CEO Middle East

THE DILEMMA OF BUSINESS TRAVEL

Tim Cordon, area senior vice president, Middle East & Africa at Radisson Hotel Group, discusses hybrid solutions in hospitalit­y and corporate trips

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What’s the general market situation like in the Middle East?

The past months have been difficult for everyone, with life as we know it completely altering over such a short period. While we have all been greatly affected, we need to remember that adversity makes us stronger and it is also an opportunit­y to learn to adapt and discover different kinds of business practices.

As a leader, you need to not only take care of your business continuity but also understand what is required to meet the expectatio­ns of stakeholde­rs such as business partners, employees and communitie­s. From travel restrictio­ns to the growth of working from home and wild swings in equity and commodity markets, the last year has changed our region. While Covid-19 vaccine rollouts are underway, it will be important for Middle Eastern government­s to remain proactive and continue supporting their economies with pro-growth initiative­s to bounce back quickly. The UAE’s vaccinatio­n programme has been a major source of hope and optimism among the general population but also for the leaders across every industry. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has continued to attract investors across the kingdom and is strongly working towards Vision 2030.

Can you tell us about the Radisson Group’s hybrid/online meeting offerings?

In recent months, we have seen the accelerate­d adoption of technology within businesses. There will always be a need for physical meetings and interactio­ns, but business meetings have moved to a more hybrid set-up, with smaller teams getting together in one location and connecting with others via videoconfe­rence – a huge opportunit­y for the hospitalit­y industry. This is why we pushed forward the launch of our hybrid solutions, which offer the perfect solution for meetings, seminars, conference­s and launch events.

Whilst the future of meetings is yet to be written, the past year has forced

many companies to explore work-fromhome options, relying heavily on Wi-Fi, streaming and increased demand for hybrid meetings. By curating intimate events in local areas with hybrid function that not only require less to no travel but are actually safer for attendees, companies also reduce their carbon footprint. Looking towards the future of events, recent studies predict that small domestic meetings are expected to come back earliest, whereas large conference­s will see a much later recovery beyond 2021 or will become hybrid in the future. According to the Post Covid-19 Event Outlook Report, 93 percent of organisers plan to invest in virtual events moving forward, while 76 percent executed a virtual event in 2020.

How has corporate travel changed?

From a global perspectiv­e, there is a huge split in opinions when it comes to business travel rebound. Prior to the pandemic, it was common for millions of businesspe­ople around the globe to get into the plane each day to meet clients, investors and new potential customers. While business travel will return at scale and global economic growth will generate new demand, future analyst forecasts predict business travel will likely never return to pre-coronaviru­s levels. I believe it will also depend on the country and its business culture.

For the Middle East, where business is largely done face-to-face, I believe the trend of business travel will resume again. While we all seem to be turning into digital natives, it has become clear that the changes do not only affect organisati­ons but also business travellers are impacted in different ways.

For some the pandemic qualifies as an annoying interrupti­on, and they are keen to return to their old routines while others appreciate the new era of remote work and less travel. With that in mind, it is yet to see where and how corporate travel will rebound.

Is travel still seen as a necessity?

Of course, certain industries might ramp their travel back up more quickly than others and there will be many factors to consider throughout the recovery phase.

On the other hand, many companies have learned that the outcomes of meetings held on Zoom vs those held in person are not that much different, but the costs are night and day. Businesses will also re-evaluate whether travel is fundamenta­lly required and corporatio­ns are most likely going to have to factor the costs of new health policies into their travel budgets and planning.

Organisati­ons will study the necessity and pros and cons much closer in the future but at the same time there will always be a need for some to travel. After all, human beings are social animals and even in the digital era and communicat­ion revolution, we still require some physical connection to be emotionall­y able to connect and work together.

How can my business take advantage in the new norm?

Whilst the recovery from the pandemic would not mean we will all return to the old ‘normal’, we believe there is an opportunit­y to define a new future that includes sustainabi­lity, digital and trust. One of my core beliefs is that regardless of the negative effects that came into being, there are always new opportunit­ies that arise as a result. Those who understand the new normal adapt and respond, will be able to benefit from these new opportunit­ies. Businesses will need to find ways to re-orientate their products, services and communicat­ions to fit the Covid-19 landscape.

Many businesses have rapidly adapted and implemente­d various options such as contactles­s payments and doublebagg­ed food delivery, QR code access or remote classes.

“WE BELIEVE THERE IS AN OPPORTUNIT­Y TO DEFINE A NEW FUTURE THAT INCLUDES SUSTAINABI­LITY, DIGITAL AND TRUST”

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 ??  ?? Hotelier Rasisson have seen the accelerate­d adoption of technology within its businesses
Hotelier Rasisson have seen the accelerate­d adoption of technology within its businesses

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