THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME

From re­ac­tive ho­tel rooms to al­ter­na­tive com­mutes, we iden­tify the busi­ness travel trends you need to know about for the year ahead

Business Traveller - - CONTENTS -

Travel trends for 2018, from fa­cial recog­ni­tion to air­port gyms

EXPERIENTIAL REWARDS

Ho­tel loy­alty is mov­ing away from rewards in the form of room up­grades and free stays to money-can’t-buy ex­pe­ri­ences and hy­per­per­sonal gifts. Small Lux­ury Hotels of the World, for ex­am­ple, re­designed its loy­alty scheme in Septem­ber, re­nam­ing it In­vited and in­tro­duc­ing pref­er­en­tial treat­ment to elite mem­bers in the form of birth­day gifts and in­vi­ta­tion-only events.

In­ter­con­ti­nen­tal Hotels Group, mean­while, has joined forces with Opentable and Grub­hub to al­low guests to earn and re­deem points on meals in restau­rants. Global Ho­tel Al­liance’s Dis­cov­ery pro­gramme of­fers “lo­cal ex­pe­ri­ence” rewards for Plat­inum and Black mem­bers, such as seabob snorkelling in the Mal­dives or scenic cy­cle rides around Bali. The scheme also ap­plies to Kempin­ski hotels. The ho­tel group says: “Whether it’s a rare ele­phant ride in the jun­gle, a pri­vate tour of a Geneva watch fac­tory usu­ally closed to the pub­lic, a tra­di­tional Adumu dance with Maa­sai war­riors in Kenya, or a tour of Malta’s pres­i­den­tial palace and gar­dens, th­ese ex­pe­ri­ences present the best of lo­cal gas­tron­omy, cul­ture and crafts­man­ship.”

FA­CIAL RECOG­NI­TION

The iPhone X isn’t the only em­ployer of fa­cial recog­ni­tion as a means of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and added se­cu­rity. Air­ports and air­lines are in­creas­ingly in­te­grat­ing the tech­nol­ogy into their bio­met­ric board­ing and im­mi­gra­tion sys­tems to help re­duce queues, pa­per­work and the re­quired staffing lev­els on check­points. While you may be anx­ious that this un­der­mines your pri­vacy, there is no way to turn the tide, so you may as well ac­cept the ben­e­fits of a less stress­ful jour­ney through the ter­mi­nal as rec­om­pense.

Last sum­mer, Delta Air Lines in­tro­duced its first bio­met­ric bag­drop sta­tions at Min­neapo­lis-St Paul In­ter­na­tional air­port, re­quir­ing a fa­cial scan at the self-ser­vice points to ver­ify the pass­port holder. Dubai air­port, in part­ner­ship with Emirates, is go­ing fur­ther by cre­at­ing cam­era-lined fa­cial recog­ni­tion tun­nels that you walk through with­out paus­ing to stare at a screen. The first tun­nels should be in place at Dubai’s Ter­mi­nal 3 by the end of sum­mer 2018.

Mean­while, Bri­tish Airways is the first air­line to use self-ser­vice bio­met­ric board­ing gates on in­ter­na­tional flights out of the US, start­ing with Los An­ge­les In­ter­na­tional. BA has been us­ing bio­met­ric gates at Lon­don’s Heathrow Ter­mi­nal 5 for do­mes­tic flights since March 2017. Am­s­ter­dam Schiphol air­port and KLM are work­ing on a sim­i­lar ini­tia­tive, as is JetBlue, which has re­placed board­ing passes with fa­cial scan­ning at Bos­ton Lo­gan air­port.

Bri­tish Airways said that its new tech­nol­ogy, cre­ated by Vi­sion-Box, “will

Car­ri­ers such as Qan­tas and Air France have can­celled or­ders for the A380 su­per­jumbo

This looks to be the year that high-tech smart lug­gage with built-in bat­ter­ies is banned from be­ing checked in

cre­ate a smoother jour­ney for cus­tomers, as they will no longer need to present their pass­port or board­ing pass at the gate – only at check in and se­cu­rity. In­stead trav­ellers can sim­ply look into a cam­era prior to board­ing, wait for their bio­met­ric data to be ver­i­fied, and then walk onto the air­craft”.

In the US, Cus­toms and Border Pro­tec­tion is tri­alling its Bio­met­ric Exit US in a hand­ful of air­ports (such as Chicago O’Hare and Las Ve­gas McCar­ran), but there are plans to in­stall it at ev­ery air­port in the coun­try within three years. The en­deav­our is be­ing pushed for­ward by Pres­i­dent Trump, who wants to use fa­cial recog­ni­tion to track visa hold­ers as they leave the coun­try (or not).

