To truly ‘experience’ your business travel – talk to your ASATA agent!

In this month’s Business Traveller, check out our ASATA column on business travel becoming a lifestyle…

Good news just in! The new business traveller isn’t all work and no play. Today’s Sky Warrior, or Road Warrior, depending on your preferred mode of transport, likes to benefit from experiential perks during work-related trips, such as access to spas, top restaurants and cultural events.

Industry research firm Skift says while business travellers are becoming increasingly productive, they’re also putting more time aside to immerse themselves in their business travel destinations. They’re experience seekers who use business travel as an excuse to explore something new and expand their horizons.

And it’s not surprising that they’re adopting this approach as companies increasingly recognise that work is no longer a place, it is in fact an experience. The anytime, anywhere nature of our jobs today has changed the way we look at our worklife and influenced how we as business travellers inject destination experiences that suit us in to our business travel and in doing so enhance our productivity, change our thinking and enable us to engage and network with our peers on a much greater level.

Yes, business travel is quickly emerging as a lifestyle.

Once dreaded, the prospect of business travel today is an opportunity to expand your horizons, with technological advancements and traveller-friendly facilities like docking stations, cocktail bars, in-flight WiFi, mobile check-in, etc enabling business travellers to be more efficient and use the time saved more effectively, to make every minute count.

Global airport lounge access organisation Priority Pass also highlights this trend saying benefits like lounge access and concierge services are increasing among business travellers, while the importance once given to perks such as flying business class and staying in higher-star-rated hotels is diminishing.

The study also says business travellers prefer to keep their travel benefits to use when going on holiday with their families, and appreciate preferential seating with their families during leisure time.  Frequent business travellers are said to be more engaged than leisure travellers in seeking experience-led holidays.

So are these the benefits you, wearing your business traveller hat, are looking for? Or do you have a whole other set of preferences when it comes to business and leisure travel? Chat to your ASATA travel consultant to get you the travel perks that will make your business travel heart sing, while ensuring you stay within the peremeters of your corporate travel policy.

Of course, you can make your own bookings and select a hotel with WiFi, concierge services and a lobby. However, your TMC will look beyond free WiFi, and will ensure that outlets and connectivity ports for laptops and mobile devices are available throughout the chosen hotel. Your consultant will make sure there is a space in the lobby where you can meet up with colleagues to run through a power point presentation, or that the hotel’s loyalty programme includes perks that appeal to you specifically.

In short, you ASATA travel consultant can make sure you have the stress-free, customised and streamlined travel experience you’ve been asking for.

Data security: Advise your business travellers!

It will never happen to me. That’s the belief that so many of us business travellers hold when it comes to the area of data security and identity theft, which, if you think about it, can have a far wider impact than other forms of theft that keep us awake at night.

Strange then that we would not spend hours pondering the best backup strategies as we would say to thinking about securing our homes or safeguarding our family.

Especially when one considers the amount of personal information we have to submit when we travel – credit card numbers, email addresses, home addresses, passport details – not to mention confidential business-related information we carry when travelling and the odd Facebook check-in to share our whereabouts and enviable travel experiences.

The modern business traveller is armed to the hilt with smartphones, tablets, laptops and all other manner of devices, and while being connected 24/7 has great benefits for companies, so too does it expose companies to considerable risk.

To illustrate the point, a rather sophisticated and scary case of cyber crime was recently discovered whereby the computers of business travellers staying at top international hotels were hacked and confidential information stolen.

DarkHotel, as the attack has been named, unfortunately managed to go unnoticed for several years and affected travellers when they logged on to the hotel’s Internet service over WiFi or via Ethernet. It is easy for anyone to set up a fake WiFi network and encourage people to connect to it to capture sensitive information.

Companies are starting to cotton on to the risks and are forewarning their travellers to be careful in addition to employing data protection methods such as forbidding travellers to take their work laptops to certain countries.

