More than just a trip, to­day’s jour­ney un­folds

Business Traveler (USA) - - COVER STORY - By Lark Gould

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.

Ter­mi­nal Splen­dor

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

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