AL­TER­NA­TIVE COM­MUTES

With con­ges­tion on roads get­ting ever-worse and train ser­vices fre­quently un­re­li­able, es­pe­cially in the UK, get­ting to work has be­come a daily or­deal that pushes stress to un­healthy lev­els and eats into time that could oth­er­wise be spent more pro­duc­tively. Some com­muters (about four per cent of peo­ple in the UK com­pared with 40 per cent in Copen­hagen) have turned to cy­cling as an al­ter­na­tive mode of trans­port.

Data from the Mayor of Lon­don shows that pedal power has in­creased by 56 per cent since Cy­cle Su­per­high­ways and Qui­et­ways were in­tro­duced, with 670,000 rides made ev­ery day. Ashok Sinha, CEO of Lon­don Cy­cling Cam­paign, said: “Cy­cling is tak­ing off and TfL’s new fig­ures prove that Lon­don­ers flock to high-qual­ity cy­cle lanes and routes where they’re built.”

A re­cent study from the In­ter­na­tional Jour­nal of Work­place Health Man­age­ment has found that cy­clists ar­rived at work feel­ing less stressed than peo­ple who had driven. Re­flect­ing in­creased aware­ness of ways to im­prove men­tal health, a grow­ing sub­set of peo­ple are be­ing more cre­ative in the ways they get from A to B, of­ten us­ing their com­mute as an op­por­tu­nity to get fit. Some peo­ple are run­ning to work, while oth­ers, in cities such as Mu­nich, Basel and even Lon­don, are kayak­ing, surf­ing, pad­dle board­ing or even swim­ming down the rivers, pack­ing their lap­tops and suits in wa­ter­proof bags.

UNPREDICTABLE MOTHER NA­TURE

Busi­ness trav­ellers need to pre­pare for flight de­lays and can­cel­la­tions in the year ahead by hav­ing ap­pro­pri­ate in­sur­ance, up-to­date duty-of-care poli­cies and wa­ter­tight back-up plans ahead of dis­rup­tive weather con­di­tions sweep­ing the planet. Many ex­perts are putting this down to global warm­ing (the last three years have been the hottest recorded), and 2018 is ex­pected to be just as bad, if not worse.

Last year, Hur­ri­cane Har­vey caused deadly flood­ing in Hous­ton, leav­ing 80

Air France sub­sidiary Joon is ush­er­ing in a new era of trendy avi­a­tion aimed at the younger gen­er­a­tion

peo­ple dead and £140 bil­lion worth of dam­age and, along with Irma and Maria, wreaked de­struc­tion on many Caribbean is­lands. Some of Cal­i­for­nia’s worst-ever wild­fires led to mass evac­u­a­tions across the state – the Thomas fire, in De­cem­ber (not nor­mally a month prone to many blazes), proved the largest on record, burn­ing more than 272,000 acres of land­scape, while mud­slides killed 15 in Jan­uary. Se­vere mon­soon flood­ing in Bangladesh took the lives of 1,200 peo­ple and af­fected more than 40 mil­lion peo­ple – aid agen­cies said it was one of the worst hu­man­i­tar­ian crises the re­gion had seen in years.

Seis­mic ac­tiv­ity is also caus­ing prob­lems. Two earth­quakes hit Mex­ico last au­tumn, one of which proved the dead­li­est in 30 years; and a 7.3-mag­ni­tude earth­quake in Iraq and Iran killed up to 580 peo­ple not long af­ter. Sci­en­tists pre­dict that due to a pe­ri­odic slow­ing of the Earth’s ro­ta­tion, there will be more quakes in 2018.

IN- ROOM FIT­NESS

Hotels know all too well that the gyms they in­vest in of­ten aren’t used – peo­ple can be in­her­ently lazy, yet the de­sire for bet­ter fit­ness re­mains. With that in mind, some brands are tak­ing steps to make it as easy as pos­si­ble for guests to work­out dur­ing their stays by putting fit­ness equip­ment in bed­rooms in­stead. A grow­ing num­ber of Mar­riott’s Westin Hotels & Re­sorts in the US, for ex­am­ple, are now of­fer­ing some rooms with Pelo­ton ex­er­cise bikes and on­line spin­ning classes streamed live or on-de­mand to built-in screens.

At the same time, Hil­ton has been rolling out its Five Feet to Fit­ness con­cept to hotels in North Amer­ica, fea­tur­ing mini stu­dios with Wat­tbikes, Gym Rax units with TRX straps, medicine balls from Lyft, Hyper­wear Sand­bells, yoga mats and med­i­ta­tion chairs, plus a screen for be­spoke on-de­mand ex­er­cise classes cre­ated by Ak­tiv So­lu­tions.

