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Association Of Swiss Travel Management

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  • 6 Dec 2020 20:04 | Dominic Short (Administrator)

    Interview with Roxanne George, Country Director FCM Switzerland

    How does it feel to be a Travel management Company in 2020?

    Against all expectations, things are going pretty well! We are lucky to be able rely on our parent company Flight Center Travel Group (FCTG), which brought together 900 million dollars (AUD) of capital injection. We have also implemented specific measures in our Geneva branch so that the resumption of activity takes place in the best possible conditions. There have been a lot of redundancy plans or closures with our competitors, but we managed to retain all of our employees and extend remote office work.

    While FCM Switzerland did not close and business trips have been very limited, how did you keep busy?

    Even with a greatly reduced travel activity, our teams are still active. If the trips are still rare, there is nevertheless a willingness of companies to prepare for post COVID, and recent vaccine announcements have encouraged further reservations. But it's also a great time to question yourself. We were able to focus on our long-term strategy and took the opportunity to do an internal audit of our invoicing procedures, in order to improve ourselves and train our employees to use new and more efficient practices, following feedback from our customers. Beyond that, our commercial activity in Switzerland is still growing and the projects of our customers' implementation is still ongoing. We have concentrated our efforts on maintaining our quality of service so that our customers are the not impacted

    How long have you been on the Swiss market ?

    Our adventure in the Swiss market began in 2010 with the opening of our agency in Geneva by a team of 5 people. Today we are a team of 25 business travel experts based in our Carouge office. Since the beginning, we have grown at least 30% per year thanks to our growing portfolio of clients: companies and organizations in all sectors combined, including BCP (private bank), Quotient (pharmaceutical sector), Cimpress (e-commerce / printing) or Find (NGO). Our presence in Switzerland was also marked by our partnership with the STM, the launch of which we supported in 2015, and we continue on the same path with ASTM today. The Swiss business travel market is particularly demanding on the quality of service. We have been able to develop in this market thanks to our unique model.

    Please share more about your service model?

    Among the major global TMCs, FCM is different because we rely on a international network (97 countries in the world), but remain a very human agency, accessible and local, which allows us to deliver a high-quality service with a strong relational dimension. Our model is very different from that of a call center: our agents are united within teams dedicated to a reduced number of clients, and are based only in our offices in Geneva. Moreover, we are reaping the fruits of our management model, our travel agents are rewarded based on their performance and customer satisfaction. As a result, our teams are enthusiastic and very involved for the benefit of our clients.

    Thanks for this insightful update, Roxanne!

  • 6 Dec 2020 20:02 | Dominic Short (Administrator)

    Interview with Andreas Stöckli, GM Hotel Schweizerhof, Zurich

    Let us start with an essential question - What got you to here?

    Wow, this is quite a question. I started off as a cook with an apprenticeship when I was 15 years old. I ended up travelling the world and cooking in far away places such as the Bahamas or South Africa. I even managed a Camping site in the most beautiful Sardinia. I am happy to say that I cooked for billionairs and also for homeless people. I met everybody with the same respect and cooked for them as if I was cooking for a friend. When I as 27 I went back to school and started to study hotel management in Lucerne. My teacher for political economy said that who has not made it at 30 will never make it. This was my wake up call. I went on to work for Radisson first at the Radisson Blu Basel then as GM Park Hotel Zurich Airport,then at the Radisson Blu Frankfurt and finally in St. Gallen. While my family stayed in Germany and I worked in St. Gall I was determined to find a new home for all of us and I sent a letter to the Schweizerhof asking them if they could see me as their new GM. I knew that their current GM was heading for retirement soon. I had seen what global hotel chains can offer. I wanted something better than that. Luckily they wanted to meet me and I started here in 2014 as GM. The rest, as they say, is history…

    So please tell me why this place is Paradise.

    This hotel is a brand new hotel with a nearly 150 year history. Did I say location? There is no property more centrally located in Zurich than the Schweizerhof. You walk out oft he main station and here you are. You know this house is larger than all of us. This house will be here when we are gone as it was here before we were here. In life you get to a point where you have seen every discotheque. They all look the same and play loud music. This place however is top notch. It is brand new every day and has been for nearly 150 years.  With the revenue generated through the hotel we have been able to reinvest about 2 milllion  swiss francs into the hotel every year . Imagine this at «Bahnhofstrsse» the Champs Elysées of Zurich. We now have 98 rooms of which 11 are suites and we employ 100 staff to keep this house a place to be. We can be home to business travellers and to pleople who want to discover Zurich at the same time. Our focus is to be 70% stability and 30% innovation. A good mix  even in a comlipcated year like 2020.

