May 18, 2024

Different strokes

The wellbeing needs of one traveller won’t be the same as those of another. We asked three individuals to share their personal views and experiences

The female traveller

Francesca Mendola, Vice President, Global Travel Collection UK

Solo business travel for female professionals presents a myriad of challenges that aren’t isolated incidents but rather part of everyday reality. It’s not just about hopping on a plane; each trip requires meticulous planning to ensure safety and success. As a seasoned traveller, I’ve encountered my fair share of difficult experiences.

Recently, I visited New Orleans and although I generally feel safe in the US, I hadn’t had the chance to research this destination. During my taxi ride from the airport, the driver shared concerns about crime and safety in certain areas, which made me feel a bit on edge.

When I arrived at my hotel it was late and the restaurant was closed and room service was limited. In a city I felt safe in, I would typically go out to get something to eat alone, nearby, but didn’t feel comfortable doing so. Instead, I ordered through a food delivery service to the hotel. In retrospect, I realise the value of having a better understanding of the local environment and potential safety risks could have informed my decisions and possibly altered my itinerary. I’ve always been a very confident and independent traveller, but this trip reminded me of the importance of safety.

We must be vigilant and take care when travelling late at night. I would advise other female travellers to stay informed about their destinations, carefully select what they choose to pack and avoid displaying valuables such as precious jewellery.

My preferences often lean towards hotels with restricted floor access. Maintaining open communication with colleagues and sharing itineraries with loved ones adds security.

Addressing the unique needs of female travellers isn’t just a personal responsibility – it’s a collective effort. Travel managers and TMCs play a vital role in implementing comprehensive safety guidelines and offering resources tailored to female travellers. Effective travel risk management programmes should educate on cultural sensitivities and gender-specific considerations.

While adhering to company travel policies is essential, safety should never be compromised for cost. Companies should empower their employees to exercise their best judgment in travel arrangements and not to take unnecessary risks. They should be encouraged to use trusted providers, such as global car services with established safety measures.

Acknowledging and addressing the unique challenges faced by female travellers ensures all professionals, regardless of gender, can navigate the world with confidence and ease.

The LGBT traveller

Jamie Love, CEO & Founder of Monumental

More than half of LGBT travellers report having uncomfortable experiences at hotels, while a staggering 95% of LGBT business travellers hide their sexuality on work trips. Individual reasons for hiding one’s sexuality will vary from person to person, but it’s still important to consider LGBT team members more sensitively when arranging travel and accommodation for their work trips.

Nowadays, travellers are more inclined to do their research before they travel, meaning LGBT individuals will search for places that align with their values. It’s still illegal to be gay in 66 nations across the globe.

For professional travellers, this sentiment remains the same, however, they might not have a similar luxury of declining a visit. It would be great if LGBT employees could have the flexibility of choosing where they travel to, but sometimes this simply isn’t possible within a work setting. That’s where support from companies can make a real difference, and can ensure that LGBT employees feel heard, considered and valued within their day-to-day roles.

Companies can actively seek partnerships with hotels that have a clear stance on diversity and inclusivity. Prioritising partnerships with hotels that openly support and welcome LGBT guests can create a more comfortable and affirming experience for LGBT employees during their business trips.

When selecting accommodation, companies can incorporate diversity criteria into their decision-making process. This includes considering factors such as the hotel’s non-discrimination policies, participation in LGBT diversity initiatives and the presence of LGBT-inclusive amenities and services. For example, with my employees’ travel requirements, we only book hotels that are proactively involved with LGBT causes and confidently promote their diversity efforts.

Companies should actively solicit feedback from LGBT employees regarding their travel experiences and preferences. By incorporating employee input into the travel planning process, companies can better understand the specific needs and concerns of LGBT employees and tailor accommodations accordingly, especially as every community under the LGBT umbrella will have different requirements, so it’s important to hear from all voices.

To help facilitate the support from the very beginning, companies can provide training and education to employees involved in travel planning and accommodation selection to raise awareness about the needs and concerns of LGBT travellers. By doing this, it can help ensure that LGBT employees are treated with sensitivity and respect throughout the entire travel process.

Companies can organise business events or conferences in LGBT-friendly cities and destinations to provide opportunities for LGBT employees to travel to welcoming environments and not feel the need to hide a part of themselves. To truly support this, I’ve blacklisted several countries – we won’t work with any business present there to avoid ever putting any member of our team in a situation where they fear being their true self.

Hiding a part of yourself will impact your ability to perform at your best. Data has shown how bringing your full self to work positively impacts creativity and innovation. Travelling shouldn’t impact your team’s ability to do what they do best.

The frequent traveller

Andy Cairns, co-founder RAVL

I spent 25 years as a management consultant, working mainly for big, global organisations. I’ve definitely seen my share of the inside of hotel rooms and serviced apartments.

Behind the façade of glamorous destinations and prestigious meetings lies the reality of solitude that many of frequent travellers face. The impact on our mental health is profound, demanding a conscious effort to maintain our wellbeing.

The isolation experienced on business trips is not just physical, but emotional. Days filled with meetings and nights spent in impersonal hotel rooms can lead to feelings of disconnection. This lack of meaningful social interaction can exacerbate stress, contribute to anxiety, and even lead to depression. I often found myself self-medicating at the hotel bar just to escape the monotony of the room and I know plenty of fellow road-warriors who went down darker paths.

For most of my career, mental health wasn’t something we discussed at work, so my employers were never aware of what went on outside of the meetings. Luckily, this is changing (albeit slowly) and corporate leadership and travel managers are starting to take a more proactive role in improving wellness.

Connecting with others is a fundamental human need. On the road, it becomes a lifeline. Interaction, whether with colleagues, locals, or fellow travellers, can dramatically improve our mood and outlook. These connections remind us that we are not alone in our experiences, providing comfort and a sense of belonging.

Leveraging technology to stay in touch with friends and family is essential, but I’ve also found value in making new connections. Networking events, local meet-ups, or even casual conversations at a café can enrich the travel experience. Participating in group activities or exploring the local culture offers opportunities to interact and break the cycle of isolation.

Finding people to connect with and group activities to attend can be difficult. That’s why I created RAVL, an app that helps business travellers to connect, in-person, while they’re away from home.