Ryan Crabbe, for­mer se­nior direc­tor of global well­ness at Hil­ton, said: “The va­ri­ety of ac­tiv­ity the room en­ables is mo­ti­vat­ing. One morn­ing a guest can de­cide to roll out of bed for a quick guided stretch and yoga poses. Then later that evening, they might re­turn from a stress­ful day and take a brisk bike ride while catch­ing up on a favourite show or the day’s busi­ness news.”

NEXT- GEN AIR­LINES

Aimed at mil­len­ni­als, Air France launched a new low-cost sub­sidiary air­line for hip­sters in De­cem­ber, ush­er­ing in a new era for trendy avi­a­tion cre­ated for the younger gen­er­a­tion. Richard Bran­son did a good job of mak­ing fly­ing sexy with Vir­gin At­lantic, but Air France’s Joon is look­ing

...to in­spire a dif­fer­ent kind of ethos, much in the way ho­tel chains have all launched “life­style” brands. Crew are dressed in “ba­sic, chic” uni­forms that con­sist of royal blue cardi­gans, polo shirts, block­print shift dresses, gilets and retro-style white train­ers. Trav­ellers who down­load the YouJoon app will be able to stream en­ter­tain­ment on-de­mand to their mo­bile de­vices while in the air. There will also be in­di­vid­ual touch­screen mon­i­tors on long­haul flights.

On short-haul A320 flights, food and drink (with the ex­cep­tion of one free tea or cof­fee) has to be paid for, but on long­haul A340 ser­vices it’s free. The menu lists items such as Si­cil­ian lemon­ade, smooth­ies, craft beer, tapas and or­ganic quinoa salad. Un­like typ­i­cal bud­get air­lines, in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal ser­vices also have pre­mium econ­omy and busi­ness class cab­ins with fully flat beds. At the time of writ­ing, there were one-way fares avail­able from Paris to Barcelona, Oslo and Rome from €49, and Is­tan­bul from €99 (start­ing in March), Tehran and Cairo from €149, and Cape Town from €279 from April.

FAREWELL TO JUMBOS

The un­mis­tak­able B747, with its humped up­per deck, first took to the skies in 1969 – and al­most 50 years later, it’s fi­nally reach­ing the end of its life. Air­craft man­u­fac­turer Boe­ing says that it sees “no sig­nif­i­cant de­mand” for the jumbo jet any­more, and has dropped the plane from its 20-year fore­cast; pro­duc­tion is cur­rently sus­pended. In­stead, it pre­dicts air­lines will be choos­ing Boe­ing’s more ef­fi­cient B787s and B777Xs for long-haul flights. In 2017, both Delta and United re­tired the last of their B747s, mean­ing no US air­line flies the jumbo any longer. There are still around 500 in ser­vice glob­ally, but a re­cent de­liv­ery of a B747-8 to Korean Air may prove the last to be built.

In con­trast, a new en­try to fleets around the world is the smaller, sin­gle-aisle B737 MAX. It has al­ready be­come the fastest-sell­ing plane in Boe­ing’s his­tory, with more than 4,000 or­ders from 92 car­ri­ers. The air­craft comes with Boe­ing’s new Sky In­te­rior, “mod­ern sculpted walls and win­dow re­veals”, LED light­ing and larger over­head bins for lug­gage. It comes in four vari­ants – the MAX 7, 8 , 9 and 10 – in­stalled with 172 to 230 seats. Last year, Nor­we­gian, South­west Air­lines, Air Canada, Silk Air and West­jet all re­ceived their first B737 MAXs. In Novem­ber, it was an­nounced that Fly­dubai had placed a mon­ster US$27 bil­lion or­der for 225 of the nar­row-body planes.

This is part of a wider trend for air­lines buy­ing smaller air­craft, in­stead of larger planes with far greater op­er­at­ing costs. Even though fuel is cur­rently cheap, car­ri­ers such as Qan­tas and Air France have can­celled or­ders for the A380 su­per­jumbo, and there are ru­mours that Emirates is go­ing to ditch its A380 pro­gramme, which might lead to Air­bus sus­pend­ing A380 pro­duc­tion al­to­gether.

AIRBNB HOTELS

Given Airbnb’s am­bi­tions to be­come a one-stop shop for travel – from home rental to ex­pe­ri­ences and pos­si­bly even flights – it makes sense that the com­pany is part­ner­ing with prop­erty de­vel­op­ers to build its own branded ac­com­mo­da­tion. In Florida, Airbnb is work­ing with New­gard Prop­erty Group to open a 300-unit apart­ment tower for early 2018 (called Ni­ido Pow­ered by Airbnb) in Kis­simee, near Or­lando.

