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Flight of fancy: Taking the pain out of business travel

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Seasoned business travellers know the truth. Constant travel for work is a pain. And a recent study shows travellers everywhere have similar pain points. From the inconvenience of changing flights, to long delays and cancellations. Our gripes have one thing in common – they all waste our time.

So we make optional purchases to make us more productive and to enjoy the experience more. In-flight and train wifi mean we can get our work done more easily. Perks like airport lounge access mean we can at least be delayed in style.

the newsDesk met Brad Emery, co-founder of travel club AimViva. Brad recently joined theDesk’s new Leighton Centre workspace. With 25 years in the  financial, insurance and travel business, Brad tells us more about what annoys the heck out of business travellers. And how he’s trying to make regular business travel a more pleasant experience for everyone.
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Away on business

As a frequent business traveller, I’m well accustomed to inconvenience. If you’re like me, you’ll have spent hours – sometimes days – at Shanghai Pudong alone, due to delays and cancellations.

Larger companies often join a frequent flyer scheme, with perks like fast check in and lounge access. But for many people in smaller companies, loyalty schemes aren’t attractive. Rather than always booking the same airline, SMEs often make using cheaper options more of a priority.

When we travel we want to save time, be productive and have a pleasant experience. We travel to meet our business goals. And a good journey can take the sting out of the whole thing.

Business travel sucks

A 2017 survey by the GBTA Foundation, in partnership with Sabre Corporation, tells us what we already knew; business travel is far from hassle-free. According to their research, Hong Kong travellers’ main gripe is ‘changing flights while travelling’, something 55% of us say is the biggest nuisance.

Next is ‘time spent travelling’, which annoys 49% of us. ‘Work environment while travelling’ takes third place, with 48% saying it’s a challenge.

These three pain points – and others in the survey – have one thing in common. They waste our time.

Did you know … ?

What do Boeing, Deloitte and IBM have in common? They are the biggest corporate travel spenders in the world.

The travel club man

Brad Emery is a man who knows the travel business. In autumn 2017 he founded his company, AimViva, a travel club provider offering a wide range of benefits for travellers. He recently joined theDesk Leighton Centre in Causeway Bay.

This rugby playing entrepreneur – he’s a Level 1 certified referee – has spent 25 years working in financial services. The first 8 years of his career involved building ethical models for banks. Not only that, but Brad spent 17 years working with life insurance companies around Asia.

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With years in the business, Brad realised that travel sucks if you’re not looked after like a boss. So he quit corporate life at AIA in 2016 and set up AimViva to make travel more pleasant for everyone.

“There are more than 10.5 million travellers in Hong Kong each year. More than the population. It’s a massive market but there are a lot of pain points.”

Did you know … ?

70% – The number of people who turn off their mobiles when they travel because of data costs.

Phone woes

Before setting up AimViva, Brad did his homework. “One of people’s biggest moans is with SIM cards and data,” he says.

“Changing SIMs is a pain for iPhone users. And many of us don’t really understand how to manage settings. It’s the little things, like background refreshing apps, which adds to your phone bill. A single Skype call can use hundreds of MB of data. No wonder so many switch off.

Brad’s solution is elegant – a sticker you place over your own SIM. “It’s made by a Malaysian company with over a million users around the world,” he explains. “We put 300mb data. Topping up is easy.

Did you know … ?

80% – The number of people who travel with no insurance.

The protection gap

People buy around 2.2 million travel insurance policies per year But the vast majority of us don’t bother. We mostly uncheck the box when we book a flight. But why is this?

“A lot of people think they’re covered by their credit card,” says Brad, “Which is true if you book the trip with the same card.”

“Another reason is if you’re covered by the company insurance. You are for the time you’re working in the country. But if you stay a weekend, or you’re not on company business, you’re not covered.”

“But when insurance is one of a range of benefits, you never need to think about whether you’re covered or not. That’s the approach we take.”

Did you know … ?

Booking.com, TripAdvisor and Hotels.com are three of the largest travel companies in the world.

About AimViva

“We’re not a travel agent – we work with Flight Centre for that,” Brad explains. “Think of us like a ‘Triple A’ (AAA) for travel combined with Groupon.”

Aimed mainly at SME’s, AimViva brings together a range of core benefits to take the pain out of travel. “If you travel three or four times a year, it pays for itself.”

“It’s aimed at a gap between large companies and people who only travel once or twice a year. This group aren’t well served by existing schemes.”

Big companies have budgets and more people travelling. They are satisfied.What I do is provide a more flexible option, which brings similar kinds of benefits – like lounge access discounts, a innovative SIM data solution and automatic insurance cover, including sports.

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Designing the club benefits, Emery focused on the key areas of food and drink, relaxation, peace of mind, cost savings, connectivity and luxury. “Working with Flight Centre, members get discounts on flights and car rentals with Hertz.

“The pack even contains a durable baggage tag gives you a unique bar code that airport systems read. “Typically, the code you get when you check in last less than 36 hours,” Emery says.

Making travel more pleasant

The GBTA survey lists the typical optional purchases business travellers make. We’re spending money things like hotel high-speed internet, airport lounges, airplane/train Wi-Fi and seat upgrades. Most often, travellers say these help improve productivity on the road.

Personally, I’ve always stopped short of paying for many extras. Making an expense claim puts me off. I tend to just make the best of it, even when another flight out of Shanghai is cancelled for no apparent reason. But wouldn’t it be a nice thing, once in a while, to relax in a fancy lounge and be delayed in style.

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