Developed by GBT’s Global Business Consulting team, the Air Monitor is GBT’s annual air price forecast, backed up by analysis of the trends that are driving fares. The 2020 edition includes advice on how travel managers and buyers can build ‘nimble’ programs that help them respond effectively to change.

The Air Monitor 2020 is one of a series designed by our consultants and analysts to help you optimize your travel policy and program.

To access the report, fill out the form below and then click on the “Submit” button. You then will be redirected to a new screen where you will be able to download the document.

* Champs obligatoires.

We know how difficult it can be to stick to your diet, exercise, and sleep routines when crisscrossing the country or planet for work. So today, some leaders from American Express Global Business Travel who often travel for work share their top tips for maintaining their health and well-being on the road … and confess about what sabotages their efforts.

For the Mind and Body

To maintain her physical and mental well-being, Michelle Dyer, vice president of Risk and Compliance, Corporate Development, and Responsible Business in EMEA, says she practices yoga every day, even on the road.

“I use the Down Dog app, which has several different types of yoga, and I prefer restorative, full practice, and quick flow. It also allows you to choose a focus area, such as breathing or back strength.”

She says she also loves the meditation app Waking Up. Despite its name, it has some great practices for falling asleep.

When traveling, Dyer maintains a diet high in protein and veggies – and can’t resist the breakfast croissants available at her preferred hotel.

“They are delicious with butter and jam. I don’t even try to resist them!” she admits.

“Instead I try to practice intermittent fasting (six hours on and 18 hours off) and fasting dinner-to-dinner every few days.”

David Levin, chief information security officer, also watches what he eats, limiting his carb intake. “It is really hard, but I always feel better when I get back home,” he says.

One thing that derails his healthy efforts? “Late-night dinner and drinks are hard [to avoid], especially if they bring bread to the table.”

But Levin is committed to burning those extra calories off, taking the stairs when he can and making sure the hotels he stays in have a nice gym so he’s motivated to work out.

“I also use the app Sleep Cycle, which helps me fall asleep and get a good rest so I can feel good when I wake up and want to go work out.”

Preventing a Flight Risk

David Thompson, who flies a lot for his role as chief information technology officer, is vigilant about preventing deep vein thrombosis, which is a blood clot that forms in a vein deep in the body. It can develop during a long-haul flight and can cause a serious issue if it breaks loose.

“I practice techniques in my seat and while in the cabin to prevent occurrence,” Thompson says.

Some preventative exercises include heel and knee lifts, toes raises, and ankle turns. It’s also important to wear loose clothing on long flights, to stand up and move around the cabin, and to avoid keeping your legs crossed.

To help her stay healthy and well rested during long overnight flights, Melissa LaPorta, vice president of global marketing brand and content, always uses disinfecting spray and hand sanitizer to keep germs at bay, wears comfortable clothes, and packs a cooling sleep mask and lavender essential oils.

“As soon as I am able to recline, I put on my mask and focus on my breathing so I get some rest on the flight,” says LaPorta.

Her one guilty pleasure when traveling? While she generally tries not to drink her calories, she admits, “When I’m traveling, I do tend to give into the chai tea lattes and flavored coffee drinks more.”

Tricks for Alleviating Jet Lag

When Patricia Huska, chief people officer, flies to Europe, she makes it a point not to fall asleep on the plane if it’s a day flight. After checking into the hotel, she will get some exercise and fresh air by taking a walk and then going to bed at the normal local time.

“If I’m taking an overnight flight, I eat dinner before getting on the flight and try to go right to sleep and not start on emails or a movie. I find that’s my most effective way of adjusting to the local time zone,” she says.

Evan Konwiser, vice president of marketing and global product, follows a similar strategy when departing on a flight from New York to Europe (though he may watch one show to “settle in”). He then will try to sleep through the in-flight breakfast and eat a protein-rich meal when he lands.

“You can grab something on the ground, but you can’t grab more sleep,” he explains.

Konwiser says eating meals at the appropriate local time is key to resetting his clock and combatting fatigue. He also uses caffeine strategically to adjust, loading up in the morning and cutting himself off around 4 p.m. so he can go to sleep at a reasonable time.

To alleviate jet lag, he also suggests making plans with people who are operating on local time.

“You naturally mimic other people’s energy, so when you hang out with locals in the evening, you get their energy and it keeps you going the extra few hours you need.”

Unlike Levin, Konwiser doesn’t cut out carbs and admits to eating up to three baguettes a day in France.

“I dare you to try and stop me,” he says.

Besides walking, he also admits to doing little exercise on the road. “I hate carrying my sneakers – they add so much bulk to a slim packer – so I rarely exercise,” he explains.

Mark McSpadden, vice president of global product strategy, may have just the solution. When he travels, he brings a pair of Vivobarefoot shoes – which weigh less than a half-pound and take up minimal space.

