Huge ex­pense ac­counts are his­tory, a top exec tells

Veathika Jain

7 Days in Dubai - - TECH TALK - Veathika@7days.ae

Busi­ness travel in the 1990s and early Noughties was all about busi­ness class flights, com­pany credit cards and en­ter­tain­ing clients.

To­day, though, things have changed and ex­ec­u­tives are book­ing in to bud­get ho­tels and be­ing asked to keep costs down.

That’s the view of Dr Sid­deek Ahmed, Chair­man and MD of travel firm ITL World and busi­ness con­glom­er­ate Eram Group.

Named 16th on the Forbes Mid­dle East rich list, Ahmed knows a thing or two about busi­ness travel.

And he shared his thoughts at the Ara­bian Travel Mar­ket.

“Due to big rev­enues in the 1990s, per diems, client en­ter­tain­ment and ho­tel lim­its were very loose - mean­ing that cor­po­rate trav­ellers could live lav­ishly and ex­pense a lot to their com­pany credit cards,” Ahmed said. “How­ever, now or­gan­i­sa­tions have adopted strict travel codes, with mone­tary lim­i­ta­tions on food, ho­tels and air­fare.” They might have re­duced bud­gets and smaller al­lowances, but busi­ness trav­ellers to­day still have high ex­pec­ta­tions. Ahmed said: “They want the abil­ity to catch last­minute deals, check in to ho­tels early and have free in­ter­net at all times. “While price is al­ways one fac­tor, busi­ness trav­ellers are in­creas­ingly search­ing for the best-qual­ity seat and wider cus­tomer ex­peri- ence and air­lines are tak­ing this kind of feed­back to help im­prove their travel ex­pe­ri­ence.

“Ev­ery trav­eller is dif­fer­ent and each one wants his re­quests to be catered to on an in­di­vid­ual plat­form - cookie-cut­ter travel plans are no longer wel­come or even ac­cepted.”

And stay­ing con­nected at all times is a ne­ces­sity, both for the trav­eller and for air­lines and ho­tels.

Ahmed said: “So­cial me­dia also en­ables travel firms and air­lines to send real-time up­dates to cus­tomers, whether they are in need of in­for- ma­tion con­cern­ing a de­layed flight or have re­quested pric­ing for a spe­cific trip.” So where is the travel in­dus­try headed? Ahmed added: “We see the trav­eller of to­mor­row op­er­at­ing in an ever-more fluid space, a world of blurred bound­aries. They ex­pect to move seam­lessly from de­vice-to-de­vice, from on­line to off­line and back again, from busi­ness to leisure and vice versa.”

De­spite that shift, and the rise of video con­fer­enc­ing, Ahmed, who started out in busi­ness in the late 1980s, said he was re­lieved to see ‘Mil­len­ni­als’ want to do busi­ness face to face.

He said: “That it is ex­tremely en­cour­ag­ing to note that a ma­jor­ity of the mil­len­ni­als be­lieve that tech­nol­ogy can never re­place face-to-face meet­ings to get busi­ness done”.

TRAVEL GURU: Dr Sid­deek Ahmed

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