Service stretches beyond call of duty

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 September, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 September, 1994, 12:00am

A SMOOTH business trip or top-class holiday depends on having a trouble-shooter capable of gunning problems as they arise - and sweeping up the debris.

Societe Francaise Assistance (SFA) helps in many emergencies. Such cases include travellers who misplace their travellers' cheques, are involved in road accidents, suffer an unexpected illness, or lose their luggage.

SFA's round-the-clock, multi-lingual operators will also iron out wrinkles that threaten to trip up visitors in a foreign country.

The international travel assistance group offers to give travellers the run-down on cultural nuances, deliver visas, refer clients to a lawyer, translate documents and give on-the-spot interpretations.

SFA Asia managing director Reinhard Weixler said the group stretched beyond the bounds of mere duty to remind clients of birthdays, anniversaries and appointments, organise flower deliveries and tickets for the theatre or other entertainment.

'As the market develops and needs of the business traveller increase and diversify, so we must broaden the scope of our services,' he said.

'We're in the business of keeping others' businesses on the fast track.' The operation has offices in Australia, Brunei, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Burma, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.

SFA's medical help hotline can be crucial when travelling in Asia; one-third of all medical evacuations in the region result from road accidents.

In fact, more than one-third of all Asian medical evacuations come from China, a country that is proving a magnet to business people and adventurous travellers.

'Many key business destinations in Asia have inadequate health facilities,' Mr Weixler said.

'If someone falls ill in Vietnam or Cambodia, or in many other more popular travel spots, he or she would need to be either immediately evacuated to the nearest proper medical centre, or would require medical monitoring and assistance from a properly trained doctor.' Doctors and nurses are constantly on call, ready to give inoculations and monitor health, while stretcher-evacuations are available to whisk clients away for surgery or other medical treatment.

SFA's 24-hour travel agency, TravelAssist, licensed by the International Air Transport Association, issues tickets and helps out with travel arrangements from Hong Kong or a string of countries around the world.

Clients who use SFA to its full extent can receive cash advances, have their broken-down vehicles towed away and repaired, get shelter in free emergency accommodation and continue their trip in a replacement vehicle.

The global network also acts as an omnipotent secretary, booking conference rooms, assistants and interpreters and buying difficult-to-find items.

It acts as a telemarketing service for insurance companies and as a 24-hour switchboard for local companies.

At least one London businessman has more reason than most to speak highly of the organisation and its local expertise in countless cities.

The SFA client, having fallen desperately in love with a Japanese actress he had met on a business trip to Asia, asked the travel company to pull off one of its most romantic assignments.

SFA searched for the woman, found her and delivered a long-distance marriage proposal from the love-struck Englishman.

Luckily, the company could report another successful result.