Tenants will be able to rent apart­ments on Airbnb for up to 180 days a year, and there will be ho­tel-style sup­port in the form of clean­ing and linen ser­vices, key­less en­try sys­tems, in-room safes and concierges. Ac­cord­ing to the Fi­nan­cial

Times, Airbnb plans to un­veil an­other five such projects over the next two years. There are also ru­mours that Airbnb will launch a “Lux” por­tal ag­gre­gat­ing high-end res­i­dences this year, al­low­ing it to com­pete with One Fine Stay (now part of Ac­corho­tels).

LIFE­STYLE TRAINS

Ger­man rail com­pany Deutsche Bahn has come up with a pro­posal for new, fu­tur­is­tic dou­ble-decker trains for com­muters, with fa­cil­i­ties such as noise­can­celling seats to help pas­sen­gers fo­cus on work, as well as nap pods, fit­ness stu­dios, video game zones, mas­sage chairs, TVs, high-tech din­ing car­riages and lounges de­signed to be like “rolling liv­ing rooms”. The Idea Train aims to help peo­ple make the most of travel time, and re­flects the way work and leisure are no longer seg­re­gated as­pects of our lives. Other com­pa­nies are fol­low­ing the ex­am­ple of air­lines in of­fer­ing var­i­ous new forms of on-board en­ter­tain­ment – Eurostar, for ex­am­ple, re­cently part­nered with Ama­zon Prime to al­low pas­sen­gers trav­el­ling on its new e320 trains to stream shows di­rect to their de­vices via free wifi and the Eurostar app while on the train.

SMART LUG­GAGE BAN

Busi­ness trav­ellers have en­dured liq­uid and lap­top bans in re­cent years, but 2018 looks to be the year that high-tech smart lug­gage with built-in bat­ter­ies is em­bar­goed. In De­cem­ber, Amer­i­can Air­lines an­nounced that suit­cases con­tain­ing lithium-ion bat­ter­ies pose a fire risk when they are placed in the cargo hold of an air­craft.

As a con­se­quence, from Jan­uary 15 2018, all smart suit­cases were banned from be­ing checked in un­less the power pack is re­moved. Other air­lines, such as Delta and Alaska, have is­sued sim­i­lar rules and EU car­ri­ers may fol­low suit, while Cathay Dragon and Cathay Pacific banned smart suit­cases from Jan­uary. (Smart lug­gage will con­tinue to be al­lowed in the cabin.)

Brands that man­u­fac­ture this sort of lug­gage, which can charge de­vices, be tracked and even move on its own in some cases, in­clude Away, Bar­racuda, Blues­mart, Horizn Stu­dios and Modobag.

AIR­PORT GYMS

In­stead of sit­ting in the air­port lounge eat­ing plate­fuls of free food and drinking wine, many of us would feel bet­ter at the end of our jour­ney if we’d done a

work­out. Last au­tumn, Len­nart Meri Tallinn air­port in Es­to­nia be­came the first in Europe to in­stall a pop-up gym within its ter­mi­nal near gate 6 (com­plete with run­way views). Op­er­ated by My Fit­ness, the light, ex­pan­sive gym has high ceil­ings, with Techn­o­gym weight ma­chines, an el­lip­ti­cal trainer, a row­ing ma­chine, ex­er­cise bike, tread­mill and stair­case trainer. The only prob­lem is there are no show­ers.

Roam Fit­ness is also tak­ing gyms for jet set­ters se­ri­ously, hav­ing opened its first in Bal­ti­more air­port last year. The 109 sqm fa­cil­ity has car­dio equip­ment, free weights, medicine balls, TRX sus­pen­sion straps and space for stretch­ing. Mer­ci­fully, there are four pri­vate bath­rooms with show­ers. You can also buy healthy snacks and drinks on-site, and even rent Lu­l­ule­mon fit­ness cloth­ing if you haven’t packed any of your own. Roam Fit­ness says it plans to open three more US lo­ca­tions this year and, within five years, hopes to have 20 lo­ca­tions in­clud­ing some over­seas.