    Good point. How is 2020 affecting you ?

    What can I say. We spent a lot of time and money on further developing our house to be as I said before top notch every day. We took the crisis as an ivitation to transform our house to be up with the best in Zurich. We are number two on tripadvisor. Have been for months and want to stay there. If you dont move you get blown away. Faster than you can think.  My team is fantastic. They understand why we need to do what we need to do. We are operating with a clear mind and and open heart. Now and forever. Underpromising and over delivering. Step by step we create the next 150 years. 

    Thank you very much for this update!


  • 6 Dec 2020 20:01 | Dominic Short (Administrator)

    Interview with Cédric Fraissinet, General Manager - Switzerland & Italy at International SOS

    What is your role at International SOS and how must I imagine your daily tasks? 

    I’m General Manager at International SOS in charge our Swiss and Italian businesses. The role of International SOS in Switzerland is to help employers in protecting their workforce from health and security risks. It consists of advising on occupational health and security strategies, facilitating the implementation of risk mitigation measures such as situational monitoring, threat tracking, staff training and provision of information to employees or organization’s management. Medical and security assistance to travelers and assignees is as well a significant part of our activity. We do support a large variety of organizations : most of the NGOs and IGOs HQed in Switzerland, quite a few universities and private schools, the majority of multinational corporations based in our country but as well an even larger number of Small & Medium size companies.

    How has International SOS been helping its customers in this complicated year?

    The COVID-19 pandemic is driving a fundamental change in the health & security support we provided to our clients. Though the number of travels has obviously dropped, most of our clients still need some of their employees to go abroad. Important to mention that International Business Travel is still possible despite COVID-19 and the obvious complexity of the organisation of such journey. Our role consists of enabling these movements and empowering our client staff to travel safely. We have experienced a dramatic increase in demand for support & information from travellers who tend to call us now 5 times more than last year.We have seen as well a significant increase of requests for information and advices by the management of our clients. The number of calls to our Assistance Centers by managers has been multiplied by 10. 

    As a consequence, we have adapted our operational resources, grown our intelligence and analysis resources and enriched our response enablers to stick to the needs clients expressed. Medical and Security assistance became as well much more complex in an environment where all local infrastructures were under the tremendous pressure imposed by COVID-19. Nevertheless leveraging our 26 Assistance Centers across the 5 continents we maintained the same operational level :

    We assisted over 33 000 COVID-19 related cases.

    We completed TeleConsultation cases in 24 countries.

    We operated 30 charters with 1,900 passengers.

    We were able to perform over 450 air ambulance movements for COVID-19 patients & other patients, from over 100 countries

    As with every crisis there is always a lot of room for innovation coming from an extreme situation. Has the crisis lead to any new products and services that your clients can benefit from? 

    Yes, agility and innovation were instrumental skills ! I am extremely proud of what our team managed to achieve in the past very challenging months. 

    Following our client’s requests, we rapidly expanded beyond our traveler and assignee proposition, to provide a holistic Workforce Resilience solution. 

    COVID-19 made our clients realise that the support to staff was to be consistently managed whatever people are in-country people managers, site-based workers, domestic and international business travelers, international assignees and office/ home based workers.

    The response has to be holistic (from blue collar mental health to assignees mass evacuations) and consistent across the entire worldwide workforce. No more silos. Fascinating times during which we work now simultaneously with HR, Corporate Security, Business continuity and Travel managers.  

    The scope of our services is now available to any employee of our clients and designed to the specific need of each staff category. The support to management has been as well reinforced with insights and advisory that supports business resilience. We are of course heavily engaged in facilitating business travel resumption, but we support as well the mitigation of COVID-19 and others health risks at the workplace whatever it is company premises or employee’s home.

    What is your outlook 2021 like from a business perspective?

    COVID-19 is an accelerator ! We expect it to transform our business lives at least as much as September 11 did change permanently the philosophy of security in the business travel environment. 