“They are sturdy enough for my gym and road workouts, superlight, and even ‘fold up’ to pack,” he says. “Regardless of what pair you find, making the investment in a solid-performing and lightweight shoe is one you won’t regret.”

Something that McSpadden maybe does regret? Candy purchases at the airport.

“For me,” he says, “the airport is a labyrinth of well-being choices that I have to navigate carefully. While the number of healthy snacks and restaurants has definitely increased, it is hard for me to pass up a bag of Sour Patch Kids that’s been strategically placed between myself and the gate, especially at the end of a long travel stint.”

In a recent Atlas post, we revisited some events in 2019 affecting business travel. Today let’s look ahead and see what trends may shape the travel experience in 2020 – plus some bonus tips for travel managers (TMs) on how to handle the changes that are coming.

Travelers will rely on their mobile phones for every aspect of their trip.
From using it as a ticket to board the plane to hailing a ride to their hotel and now texting our travel counselors for booking assistance, today’s business traveler is already super dependent on their mobile phone as they navigate from Point A to Point B. But expect this reliance to grow in 2020 as Wi-Fi connectivity improves thanks to 5G networks spreading across the planet. This exponentially faster wireless technology will have a substantial impact on travel, from enabling travelers to have more vivid video calls with those back home to fueling the growth of self-driving cars and smarter transportation systems. Perhaps this year, we will even see fast Wi-Fi service on airplanes!
Driving this mobile-first phenomenon is the rise of the “super app” that allows users to perform multiple, seemingly unrelated tasks within one app. With this robust application, a traveler might check reviews of local restaurants for a business lunch, pay for the meal, and hail a ride back to the office without ever leaving the app.
Also contributing to this trend is the fact that the generations that have grown up with their hands glued to their smartphones are beginning to dominate the workforce – with it being forecasted that millennials will make up half of it this year just as the oldest members of Generation Z begin their careers. To win over these younger customers, travel suppliers are investing in upgrading their digital solutions.
Advice for TMs: Companies need to equip their employees so they can fully enjoy all that their mobiles can do when traveling internationally for work. If your organization is failing in this department, 2020 is the year to work with your procurement and tech teams on an upgrade.
The travel experience will get more personalized.
Thanks to advanced analytics and the growing amount of data being collected at every customer touchpoint, suppliers are able to create experiences and deals tailored to travelers’ needs and preferences. But with the rise of 5G, things are about to get even more personal.
This faster service is helping to advance artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and the internet of things. This year, we anticipate a crop of new apps and devices – with some even connecting and communicating with each other – to spring up that are not viable under a 4G network.
With such technology, travelers can have a richer 360-degree experience of their destination – including a high-quality simulated tour of the hotel they’re eyeing – without having to take a flight. Lighting, temperature, and decor in hotel rooms will automatically adjust to guests’ preferences and moods. Augmented reality apps will send push notifications giving travelers customized dining and shopping options in the vicinity.
With AI algorithms and big data revealing more about travelers’ tastes and habits, we will see more suppliers this year using that information to package personalized offerings and try to sell them additional products.
Advice for TMs: With all the add-ons that might result from suppliers’ increasingly personalized offerings, it’s critical to have a travel and expense policy that provides travelers with clear guidelines on what ancillaries are and aren’t covered by the company.
We will see even more biometric technology being used.
Facial and fingerprint recognition technology has been popping up at airports around the world, speeding up lines at security checkpoints and boarding gates. In 2020, these machines will become permanent fixtures at more airports with the Department of Homeland Security saying facial recognition will be used on 97% of departing passengers by 2023.
Despite some critics voicing privacy concerns, many travelers are comfortable with the idea. According to a new survey conducted by the World Travel & Tourism Council, 81% of Americans who travel internationally are willing to share their biometric data to speed up their journeys.
Biometrics also will spread to more hotels with some already making use of the technology. Singapore just launched a pilot program where guests at some hotels can use facial recognition to check into their rooms. Adding an extra layer of security, some hotels are also  allowing room access through fingerprint scanners.
Advice for TMs: Most business travelers have been letting airports scan their faces and fingerprints for some time, but we still recommend working with your information security team to educate employees about how they can protect their data and identities.
Sustainable travel will become more than a headline.
In 2019, greener travel and the concept of flygskam (which translates as “flight shame”) took off thanks to the climate change movement sparked by Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg. In 2020, we likely will see its counterpart, tagskryt (or “train-bragging”) grow as more travelers make a commitment to reduce their carbon footprint. As a result, expect to see European rail companies reinvest in their systems.
Increasingly, business travelers (and companies) will make greener choices, such as choosing airlines known for their fuel-efficient planes and flying nonstop, even if it’s a higher ticket price. Some may even elect to fly economy, since a business class seat comes with the price of a higher carbon footprint. And some airlines may do away with that cabin altogether after Wizz Air’s call for an industry-wide ban, while British Airways recently announced its commitment to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Hotels also are working to make their operations greener with more efficient energy and lighting systems as well as water-conservation programs. And you can say goodbye to those tiny toiletry bottles at major hotel chains as Marriott, IHG, and Hyatt promise to do away with them by 2021.
Advice for TMs: Make your travelers feel less guilty for all the flights they take by introducing an eco-friendlier program. Need help getting started? Contact our Global Business Consulting team, who can help craft and implement greener travel policies. And be sure to check out our white paper on this topic.

