More than just a trip, today’s journey unfolds
Business travel is in no danger of slowing down. In fact, let the data show that US-originated business travel spending increased more than seven percent year-over-year to $72.8 billion in the second quarter of 2014, according to the latest figures from the Global Business Travel Association.
But that does not mean the journey has to be a tough one. In fact, the look of travel these days less and less resembles the face of travel at the cusp of the millennium, just a little more than a decade ago.
Airports are not waiting areas; they are destinations. Airplanes are not seats in a tube, but lounges and penthouses at 30,000 feet. Hotels are hubs for lifestyle lifts and local discovery. Amenities are badges of creativity and triumph. And spas are places to retool and get on track.
Travel is taking its rightful place in what is quickly becoming“the experience economy,”and travelers have to blink fast to keep up with the possibilities. The following are five notables that define what travel is becoming on the spectrum of worthy experiences.
Airport planners may have learned a thing or two from the hospitality industry in recent years and are busy making airports into places that can edify, satisfy and detoxify while passengers wait for a flight. Airports such as Schiphol, Dubai, Changi, Narita and Incheon have had these concepts going for many years but as other ports catch up, new wows must take over.
Schiphol in Amsterdam was possibly the first airport to offer affordable half-day onsite hotels to transit passengers in the 1980s as it developed to become, by its own definition, an airport city.
While there is plenty of local shopping and dining to be found, passengers also get to cash in on cultural attractions and entertainment. The Rijksmuseum displays works from famous Dutch masters. For literary travelers Schiphol opened the world’s first airport library. There is also gaming (at the Holland Casino), relaxation at an airport spa and nature-ish walks to be taken in a real park within the complex.
The airport continues to be a bellwether in the tides of flow and navigation as well. As one of Europe’s airports looking at airport collaborative decision-making (ACDM) tools, Schiphol travelers may soon be able to make the curbside-to-boarding gate dash – including security – in only 45 minutes.
“Airports are a reflection of their community and you see airports really embracing this,”says Angela Gittens, director general of Airports Council International based in Montreal.“Incheon works with the Korean Cultural Institute and offers all sorts of programs. Changi in Singapore is well known for a whole series of passenger items – a movie theater, a butterfly garden, special children’s areas – all really memorable. We used to feel it was a success if your flight was uneventful. Now it’s about delighting passengers. Designers are finding ways to install wonder and make travelers feel like being a kid again.”
Dubai International Airport might have been the first to truly cast the whole airport waiting experience into a luxury pursuit. It has a chic hotel in the center of the complex, an indoor park, several spas, nicely priced designer boutiques and an endless souk where one can buy 24-kt gold by the ounce – or brick.
Domestically, San Francisco is stepping up its airport experience with a buffet of unexpected amenities and, of course, leading edge technology.
The redevelopment of Terminal 2 in 2011 sought to set a new standard for the guest experience. For starters, it has a “recompose”area, located just past security, where travelers can re-dress and gather their belongings. The terminal has a yoga room and also offers, from time to time, scheduled classes and seminars. Spas, too, have their place at SFO with XpresSpas now in several terminals.
“How many times do we get to the airport and realize we have forgotten to take care of our nails?”asks Gittens. “Or we never made it to that shop we were supposed to go to in the city, or we