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WORDS JUSTYN BARNES


CONFERENCE REPORT


TOWARDS A CONNECTED TRAVELLER


Turkish Airlines marked ten years of its Corporate Club with a conference in Istanbul, where wellness and technology’s role in policies were discussed


THE INAUGURAL TURKISH AIRLINES CORPORATE CLUB CONFERENCE in 2015 had 400 attendees. Five years on, three times that number of attendees from 75 countries gathered at the Great Hall at the Hilton Bomonti, Istanbul, on 8 October. Moderator Aaron Heslehurst noted that event organiser, Turkish Airlines, has similarly expanded, from carrying 21 million passengers per year a decade ago to 75 million to 316 destinations in 2018. In a Q&A session with Turkish Airlines chairman Mehmet Ilker Ayci, Heslehurst asked whether, now the new Istanbul Airport was operational, the airline planned to take on the Gulf carriers? “The biggest competitor of Turkish Airlines is Turkish Airlines itself,” replied Ayci. “Our main concern is how we take care of passengers’ wellbeing from beginning to end of their journey, so they feel at home, no matter where they are from in the world.” He said a new helpdesk for Corporate Club members was being trialled in ten countries, with a plan to extend to 32 countries in a year. As a live test, one of his executives stood up and called the Japan helpdesk (thankfully, it picked up).


DOES HAPPY MEAN PRODUCTIVE? The theme of wellbeing was explored further in a break-out session led by Chris Crowley of Nina & Pinta who searched for “The Key to (Traveller) Happiness” with the help of Alejandro Aguirre, purchasing group manager at Procter & Gamble, and wellbeing consultant Michelle Schoenfeld.


“Your emotional connection to your company can be affected by travel policy… you want to feel, safe, valued and engaged,” argued Crowley. “But does happy mean productive?” “You need a balance between what company and employee needs,” replied Aguirre. “At P&G, we’ve organically grown from [looking at] satisfaction to productivity. You can be very satisfied, but not productive – we believe that by guiding your principles, you are going to try and make the best decision on behalf of the company.” And he believes that productivity and


wellbeing go hand in hand so, for instance, all hotels P&G employees are booked into must have a gym “to provide that element of vibrant living”. “You’re not tracking their cell phones to make sure they are actually in the gym, are you?” joked Crowley. The speakers agreed that listening


to traveller feedback and aligning it to company goals was vital. “If employees see action being taken, they are more likely to feel happy,” said Schoenfeld. When it comes to choice, less may be more, according to Schoenfeld. “People want to feel they have at least some control. If I’m travelling for business, I would prefer maybe four good choices, not 150,” she said.


INNOVATIVE TECHNOLOGIES The final session of the conference focused on “Hot Technologies 2019”. Panellist Ian Spearing, EY’s global travel, meetings


Aaron Heslehurst (left) and Turkish Airlines’ Mehmet Ilker Ayci


and events innovation leader, discussed how, in an ever-evolving travel industry, an organisation can stay innovative and embrace future technologies while delivering a sustainable and compliant travel programme. He described the three pillars of EY’s


travel policy as cost avoidance, compliance and employee experience, and trying to get the right balance between the three. “Does someone who flies once a year need business class? Does a road warrior get a gym membership?” Spearing unveiled EY Travel Buddy – a new desktop app launched a fortnight previously. It enables company employees to search for others (who have opted in) who are in the same destination. “Linking up with a colleague in an unfamiliar place could make sightseeing more fun,” he said. “Based on the feedback we got from travellers before building this, we believe this will drive some long-lasting business relationships and encourage conversations that wouldn’t otherwise happen.’” Looking to the future, Spearing reckons


“we are going to evolve much further towards a connected traveller”. This could involve using employees’ DNA to identify their health requirements and heart monitors to check whether they are sleeping enough, or travelling too much, and how that affects productivity. “Not to scare you…” he concluded with a smile.


The conference took place in Istanbul buyingbusinesstravel.com


■ Editor’s note: Turkish Airlines provided travel and accommodation for this media event. Complete editorial control, including the decision to cover this news, was at the discretion of the BBT editorial team.


2019 NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 29


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