Day Trip­pers

Road weary business trav­el­ers cel­e­brate the as­cen­dance of there-and­back-again air­port meet­ings

Business Traveler (USA) - - INSIDE - By Jerome Greer Chandler

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

ad­van­tage.”

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.

The Me­chan­ics

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

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