Huge expense accounts are history, a top exec tells
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