RE­AC­TIVE ROOMS

Mar­riott In­ter­na­tional has part­nered with Sam­sung and Le­grand (a spe­cial­ist in elec­tri­cal and dig­i­tal build­ing in­fra­struc­tures) to cre­ate a pro­to­type in­ter­net of things (IoT) ho­tel room, which it hopes to one day bring to its port­fo­lio of prop­er­ties. Mar­riott be­lieves in a sci-fi fu­ture where mir­rors talk and your shower recog­nises you when you walk in. It says the IoT Gue­stroom Lab al­lows users to ask a vir­tual as­sis­tant for a wake-up call, to start a yoga rou­tine on a full-length mir­ror, or set the shower to the tem­per­a­ture stored in their cus­tomer pro­file.

The Irvine Mar­riott in Cal­i­for­nia has been ex­per­i­ment­ing with a smart shower door, whereby peo­ple can draw or write down ideas in the steam on the glass, and then have them beamed to an iPad. A se­lect num­ber of Mar­riott’s Aloft hotels al­ready have voice-ac­ti­vated rooms.

BUSI­NESS CLASS TAX HIKES

This year, busi­ness class tick­ets are set to be­come more ex­pen­sive as UK air pas­sen­ger duty (APD) is in­creased again. In Novem­ber, chan­cel­lor Philip Ham­mond an­nounced a freeze on short- and long­haul rates, bump­ing up taxes on pre­mium tick­ets in­stead. From April this year, APD on busi­ness and first class fares (plus any pre­mium econ­omy cab­ins fit­ted with seats with more than 40 inches of legroom, such as Nor­we­gian) for flights of more than 2,000 miles will be £156 in­stead of £150, go­ing up to £172 in April 2019. Alan War­dle, direc­tor of pub­lic af­fairs at ABTA said: “We be­lieve this is a missed op­por­tu­nity to de­ci­sively cut this tax. We will con­tinue to have the high­est lev­els of APD in Europe and among the high­est in the world. We will con­tinue to push for a sub­stan­tial cut, which will help trav­ellers and en­sure the UK is well placed to trade with the rest of the world post Brexit.”

AF­FORD­ABLE LUX­URY

Good news for bud­get-con­scious busi­ness trav­ellers is the con­tin­ued growth of af­ford­able lux­ury in both hotels and air­lines. Bou­tique ho­tel mogul Ian Schrager launched his new high-de­sign Pub­lic ho­tel brand in New York’s Lower East Side in 2017, with 367 pared-down rooms, open plan co-work­ing spa­ces, a florist, cock­tail bars, a deli, rooftop events space and free wifi. The idea is you get ev­ery­thing you need to work and re­lax on-site and in style, but for lower prices than you might ex­pect in New York City (from $195 a night).

In a sim­i­lar vein, Dutch chain Cit­i­zen M of­fers just one cat­e­gory of com­pact room and no in-room din­ing, swim­ming pools or gyms. In­stead, guests ben­e­fit from gen­er­ous amounts of com­mu­nal space for work­ing and eat­ing, and a hip can­teen open 24 hours. Again, there is an em­pha­sis on cre­at­ing a trendy but homely en­vi­ron­ment. A night at the new Cit­i­zen M La Défense in Paris costs from €71 a night, and the chain plans to ex­pand across North Amer­ica and Asia over the com­ing years.

The new Moxy Times Square (from Mar­riott) is an­other ex­am­ple of a ho­tel chain that has cho­sen to in­vest in imag­i­na­tive in­te­rior de­sign, lively so­cial spa­ces and su­perb din­ing at un­usu­ally low rates (from US$124 a night) by elim­i­nat­ing ex­tra­ne­ous fa­cil­i­ties and lev­els of ser­vice.

Af­ford­able lux­ury is com­ing to air­lines too. The Lufthansa Group’s bud­get sub­sidiary Eurow­ings has an­nounced it will be in­stalling a busi­ness class cabin – with fully flat beds – on board its long-haul wide­body air­craft de­part­ing Dus­sel­dorf from the end of April 2018. Oliver Wag­ner, the air­line’s CEO, said: “That’s not a con­tra­dic­tion for Eurow­ings. We see strong de­mand for an­other top prod­uct on routes with high busi­ness travel, for ex­am­ple from Dus­sel­dorf to New York, Mi­ami and Fort My­ers.” And, he says: “We’ll be en­ter­ing the Biz­class race with our usual bud­get-priced tick­ets.”

ABOVE: Fa­cial recog­ni­tion tech is chang­ing se­cu­rity

RIGHT: Com­muters are adopt­ing new travel meth­ods

BE­LOW: Nat­u­ral dis­as­ters are ever more com­mon

RIGHT: In-room fit­ness makes ex­er­cise more ap­peal­ing

ABOVE: The hip uni­form of trendy new air­line Joon

RIGHT: Cit­i­zen M hotels of­fer af­ford­able lux­ury

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