In this episode Granger Whitelaw discusses Business travel In Asia and Vietnam. The travel Industry Is growing along with the hyper-excellerated growth of the ASEAN Region. Let’s look at how It Impacts business, and personal travel as well. Grab your coffee and let’s go!
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Below is a transcript of the episode, edited for readability.
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Granger: Good morning. This is Granger Whitelaw with The Lotus Talks here on Monday morning coffee and I have my latte. I am drinking absolutely exhausted today. It has been a very, very long weekend full of adventure starting with Saturday night with the Silver Ball AmCham. It was a lot of fun. Good time for all. If you didn’t make it there, I’ll share a little bit with you. They had a pretty full house over at the Intercontinental and great dance group. Some wonderful prizes for charity, for scholarships for the students that we talked about this past Friday on our salute to AmCham. It was just a huge success. It really is a fabulous organization. They do such a great job and they are to be commended not only for what they do for the scholarships, but for their advocacy, CSR, any other work as well. So, congratulations. Music was wonderful. The band, the food and then Sunday was the Techcombank race.
Granger: I personally started very early on Sunday, as I got up at just after three and walked out to support some friends of mine who were running in the race. It was cool. Morning, thousands of athletes gathered for the race. The start was down by the zoo, which is really cool. And ocean palace. And the early group was the group that did the 42 K, the full marathon and it was incredibly well attended. I went right down to the starting line and I started videoing the starter who had his pop gun and one minute to go and he was getting ready to pull the trigger. He pulls the trigger, pop, doesn’t make any noise. The second one, bang. And then they went off sparklers. And anyway, it was really cool. I waited about an hour for some other friends who started the 10 K and saw their big group of people, thousands of people running through the streets of Saigon.
Granger: It’s really something to see Techcombank. And I think it’s the third year. They’ve done a great job. There are so many other sponsors out there supporting it, companies out there, Motul and other businesses who had hundreds of employees out there. It was very cool to see. The finish is great. I saw my friends finish, and really wonderful. So that’s why I’m exhausted because, I ran part of that just filming people and I think I have blisters on my feet. Anyway, today I want to talk about business travel, the future of business travel in Asia. We’re here in the Christmas season. That’s a high travel seasons for expats. Going to Europe or going to the U.S. for their families. It’s a huge business, for more than $30 billion in annual online travel spend is in play right now.
Granger: And I think Google and Temasek did a corporate travel survey with Amadeus, and with China and India leading the way in the emerging economies in Southeast Asia, spending on business trips is expected to reach $900 billion in the next five years. It’s around 400 billion right now. Total on and offline. It’s huge. Corporate travel spending, the region is going to be about half of the world’s total. The world’s total. Asia is just a booming economy. Like we always talk about this being the golden age here in Vietnam and it certainly is Asia and Southeast Asia. It’s really amazing to see the growth here. Business travelers have, you know, different needs, right. We travel a lot. The hours are long. You have to change your travel plans all the time due to late meetings and weather and many different issues. You know, companies put these travel policies out and you have to kind of try to figure out what’s your company’s travel policy is and, you know, comply with that.
Granger: And there are companies in the U.S. who makes some pretty cool apps that help you do that. Expensify is one of them, but in Asia, because of the booking tools that really are not completely up to date, they’ll have limited inventory. A big issue is lack of local language support, which is really important, can be a real headache. Right. Very difficult. So, there are companies out there that are coming out with new apps and new services to address this and keep your eye out for those huge opportunity. If you’re out here listening, thinking about, Hmm, what can I do to get into something different than FinTech or different than the e-wallets, right. Mobile pay. Travel is a place that still has a lot of growth and it’s hard to believe as many travel agencies that are out there today. But there really is, there’s a way to get better tools. A lot of venture capital firms are putting money into a new class of two, startups and tools outside of their core geographies to make the SAS software travel management platforms easier for companies, suppliers, et cetera.
Granger: Anyway, keep your eyes open for that in Vietnam, going to Vietnam, if you’re thinking about coming to Vietnam, make sure that you, read about it before hand. Do your homework. If you have guests coming, a lot of times people will say to me, Hey, I’m thinking about coming to Vietnam. What do I need? Do I need a visa? How do I get it? And I’ll send them a link to a company or say, here, go check this out. It’s pretty easy to get your visa. You can get a visa on arrival obviously. But you know, for the uninitiated, traveling to Vietnam be a little bit of an unknown. It’s certainly one of the safest countries in the world without terrorism or earthquakes or any major disasters. It’s an unbelievable safe place to travel. But as a business traveler, you’re going to need to have a valid passport.