But keeping your personal and company information safe is your responsibility and, as was the case of DarkHotel, you now have no option but to treat all public Internet access as suspect.

What security measures should you be taking to minimise the possibility of your confidential data being compromised and stolen? Here are some handy tips to get you started:

  • Update your software before travelling to ensure that hackers cannot exploit known vulnerabilities in your software.
  • Avoid public computers at all cost! You have no guarantee of when security updates were done last, what viruses exist on the machine or what kinds of unknown software have been installed by staff and customers over the years.
  • Don’t do anything involving money or entering your credit card details.
  • Use 2-factor authentication for as many online services as possible. This combines something you know like a password with something you have like an SMS message or special app.
  • Back up your data. Yes it’s dull as dishwater, but if your laptop goes AWOL at least you’ll still have access to all your emails. Simply take a portable hard drive with you on your travels and each night, back all your files up, or use a cloud-based service like Carbonite to ensure your information doesn’t disappear if your computer gets swiped.


ASATA updates on National Treasury Procurement Framework

ASATA’s joint project with National Treasury aimed at developing a travel procurement framework for government is making “significant progress”.

Since discussions began in May 2014, the joint project has delivered a code of conduct, MOU and process around the categorisation of government departments and TMCs. This includes tenders, process workflows, best practice and a travel policy.

The project, run by Kim Koen from Kitso Consulting and led by ASATA CEO Otto de Vries, has been driven through a number of ASATA-established Member Advisory Forums in collaboration with National Treasury and other industry stakeholders, including FEDHASA and SAVRALA.

The project’s key objectives include:

  • Compliance to Treasury regulations with irregular and/or unauthorised expenditure. Wasteful expenditure related to, no shows, last minute and non-essential travel, resulting in outstanding payments totalling millions that trickle all the way down the supply chain of services.
  • Budget deficits as a result of inaccurate tracking of expenditure and misallocations that results in a direct impact on the country’s economy.
  • Government’s requirement for a benefit of scale resulting in the best return on investment, value for money and a grading of TMC’s (travel management companies) to qualify and quantify companies to handle the vast array of travel arrangements undertaken by our government officials.

Part of this process is to secure a memorandum of understanding that will see government and industry (represented by ASATA) address these key objectives.

The joint project is currently compiling the executive summary that the Treasury can present to the Minister to highlight what has been achieved to date and what benefits will translate from the project.

We have also established a case log to be better track outstanding payments and assist treasury in helping industry recover overdue payments.

We will continue to keep members and industry updated on the progress.


Big Data shaping future of personalised travel

Big Brother may be watching you, but if travel companies wake up to the massive potential of using Big Data to personalise the business travel experiences of their clients, it may just be worth it.

Big Data means using information about the behaviour of travellers through travel companies’ own CRM and other technologies, or that of a third party, to predict future behaviour and in turn use those predictions to guide the experience they deliver to travellers.

Travellers want to experience travel on their own terms; they are increasingly expecting a personalised travel experience and Big Data can help travel suppliers and the 21st century travel agency deliver this personalised, unique journey.

An example of how Big Data works in business travel:

Your client searches for ‘hotels in London’ online, which in turn delivers a full list of hotels across star categories, price levels and areas, among various other filters. In a Big Data world, the results delivered will be intuitively filtered to include a list of hotels that match the user’s search behaviour, eliminating wasted time trolling through information that has no relevance to the end traveller’s requirements or wishes.

Travel companies in South Africa are starting to use the information they have gathered about travellers’ behaviours to create individual ‘DNAs’ – unique search and booking patterns that help them to deliver personalised information and services. Big Data allows the 21st century travel agent listen to their customers’ opinions, needs and desires, engage better with customers and deliver service efficiently and intelligently.

According to a recent Amadeus study, as travel becomes more complex, customers need help increasingly in navigating through all the options so delivering information that is already personalised and targeted.