    Health is now a strategic driver on the radar of CEOs. The Human Capital Resilience shall certainly become a major pillar of organisation’s sustainability.

    We will carry on expanding our focus on Workforce Resilience to support that strategic agenda. In terms of risk trends for the coming year : I highly recommend to attend our Risk Outlook 2021 online conference on 10th of December. Among other topics discussed by our experts and external thought leaders, we will disclose the result of a Resilience Trends Survey conducted with Ipsos MORI over 1,400 risk professionals across 99 countries. Quite insightful !  LINK

  • 6 Dec 2020 20:00 | Dominic Short (Administrator)

    Interview with Andreas Schneider, Head of Kuoni Business Travel Switzerland

    Hi Andreas, where do we catch you today? Zurich, Lugano, Geneva? Good question but you forgot to mention Uzwil our newest Location in Switzerland. And the answer for now is none of the above. I am currently in my very own office in my house in Mainz. My hotel of choice in Zurich has decided to close for December and early January due to very low bookings and so I decided to come for a last visit for this year at the end of November. I will be back mid-January and for now work remotely like everybody else. For a quick personal assessment… How many times did you start talking and were still on mute? Probably like everybody else way too many times but apart from this working remotely has given us all a lot of new found agility. Indeed it has. Can you please share some highlights and achievements of this year that you and your team have had and implemented? We started the year off very well with the implementation of NDC for anything that is booked via our Kuoni Online platforms. Kuoni was the first TMC in Switzerland to fully implement this new standard. Of course this was celebrated accordingly. We also implemented a fully automated visa process with Viselio. All our offices can handle this process and thanks to Viselio we can even offer our travellers access to a Covid test. We also completely upgraded our hardware and software to enable carefree working from anywhere. Our staff love the opportunities this creates for them. We have implemented Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Telephony. Any of my colleagues has access to any document ever created at any time via their mobile and their laptop. This is my view on empowerment. This enables a very fluid mix of working from home or working from the office. From an HR perspective this is a fantastic upgrade for our team. This sounds great and makes 2020 a not so bad year after all. Do you have any other topics you would like to share? Indeed I have more news for your readers. One of the first things I noticed when I took over from Serge Bacher was the importance of attention to detail and language. I am very happy to say that we can now offer 24/7 service in German, French and Italian. The main point being „at no extra cost“! Why? We wanted to take emergency topic out of a 24/7 availability. It is no emergency if you need to speak to a consultant after 6pm. It is just a necessity and we are very happy to cater to this necessity. We see it as a service. Thanks to our new and fully connected platforms everybody has access to everything at any time and emails that come in once our offices close for the day are worked on in our new service centre so that our customers get replies in due time regardless of day of the week or time. Wow this is indeed a first! 24/7 at no extra cost. Congratulations! Anything else to share? For now all I can say is that we have a fantastic piece of news that I will be happy to share in the next newsletter. We are testing a new product and the results are making the team very happy. The launch is set for March. I believe that is when your next quarterly newsletter goes out. Am I right? 

    Indeed you are. Thanks for catching up. 

  • 6 Dec 2020 19:39 | Dominic Short (Administrator)

    Interview with Hugo Martin, Sales Manager, citizenM Switzerland

    Good afternoon Hugo. Thanks for finding a few moments for the ASTM. For those members who have not yet experienced your properties in Geneva and Zurich or elsewhere what makes citizenM unique?

    We say of ourselves that we provide "business hotels done right". citizenM started with an idea to disrupt the traditional hotel industry by creating a luxury hybrid hotel for today’s modern travellers – eliminating the frustrations these travellers shared. In 2008, we opened our first hotel and designed it around a new type of traveller – one who values a luxury hotel experience in central city locations, but at an affordable price. We offer our guests a living room with books, art and designer furniture. They can enjoy 24/7 food and drinks at our canteenM. We operate cloudM rooftop bars with fantastic cocktails and amazing views and most properties offer societyM creative meeting spaces. To round this all off our friendly ambassadors are always here to support our guests with any wishes they might have. 

