Road weary business travelers celebrate the ascendance of there-andback-again airport meetings
Road weary business travelers celebrate the ascendance of there-and-back-again airport meetings
Most bonafide über-mile frequent flyers have a favorite destination, the same one favored by the little pointy-fingered alien in the movie ET – we all want to get h-om-e. The issue is, how to cleave to home and hearth while taking care of business at the same time. Sure, you’ve got to travel. But not all trips necessarily mean an overnight stay.
Enter the offspring of the day trip per se – the on-airport meeting day trip. No car to rent, taxi to hail or lodging to book. It can do wonders for your T&E report, not to mention your overall travel tolerance level. And, gentle flyer, you still rack up miles.
Savor the Savings
“Saving the cost of everything which is not air-related”means lopping off 45 percent to 50 percent of the trip’s cost, contends CWT Solutions Group directorYon Abad, which can amount to“a significant amount of money. Every minute to a business traveler is money.”
Gerry Williams is director of travel, group meetings and indirect strategic sourcing for Medtronic, the medical technology company. Minneapolis-based, and a true believer in cutting costs without cutting content, Williams says,“You don’t have to rent rooms or cars, adding to the cost of travel. Typically, you can schedule an‘in and out’and keep everything bundled up in a nice, neat package.”
One of the places bundling those packages is the MSP Airport Conference Center. Manager Laurie Roufs says,“While some people might initially look at [a daytrip airport meeting] as a disadvantage, if they actually thought about the entire
Typically, business travelers arrive at centrally-located Minneapolis/St. Paul International between 9 o’clock and 10:30 in the morning. They have a catered light breakfast in the conference center and then get down to business. Lunch is about 12:30, and is similarly catered. More meetings follow. Then, it’s off for home between about 3:00 and 5:00 in the afternoon. Such scenarios render about six hours of undiluted face time, after which travelers“get to go home and sleep in their own bed that night,”Roufs notes.
Day-trip airport meetings can become habitual.“We have a client that meets at least once a month,”says Olivia Sloan, business and marketing manager of The Conference Center at Seattle/Tacoma International Airport. While some folks drive to the airport,“the majority of attendees fly in from all over the state of Washington.”
This is bare-metal, meaningful time with very little chrome and almost no wasted motion.“Our theme is‘arrive, meet, depart,’”says Nadja Singh, manager of the Airport Conference Center at Frankfurt International, Lufthansa’s major hub. “Ninety-five percent to 98 percent of our meetings are these day trips,”she says.“We focus particularly on this target group.” Business travelers fly in from all over the European Union, meet, and get on their way home.
They also get to FRA by car and rail. Unlike most airports in the US, many European aerodromes double as true intermodal facilities, with rail links and major highway connectors.
Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is like that too, with an extensive rail nexus right at the airport. This means quick ingress and egress, says Patricia Voogd, public relations and communications manager for Starwood Hotels The Netherlands. At The Sheraton Amsterdam Airport Hotel & Conference Center,Voogd says one out of ten attendees stays over, the rest are in and out in the course of the day. Those who do stay over are likely to hale from countries outside the EU. Nevertheless, their sojourns too can be short.
A poll conducted for Travelport by Opinium Research finds the United States leads the list of flying forays. Of those interviewed, 13 percent say they spent 12 hours or fewer at their destination on business – this despite the fact they fly in from afar.
The Importance of Being There
Some contend teleconferencing subs just fine for there-and-back face time. Marc Berman begs to differ. He flies a lot, longhaul and short. President of the loyalty and relationship marketing consultancy The Mallett Group, and a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker, he’s in a unique position to plumb business travel’s psychological depths.
“The value of in-person conversations cannot be undervalued,”he contends. While conceding that“conference calls, tele-calls and the like are useful tools,”face-to-face meetings can form “the foundation of a more meaningful interaction. Social intercourse allows us to‘share’ourselves in a manner that an‘e’ event does not.”
Medtronic’s Williams adds that face time is“an opportunity to meet people and build relationships based on reactions, facial expressions, however individuals communicate.You can determine whether or not they’re someone you can really trust.”In contrast, he says,“it’s pretty clinical when you rely strictly on teleconferencing.”