The road is long and travel companies are only now at a crucial Big Data crossroads. They have for many years had access to information about their customers – every airline reservation, every hotel stay, every car rented, leaves a data trail. But using this information to the advantage of travellers is very much in its infancy despite the obvious advantages for business travellers in future. But there’s no question, Big Brother has its eyes on all of us!


What’s all the buzz about Bizcations?

Banish the boring business trip and embrace a blend of work and play. Enter the world of bizcations, a perfect mix of business and vacation and the term most popularly used to describe the growing trend towards business travellers tagging on a leisure experience before or after a business trip.

This is where an ASATA agent can add value as the travel expert, offering guidance on how to enhance a business trip with complementary leisure experiences. Travellers can save time and money by relying on their ASATA agent to find them the best leisure deals for their bizcation.

Although bizcations are nothing new, the introduction of Gen Ys in to the workforce, whose lines between professional and personal life has blurred, has meant increasingly traditional business travel is enhanced with a leisure experience, according to research.

A recent survey conducted by revealed that almost half of American adults used their business trips to discover a new destination. The survey found that younger travellers, defined as 18 to 34 years old, were more likely to mix business with pleasure compared to their older counterparts.

A similar survey among US business travellers by SKIFT and American Express revealed that the chance to explore an area topped the list of reasons road warriors would turn a business trip in to a vacation. Business travellers also cite the benefit of visiting friends and family in the area as a key reason for extending their stay.

The growing trend of bizcations comes as increasingly corporates allow for more flexible travel booking guidelines giving business travellers the opportunity to expand their travel horizons.

Travellers may have little say about having to do a business trip, but that doesn’t mean they can’t take advantage of the opportunity to explore a new destination, particularly as hotels in these business hubs are often left having to fill their rooms over the non-busy weekend periods and therefore offer very affordable deals.


Ebola Outbreak Update

With much of South Africa’s outbound travel focused on African destinations, the recent Ebola outbreak has raised some concerns among business travellers preparing to do business within the continent.

The 2014 outbreak is one of the largest in history and currently affects several countries in West Africa, including Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, as well as the Democratic Republic of Congo.

So severe is this particular outbreak, that several airlines have cancelled their outbound flights to affected destination, while countries like Kenya and Botswana are on high alert and have instituted measures to secure their borders against the threat of the Ebola spread. Corporate travel is largely being suspended or delayed, unless essential.

The South African government for its part has taken measures to enhance surveillance, distribute guidelines to all hospitals, designate health facilities for the treatment of Ebola patients, deployed personal protective equipment to designated facilities, conducted training, activated outbreak response teams and is operating a hotline for clinicians through the National Institute for Communicable Diseases. 

Countries have been divided into three risk categories with measures such as travel bans for all non-citizens from high-risk countries or strict screening process for South African citizens returning from these countries.  See this update for full details. ACSA has also released standard operating procedures, that you can read here.

The situation is evolving quickly and ASATA will continue to monitor it in detail so as to ensure our members are kept informed on the latest educated advice.

The World Health Organization recommends that all contact be avoided with Ebola patients and their bodily fluid. Do not touch anything, such as shared towels, which could have become contaminated in a public place.

Symptoms of the disease include the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat, followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding. The incubation period, i.e. the time interval from infection with the virus to onset of symptoms, is two to 21 days.

Fast facts

  • Ebola outbreaks have a case fatality rate of up to 90%
  • Outbreaks occur primarily in remote villages in Central and West Africa, near tropical rainforests
  • The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads through human-to-human transmission
  • No licenced specific treatment or vaccine is available for use in people or animals

Industry concern over unintended consequences of new immigration legislation

Association of Southern African Travel Agents’ response to joint statement by the Department of Home Affairs and Department of Tourism

It is with growing concern that ASATA took note of the recently released joint press statement that was issued 31 July by the Ministers of Tourism and Home Affairs, confirming an implementation date of 1 October, despite acknowledging short falls in the ability of Home Affairs to meet their own objectives regarding various amendments to the Immigration Act.

