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Flight of Fancy: Taking the Pain Out of Business Travel

Frequent business travellers are in and out of cities at a moment’s notice, looking for services that make the process as seamless as possible. Brad Emery is the co-founder of travel club AimViva and recent co-worker at theDesk’s new Leighton Centre workspace. After 25 years in the financial, insurance, and travel business, he shares his biggest pet peeves about business travel, and how he’s trying to make it a more pleasant experience for everyone.


Seasoned business travellers have learned the hard way. 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 waste precious time.

Frequent business travellers are well accustomed to inconvenience. If you’re like most, you’ll have spent hours – sometimes days – at Shanghai Pudong alone, due to delays and cancellations. Larger companies often join frequent flyer schemes, 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, for SMEs, the cheaper option is often more of a priority. Business travellers want to save time, be productive, and have a pleasant experience. They travel to meet business goals, and a good journey can take the sting out of the whole thing.

A 2017 survey by the GBTA Foundation, in partnership with Sabre Corporation, shows what we already knew; business travel is far from hassle-free. According to the research, the main gripe for Hong Kong travellers is ‘changing flights while travelling’, something 55 percent of us say is the biggest nuisance. Next is ‘time spent travelling’, which annoys 49 percent of us. ‘Work environment while travelling’ takes third place, with 48 percent saying it’s a challenge. These three pain points – and others in the survey – have one thing in common: they waste time.

Brad Emery is your archetypal business traveller. Having spent 25 years in the financial services and 17 years working with life insurance companies around Asia, he realised that travel can be painful when your needs are not met. Rather than accepting the status quo, he took matters into his own hands and set up AimViva in 2016, leaving the corporate world behind in a bid to make travel a more pleasant experience for all. “There are more than 10.5 million travellers in Hong Kong each year. More than the population”, says Emery. “It’s a massive market, but there are a lot of pain points.”


Phone Woes

Frequent travellers know the burden all too well – switching SIM cards in airports and hotel rooms is a cumbersome task. And when you don’t, you run the risk of consuming more data than you’re aware of.“It’s the little things, like background refreshing apps, which add to your phone bill. A single Skype call can use hundreds of MB of data. It’s no wonder that so many switch off”.

The solution? For Emery, it’s an elegant 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 add 300MB data, and topping up is easy”.


The Protection Gap

People buy around 2.2 million travel insurance policies per year, but the vast majority of us don’t bother. “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”. “But another issue is whether you’re covered by the company insurance. You are covered for the time you’re working in the country, but if you stay for 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”.


Benefiting the Underserviced

Large companies and infrequent travellers have their needs met by existing services, but those outwith these two categories can fall between the cracks and their needs remain unfulfilled. Companies like AimViva look to fill this gap. With a flexible service, they offer similar comforts to larger companies – from access to lounges at discounted prices to comprehensive insurance programmes and SIM solutions – all aspects of business travel that save on both time and money.

“AimViva is not a travel agent – we work with Flight Centre for that,” Brad explains. “Think of us like 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.”


Making Travel More Pleasant

The GBTA survey lists the typical optional purchases business travellers make. They are spending money on things like hotel high-speed internet, airport lounges, Wi-Fi on trains and planes, and seat upgrades. These are the things travellers say often help to improve productivity on the road.

“Personally, I’ve always stopped short of paying for many extras. Making an expense claim puts me off”, says Emery. “I tend to just make the most 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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