Changing times force firms to update services

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 May, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 May, 1997, 12:00am

EXECUTIVE travel will mean less caviar and more business centres as changing fashions force companies to update their services, the chairman of the Hong Kong chapter of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) says.

Brian Deeson said firms hoping to woo businessmen needed facilities targeted at their modern-day needs.

This meant providing time-saving equipment as executives were usually now sent on short-haul trips with packed schedules.

'Trends are changing,' he said. 'The largest growth area in Asia for business travel is journeys within the region as local economies expand.

'These are usually short and routine and are carried out by middle- market executives. Business trips are no longer luxuries, they are becoming a standard part of doing business.' He said convenience and simplicity would be the new buzz words of the travel industry, resulting in less emphasise on luxury wine lists and a la carte menus.

Travel agents estimated that income generated by the Asian executive travel sector was growing at about 20 per cent a year.

Competition is fierce between businesses - whether airlines, hotels, car rental firms or travel agencies - for a share of this lucrative market.

Mr Deeson identified modern computer facilities, cheap international calls, fax machines, fast check-ins and, in hotels, a multi-gym as becoming 'must-haves' for any company wishing to stay competitive.

'Cathay Pacific now does an early morning flight from Hong Kong to Manila, and an evening run back for people wanting same-day travel.

'These shuttle services will become much more common,' said Mr Deeson, the chief executive officer of Lai Sun and Century International hotels. 'On such functionary visits, few companies are interested in paying for the frills.' He said the growth in travel would accelerate as visa facilities became easier. 'At the moment, business travel is limited by visa requirements. Applications and check-ins both take too long and limit speedy business trips to some countries.' He pointed to the European system as the ideal immigration procedure for businessmen and hoped one day a similar set up might exist in ASEAN, even though the organisation did not include Hong Kong.

Mr Deeson dismissed concern that advances in teleconferencing would dent the travel industry.

'The technology is obviously improving and will be used by companies. However, I believe it will replace phone calls and faxes, not face- to-face meetings.

'Personal relationships drive business and you cannot bond over a computer screen. The human touch will remain important and, to achieve that, people will have to travel.' PATA is an umbrella body which brings together governments, national tourist offices and companies to work together to promote international travel.