Being there, just for a while, is important. But airport day-trips can also mean better home relationships as well.“In-and-out meetings lessen the guilt of the frequent flyer,”says Berman. Sure, frequent flying can be glamorous (on occasion). But it can also fray the ties that bind young families. This Business Traveler writer has missed more than a handful of important events in the lives of his children while en route to cover a story. I’ve rued those absences.You can never recoup moments missed.
In some, but not all instances, a short business trip is an ideal solution, Berman maintains.“The dynamics of the family can drive the process,”he says, begetting a “balancing act that is the‘dance’of making relationships work.”
Counterintuitive as it might sound, there’s a school of thought you can actually
thirty, catching the first flight of the day to you destination and then returning later that same day. CWT Solutions Group put together a landmark study on stress and business travel a couple of years back. In the Travel Stress Index,Yon Abad says they found“many of those stress factors happen when you get out of the airport.” The upshot is pretty straightforward:“If you don’t get out of the airport you can save a lot of stress and gain a lot of productivity.”
Not toting along luggage on your inairport day trip means you don’t run the risk of losing your luggage, or – should you find yourself in Zone Six and are among the last to board – you don’t have to panic about not finding space for your carry-on.
Caveat: the world doesn’t always work as we wish. Best to take along a night’s supply of needed medications, a fresh set of undies, socks and a clean shirt or blouse – just in case the return flight gets scrubbed and you end up having to spend the night. to pack toothpaste, toothbrush or toiletries; hotels are usually happy to supply them for free at the front desk.
Airport day-trips aren’t for everybody – or every airport. In the great US hub-and- spoke aviation system, the spokes usually don’t work well as day-trip meeting sites. Nor is in-and-out the solution for all seasons. Still these meetings represent“an ever-growing”piece of the pie, says Ben Premack, director of sales and marketing for Grand Hyatt DFW.
Dallas/Fort Worth International is American Airlines’prime hub, just as Seattle is Alaska Airlines’and Minneapolis/ St. Paul is an important hub for Delta Air Lines. Just as hubs like these are designed to be efficient connecting points, they also make ideal meeting points, whether the venue is a stand-alone in-airport conference center, or a meeting facility ensconced in a hotel that’s connected directly to (as opposed to merely being near) the airport.
Grand Hyatt DFW is attached to International Terminal D at DFW, and it’s sited on the non-secure, pre-security side of the terminal.“Once you get to DFW,” says Premack,“You can easily get to our hotel. Take the Skylink [automated people mover] directly to Terminal D, walk out of security and right into our hotel.”
Zoom, zoom – at least on the inbound leg of your day-trip.
The outbound can be another matter. Location of the security checkpoint visá-vis the conference center is important. “It’s really simple to fly in when everyone assembles behind security,”says Medtronic’s Gerry Williams.“You don’t have to go through any hoops.”Most airport conference centers, however, are landside, before security. A precious few are sited airside, after security. Minneapolis is one of the latter, and it’s a key reason the setup works so well.
Some airport conference centers, such as Frankfurt, are set up outside security and passport control to accommodate the significant number of attendees who arrive by rail or car.
If an airport hotel and conference is actually attached to the terminal proper, it might be in a position to tout the kind of advantage enjoyed by business flyers frequenting The Westin Detroit Metropolitan Airport’s conference center. “We have our own security checkpoint right in our lobby,”says account director for group sales Kristy Madurski.“There’s hardly ever a line,”she asserts,“which is really nice.”
Then there’s location; the Westin at DTW is but a trio of gates away from the epicenter of the McNamara/World Gateway Terminal, from whence Delta’s flights arrive and depart.
Ride the Wave
Increasingly, companies and business travelers are in agreement that it is no longer considered a departure from the norm to conduct quick-turn around, inairport daytrips.“Most clients are pushing for more one-day trips whenever they can,” says CWT’s Abad. That’s because,“They have identified the 50 percent higher costs [that come with] longer trips.”
Those costs come in the form of hard expenditures saved and soft insights gained, insights the highest definition teleconference can’t beget. Asserts Kristy Madurski,“You can’t read body language, even over a website. It’s a lot different when you’re there in person.You can’t beat a face-to-face meeting.”
Even if its on the fly. BT
Clockwise this page: MSP Airport Conference Center; The Sheraton Amsterdam Airport Hotel & Conference Center; The Conference Center at Seattle/Tacoma International Airport.
From top left: Grand Hyatt DFW; The Westin Detroit Metropolitan Airport’s conference center; Sheraton Frankfurt Airport Hotel & Conference Center