avoid getting up at silly o’clock? That’s on top of, who will take the kids to school and feed the cat!
We haven’t yet offered to feed the cat for our travellers, but we have certainly put more emphasis on helping to take care of the little things! As I said, I’m quite sure this is not just a trend and the traveller-wellbeing will remain a top priority for companies as they juggle duty of care versus travel budget. We’ve been discussing many ways in which to overcome that. I am speaking at an Institute of Directors, Hospitality and Tourism event in February alongside colleagues from airlines and hotels on this very subject - https://www.iod.com/events-community/events/event-details/eventdateid/17453
We also cannot avoid the question of climate care. It is now part of corporate governance for larger companies to demonstrate how they are taking responsibility for reducing their carbon footprint. Of course, not travelling would be ideal but we all know that the best business is done face to face and at some point, you have to meet. ACE, of course can provide reporting for our clients and we are looking into ways to provide an off-setting programme on an optional and transactional basis.
Traveller safety has always been an important part of our offering at ACE. We provide our dashboard system for traveller tracking and send regular updates from Aeres Security on the latest threats around the globe. I’m delighted to see some emphasis put on hotels to prove their accreditation for safety and security. After some horror stories in the press recently regarding people accessing hotel rooms just by asking reception for a key! GS Accreditation are the first company to set “standards” for hotel security. Large corporates are putting pressure on hotels now to achieve this standard before being included in their RFP process. You will hear more about this from ACE throughout the year. Meanwhile we have the up to date list of hotels that have successfully achieved the standard of safety and security.
Technology is changing so quickly. Consumer demands are more and more sophisticated. Unfortunately, the airline technology systems, by their own admission are old and clunky and they have a mammoth task to keep up to date and give the customer the complete level of experience they want. My thoughts are that travel is such a huge industry with so many different components to manage, one glove will never quite fit all. We will have to remain versatile and flexible to adapt to different customer needs. We must embrace the technology available and assess its relevance and longevity rather than jumping on the band wagon of the latest trend. Above all, we must and will continue to listen to and respond to our customer needs by providing the personal service, customer care and attention that simply cannot be digitalised!
I wish you all a very Healthy and Happy 2020.
My best wishes,