    You opened a new hotel in Geneva in the middle of a pandemic. How did that go? Obviously normal conditions would have made life a lot easier but one of our central features that we implemented years ago has been a great helper in these complicated times. At all our properties our guests can check in themselves without having to be in touch any of our ambassadors. Our check in booths are cleaned after every check-in and this gives our guests an additional sense of safety. Through our highly appreciated self service concept we became covid proof "by accident". We have had fantastic feedback from our guests on the new Geneva hotel so far and the numbers are picking up as well.   

    A lot of hotels have been introducing new offers to generate extra traffic during these complicated times. What about citizenM?

    We have indeed designed a smart new option for smart companies. Corporate subscription by citizenM is a seriously clever alternative for all companies with travelling employees. Stop paying those big hotel, office space or co-working bills – we have created the perfect work-sleep-meet-entertain hybrid. The offer consists of: guaranteed 3 nights per month anytime – no blackout dates – at all citizenM hotels worldwide.  3 hours of meeting room use – anytime during the subscription month. A daily workspace in the living room – anytime during the subscription month. Also a free welcome drink is included with each stay. Breakfast is of course also in as is super fast Wi-Fi. The price is a flat fee of 550 EUR per month and user. If you prefer to sort somebody out all year round you can get 12 months at the price of 11. the offer is perfect for your company if your remote workers regularly need to travel to big cities and need a fixed price, work, sleep deal. You will not have to pay for a traditional office space or an expensive co-working subscription. On top if your team members need to meet with their clients we have the meeting spaces covered as well. 

    Thanks for the update Hugo. We like the idea very much. We might be calling you soon to negotiate a very special ASTM rate!

  • 6 Dec 2020 19:36 | Dominic Short (Administrator)

    Some key achievements for the first year of the ASTM

    In October 2019 the ASTM was officially founded in Zurich as a Swiss association under Swiss law. The launching festivities took place in Geneva on December 3rd with a memorable launching event at the Hotel N'vy. With encouraging words from Michel Dieleman, President of our partner association AFTM and great feedback from roughly 30 buyers and suppliers we were happy to make our first steps. We also announced four conferences for 2020. Of course not a single conference could take place.  However 2020 will still go down in ASTM history as a successful first year. Here are some reasons as to why.

    Numbers, regions, growth, sectors

    > 300 members across all geographies and sectors 

    > 500 followers on our LinkedIn page 

    Zurich is where we managed to grow most: 28% of our members are located by the Limmat

    Geneva is our second hub in Switzerland with 15% of our members

    Online, offline, hybrid events

    Thanks to 6 webinars that we produced with great support from our partners to make up for a long period of no face to face exchange we have managed to build up a pan-European reach with members in Germany, France, Belgium the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. 

    Another fantastic highlight of 2020 certainly was the hybrid event that we produced together with our partner citizenM to celebrate the opening of their Geneva hotel. While ASTM members were onsite they were all in the safety of their room and the event was streamed through the hotel and across Europe. We have developed more ideas along these lines and there should be more news on this coming very soon. 

    We would again like to thank citizenM for this opportunity and our panelists Frederic Claus, Manager Administration Services, Global Fund, Nathalie Ansermoz, Senior EMEA Travel Manager, Parker, Peter Grover, Managing Director, TRIPBAM, Marion Dargaud, Meetings and Events specialist, EY,  Virginie Rouault, Manager Sales, citizenM for their contribution. An extra special thank you goes out to our moderator Marc Zuber , Global Travel Category Head, Nestlé.

    Governance, innovation and more brain power

    It is also with great joy that we can announce the Advisory Board with buyers Marc Zuber (Nestlé), Nathalie Ansermoz (Parker), Reto Keller (Uefa) and three more colleagues to be announced shortly. The Industry Circle is set up  with Andreas Schneider (Kuoni Business Travel), Virginie Rouault (citizenM) with new industry figures set to join very soon.

    Year end, welcome 2021

    Thanks to a vaccine which will be available very soon there has most recently been a pick up on air travel. Lufthansa Group reported sales are up by 400% week over week. At the same time Carsten Spohr announced that all of Lufthansa Group's key corporate clients are reporting a high level of "catch-up" travel just waiting to happen. In a call today with the ASTM a procurement director from a global pharmaceutical leader confirmed the same. 

    With all of this in mind we again would like to thank you for your support, wish you a safe winter break and an optimistic start into 2021. 

    Stay safe!

    Sabah Kahoul, Dominic Short

    ASTM Leadership Team


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