Comment: Supporting stranded travellers

FCM’s Ciarán Kelly discusses hotels can step in and help

Ciarán Kelly
Ciarán Kelly

When managing business travel, duty of care and travellers’ wellbeing should always be at the forefront. None of us want to put our staff members at risk, and no business travel is worth sacrificing a traveller’s safety.

During COVID-19, FCM has been asked for additional support from travellers stranded abroad during their business trips. As borders closed and flights were cancelled, we’ve assisted with extending hotel nights, and sourcing overnight or transit accommodation as people wait to return to their country of origin.

We have had to act and adapt quickly to help all customers on a daily basis as airline schedules and country borders changed every minute each day around the region. Over the last few weeks we created a central hotel document showing all hotels that are currently open in our top destinations around the region, and where we have travellers; this list is changing daily.  As many hotels have closed this is not reflected in the reservation system, hence this internal document has been vital for our staff.

Hotels are becoming more flexible with their policies; waiving change and cancellation fees or amending non-refundable policies. This has been helpful as travellers go to airports hoping to board a flight only to be advised they can’t get on it. Returning to their hotel is then a secure option. Also, hotels around the region are all hungry for business so the booking and extension of guest nights are working well with our suppliers and a comfort to our travellers.

There are obviously increased measures around cleaning surfaces in lobbies, lifts, hallways, restaurants and these are questions guests are asking FCM and in turn we are sourcing accommodation for our travellers with various facilities to ensure their stay is as comfortable as possible, some of which are: full-service kitchen and cooking facilities,  laundry facilities, in-room grocery delivery, Deliveroo/ Uber Eats in-room delivery, high speed Wi-Fi in-room for continuity of communication and working remotely, restricted room service.

In order to ensure travellers have access to the right information - for the majority of our clients who still have some volumes going through - we have disabled the online booking tool. FCM’s servicing team manage it all offline to ensure we can communicate with the traveller on any specific requirements as hotels processes have changed. Some hotels have changed their check in process for example and do not have reception staff. We need to be in touch with them so we can share the guests’ arrival time so they can open the door for them.

We are looking ahead to the future and have been working closely with our clients as well as other TMC’s to work on a joint approach to assist and re-open certain hotels where possible. Having access to internal and external information from our global hotel contracting team around the world and from our suppliers has been vital for the safety of our clients.

About the author
Ciarán Kelly is the managing director of FCM Travel Solutions (Middle East & Africa Regional Network), parent company of Flight Centre Travel Group in the UAE and brings more than 17 years of experience from the global travel industry, gained from working in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

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