by Jonti Dalal-Small, Head of Behavioural Science at Capita Travel and Events
Traveller wellbeing is one of the hottest topics in the industry right now. There is a growing need to understand how organisational goals of reducing travel costs and simplifying traveller experience can impact employee wellbeing and performance.
As people’s experience on trains, places and in hotels - the overall ‘trip environment’ - is critical to traveller wellbeing, we have been co-creating our Smarter working approach with our suppliers across the travel sector to address the wellbeing agenda of customers.
We have hosted numerous Smarter working workshops, partner steering groups and the recent partner engagement day to identify what is important for suppliers and how we can work in partnership. More recently, in October we launched the very-first wellbeing awards in the industry. The Smarter Working Wellbeing Awards are open to all industry suppliers – not just our partners – to recognise and celebrate supplier excellence in delivering significant improvements to traveller wellbeing across the accommodation, venue, air transportation, rail and ground transportation sectors.
We are applying our ‘five ways to wellbeing’ framework to wellbeing initiatives and here are just some examples of what our partners are doing….
Being active is key. Hilton are bringing the gym to their guests, with some rooms offering a variety of different fitness equipment and accessory options. Village hotels have offered more than just a gym; they complement their nutritional offering with a 500-calorie menu and a free 30-minute health and wellbeing check. Customers can use the leisure facilities prior to arrival. This agenda extends to Village employees as they are encouraged to attend exercise classes.
Many of our Collection partners, such as the Five Lakes resort in Essex, offer scenic walks and dedicated running routes so travellers can easily navigate themselves around the area.
The House of Daniel Thwaites, a collective of spa hotels and country inns based across the UK, cater for delegates seeking a better balance between work and leisure time by adapting their conferencing spaces to meet this ‘bleisure’ trend with adaptable furniture (modular tables, bean bags and team-building games) to break up the day and increase productivity. Furthermore, their menu is designed to feed the brain; there’s also a constant and unlimited supply of quick, healthy, energy-boosting options in their conference café, like nuts and fruit, available to avoid energy dips during the day and enable better delegate learning.
Ensuring connection to enhance social relationships is essential. The majority of our partner hotels provide free WiFi so travellers have the option to easily contact family and friends cost-effectively. Staying connected whilst on the move is also important, in the rail world London North Eastern Railway (LNER) are also improving their WiFi by increasing the speed from 0.1GB to 10GB, thereby allowing their travellers to be connected and using their travel time efficiently.
Another factor is to take notice and enabling travellers to be at their best for work. Airline such as Virgin Atlantic and Air France can arrange a number of services, from pre-boarding and bulkhead seating requests to assistance with mobility devices and dietary constraints, to help the traveller experience as stress-free as possible so travellers are at their best.
A number of wellbeing initiatives have also been implemented in the rail industry so travellers are at their best. LNER have launched their new Azuma fleet that has been designed so passengers for optimum comfort, whereby passengers can benefit from improved leg room, ergonomically designed seats, window blinds and additional seats on every train. Their onboard food and beverage selection has also undergone a significant overhaul, with new menus created exclusively by their very own Hero Chefs using the best seasonal ingredients sourced from the regions up and down their route.
In an industry-first, we partnered with Seatfrog earlier this year so rail travellers can bid for First Class upgrades at their own cost on LNER routes. This iniatives will shortly be rolled out on to Virgin Trains routes as well, allowing the traveller to benefit from a more productive and relaxing working environment whilst travelling and furthering conversations around intelligent policy controls and traveller empowerment.
A number of our hotel partners offer different services so travellers can keep learning, whether it be in the libraries at some of the Clarion hotels, or more about themselves and their health with fitness experts at Village hotels.
The final ‘way’ to wellbeing is to give and support. Both Village hotels and Best Western have accredited mental health first aiders. The pledge to train staff members on mental health issues and challenges for travellers was also given by a number of our collection partners.
British Airways has been recognised for raising awareness of autism among its staff and launched its ‘Beyond Accessibility’ campaign, its biggest ever global accessibility training programme, empowering colleagues to fully support customers requiring additional assistance. In addition, they have invested in accessibility training and endorses the ‘Sunflower’ hidden disability lanyard, a subtle way for customers to let British Airways customer service agents know they have a hidden disability and may require extra help. Virgin Atlantic recently rolled out their Hidden Disabilities scheme, as part of their ongoing commitment to make flying accessible to all or so people don’t avoid travelling due to the stress that flying may create. This initiative is being used in rail too. LNER were the first train operating company to offer Sunflower lanyards, which discreetly indicates to staff that travellers may need additional assistance at stations or during their journey.
Virgin Trains made history earlier this year when they opened the first-ever neurodiversity waiting room. ‘The Calm Corner’ at Crewe Station is designed to offer a safe and relaxing event that is also suitable for people with autism, dementia, a visual impairment or Asperger Syndrome.
On the other hand, LNER has also teamed up with Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) who are dedicated to preventing male suicide. They have CALM ambassadors and Samaritans-trained staff across their stations, they proactively raise funds for CALM and enable travellers to support CALM by donating their Delay Repay compensation.
This is just a cross section and we are working with our suppliers to do more. By offering wellbeing initiatives throughout the trip experience, it can have a positive impact on overall employee performance and help shape their organisation’s travel policy and programme.