On behalf of its members and South African travellers, who are now required to apply for unabridged birth certificates to travel internationally with their children under the age of 18, ASATA has repeatedly asked Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba to consider a 12-month deferment of the implantation date and to meet with industry bodies to discuss the impact that this will have on our sectors.

A letter, signed by five of the countries top travel industry leaders, highlighting the concerns of the travel industry and the impact the new ruling would have, was also sent to Minister Gigaba 10 days ago. We have not received acknowledgement of receipt nor our request to meet.  Furthermore, a request for assistance in clarifying some of the concerns raised, e.g. “travellers departing before the end of September but arriving back after the 1 October will they (the child) require an unabridged birth certificate?” has been sent to relevant Home Affairs representatives three weeks ago, to which we have yet to receive a response.

Although the Department of Home Affairs has stated a turn-around time of four to eight weeks to issue a new unabridged birth certificate, practice suggests these timelines are closer to between four and six months, depending on which Home Affairs office to apply too.

This and the lack of a clear communication has created a lot of confusion in our industry and for our clients, who are turning to us to assist in providing clarity.

While we stand behind any efforts to secure our borders and to protect our children in all instances, we have yet to see what research has informed government to introduce a requirement to carry an unabridged birth certificate as an additional travel document.  Our extensive research has shown that no other country in the world has implemented a similar requirement.

In light of this, we question the effectiveness of this new requirement in meeting the Home Affairs’ objective to reduce child trafficking. A birth certificate is not a recognised travel document anywhere in the world; passports and visa’s serve that purpose, with the necessary process behind acquiring one to ensure that it is fit for that purpose.

Please let us be sure that the policies in place serve that purpose and do not have undue consequences.

Furthermore, we must ask that such an onerous new administrative regulation have an appropriate lead in time and a structured and collective consultative process with the travel and airline industries to avoid the inevitable confusion the premature implementation of said new rules will cause to the travelling public and our industry at large.

We therefore re-assert our call for a 12-month grace period in order to ensure minimal short-term disruption to our industry whilst maintaining the Department of Home Affairs objectives.

Its Africa Day…..

This is just a heads up….

Africa Day is on Friday 25th of May 2012 which means a public holiday in some countries.  Angola and Nigeria have informed us that their Embassy’s will be closed and no documents processed.

Keep it in mind and tell your clients

Think before you solicit your employer’s clients

I heard recently of a senior travel consultant leaving her current position to start her own travel company and on her last day wrote a very endearing letter to her employer’s client base to advise them of her new business adventure and all the good reasons why they should move their commerce to her.

Now why is this not okay?

Firstly, her letter of employment has a clause that explicitly covers the petitioning of her employers clients, but more importantly because it is such an unethical act!

A data base of any proportion takes time, technology and tenacity and whilst it may be available to employees to access for work related business it is proprietary information and should be treated as such.  The Consumer Protection Act covers the consumer’s right to privacy and clearly an act of this nature invades this basic consumer right.  In addition, the consumer has the right to choose and they have clearly made their choice.

Data base management companies place a sizable price tag to their product and for good reason, so however great the temptation is to solicit names without permission, remember its wrong!

Jet Airways terminates Mumbai to Johannesburg

Jet Airways sent a notification to the trade on Monday the 7th of May, 2012 advising that they shall be terminating the Mumbai to Johannesburg route with effect from the 12th of June, 2012.

Whilst we are hearing of a myriad of reasons as to their decision we have had no formal notification as yet.

ASATA has made contact with Rogers Aviation, the General Sales Agent for Jet Airways, who advised that they too are awaiting further instructions with respect to the re-protection of alternative services.

It is obviously more preferred that passengers are provided with alternative flights as opposed to refunds,  which inevitably may not cover the cost of a new booking.

In addition, we have made contact with IATA who acknowledge the termination of this route but who also confirmed that Jet Airways remain a participant of the South African Billing and Settlement Plan.

We will keep you posted of any further developments.