Granger: Obviously can’t be more than six months from the day of expiration. If you do have something going on where you don’t have a current passport, you’ll need to make arrangements ahead of time and they may be places to do that. So, visa support companies can help you. You also need some documentation to show you know why you’re coming, right. So that’s a visa, which is fine, or a written letter approval for a visa, for your business or from a company here, that’s supporting you and it’s really best just to get that ahead of time. Right. Get the approval that are ahead of time, you can pick it up at the airport, you could have somebody meet you at the airport, they’ll take you right through the process. It’s like 20 bucks. Right, so it’s well worth the money to do that.
Granger: And once you get here and you’re trying to figure out where to go or, I’m sorry, how to go and fly around. Certainly, there’s a lot of local carriers Viet jet is a low budget airline. A lot of people love them, a lot of people don’t. Air Asia’s here, Bamboo Airlines just started. There are some other ones starting. Of course, there’s Vietnam Airlines, Jet Star and most of these guys, if you look around and you kind of time your travel right you can get pretty good deals. They have Skyboss or upgradable tickets for an extra five bucks or 10 bucks or maybe 20 bucks, which is really well worth it. And I recommend that if you are going to go to Ho Chi Minh and then fly to Hanoi, or Danang and Nha Trang for some business. And maybe for some personal as well, it’s worth it to spend a little bit of extra money because if you get that upgraded seat, you’ll also get through the line faster.
Granger: You’ll get on an air-conditioned bus as opposed to not air-conditioned bus. You know and depending on the time of year that can make a big difference, right So definitely think about that. Make sure that you plan ahead when you’re going to the hotels. Tell them you’re here for business, tell them what you’re doing. Ask him for an upgrade. A lot of times they’ll give you an upgrade. You know, the hotels here usually pretty accommodating. They want to have you return again and again and use their hotel. They may not all speak English well, but generally the front desk reservations do. So, I highly recommend just asking and be polite. And as we’ve spoken about and some of our other podcasts say, please say thank you, right. It’s a big thing here. Courtesy goes a long way anywhere in the world.
Granger: Don’t be, you know, a bully. Don’t be exhausted. And be short with people. Really try to ingratiate yourself with the country. And when it comes to food, which is a part of business travel, we’ve spoken about this before in the podcast, you know, going out after the meeting, having beers with the companies you’re visiting here or the vendors, et cetera, is a way to really build a relationship. If you don’t drink alcohol, tell them and that’s fine. But certainly, it’s a big part of the culture here. It helps you get to know each other outside of work and you’ll generally find that business here is more relationship driven than anything. So, it’s important to kind of build those relationships, and spend the time and doing that as you travel here.
Granger: And if you’re looking at going back to the States again, Tuesday and Wednesday, always good days to buy your tickets, plan ahead, try to get upgraded seats if you can. Certainly, having a loyalty program is a good thing to do. Sometimes people are lazy about it, but Vietnam airlines has a good loyalty program. I think it syncs up with Delta for the United States. JAL, Cathay Pacific, Qatar all sync up with American Airlines and sky priority. So that’s a good thing. They have the lounges that you can obviously use at the airport if you’re a gold or platinum, frequent flyer. But if you’re not, you’ll see that they do have lounges here where you can get a priority pass for, you know, $15 to $20 for the day. And a lot of times people when they’re coming here or going to Singapore, Hong Kong and have longer layovers, want to go visit the city for a couple of hours because they have an extended layover and almost every airport has baggage storage here.
Granger: So, you can store your bags. Just look at the airport ahead of time, take a few minutes, figure out what terminal it’s in or how to get there, store your bag, take a train, take a grab, take an Uber car and go visit the city, go get some gifts. It’s really well worth it. Almost all of these cities are accessible within, you know, 45 minutes, maybe 30, 45 minutes, an hour max. And as long as you’re not going to rush hour, you can really zip into some great places and get the local foods, local culture, maybe have a quick business meeting, dinner and coffee, and then head back to the airport.
Granger: Well, I hope this helped out a little bit. This is Granger Whitelaw just solo today on The Lotus Talks. I’m having an extra couple coffees today to get me through. I hope you all have a great week coming into the next two weeks and final stretch of the holiday, Christmas shopping season, getting ready for New Year’s and getting ready to start 2020, which should be a wonderful, exciting time for all of us. I’ll talk to you Friday. We’ll look back at travel and talk about a company that is doing some good things. Until then, have a wonderful week.
The Lotus Talks is produced by The Vietnam Group and Hosted by Granger Whitelaw.
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