Making life more convenient and comfortable is always a good idea, especially so for today’s well-being-conscious business traveler. American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) takes a look at some useful gadgets to make the business trip less stressful and more relaxing.

Even at the best of times, traveling for business can be a trying experience and the familiar “hurry up and wait” of long-distance journeys can put an unwelcome strain on both body and mind. A prolonged period of physical inactivity can leave even a well-conditioned traveler feeling sore and sluggish too, which is hardly ideal when your next destination is a crucial meeting, a major event, or simply a much-anticipated homecoming.

Fortunately, help is at hand and there are plenty of options to make the modern traveler’s life easier. GBT takes a look at a selection of interesting ways that can make sure you’re at your best while traveling and in peak condition when you get to where you need to be.

1. Isobar custom-fit compression garments

Even in business class, a long-haul flight can be a grueling experience and the risk of deep vein thrombosis should not be taken lightly. Fortunately, compression gear from Isobar can help. Increasing blood flow back up to the heart by applying consistent pressure to the feet and calves, they are created as custom fit after a 3D scan of your leg records 260,000 data points. Sporting travelers may find them useful on the ground, too, thanks to their contribution to well-oxygenated blood flow.

2. Bose noise-canceling headphones

Whether you need to concentrate to work or would like some peace and quiet when you’re trying to sleep, noise-canceling headphones are an absolute essential. Bose’s well-regarded range of over-ear or in-ear options are famously comfortable and effective perfect, for example, when the inevitable screaming baby starts up again – and their smart features offer seamless access to voice assistants, call pick-up, and even augmented reality platforms.

3. illumy smart sleep mask

Taking inspiration from the techniques used by NASA to help astronauts nod off up in space, illumy’s sleep mask is a significant upgrade on the familiar cloth design. By blocking out unwanted light and replacing it, either with red tones to help you fall asleep or blue tones to help you wake up, the mask simulates natural cues that are often disrupted or absent while traveling. Being well-rested can make a crucial difference, so this has to be worth a closer look.

4. Cygnett power bank

There’s no such thing as having too much battery left and we’ve all had to deal with being down to the very last 1% at the worst possible moment at least once. Power banks can keep you charged up right when you need it the most and Cygnett’s pocket-friendly range offers plentiful capacity, convenient connections, and impressive recharge times.

5. Waverley Labs Pilot earbuds

They might sound like something out of science fiction, but Waverley Labs’ Pilot smart earbuds are entirely real. A set of earbuds that connect to your smartphone, they provide real-time translations of 15 languages and 42 dialects, perfect for conversations, presentations, and lectures. Waverley Labs’ Ambassador range of over-ear headphones is now available to preorder too.

6. Upright Go 2 posture trainer

Planes and trains have their good points, but helping your posture isn’t one of them. However, the Upright Go posture trainer sensor and app for iOS or Android can help correct that. By training yourself to have better posture, it improves your body alignment, strengthens your back muscles, and gently discourages bad posture habits. The second-generation Go 2 model is smaller and last three times longer too.

7. Master Lock Bluetooth padlock

It is necessary to be realistic and acknowledge that not everyone in the world has the best of intentions toward your luggage. Mechanical locks can be picked and combinations can be discovered, but the Bluetooth-enabled Master Lock line offers you personal control, easy monitoring, and, most of all, peace of mind.

8. EPICKA Universal USB Travel Power Adapter

You only remember to think about some things after you realize you really need them, and the right plug at the right time can be vital. EPICKA’s Universal USB Travel Power Adaptor offers an all-in-one option for U.S., UK, EU, and Australian-style plugs that are routinely used in 150 countries, including four USB ports and a 2-foot charging cable.

9. LARQ water bottle

Staying well hydrated is important for health and well-being, but it is often a challenge while traveling. LARQ’s self-cleaning water bottle contains a portable digital purification system that activates every two hours and uses UV-C light to neutralise harmful bacteria, meaning you can make sure your body has what it needs wherever you are. The range of five colours can suit your aesthetic tastes too.

10. HoMedics SoundSpa

Getting to sleep in an unfamiliar bed is often difficult, so a touch of calming background noise can really help you drift off. With white noise, ocean, brook, summer night, thunder, and rain to choose from, an auto-timer and battery or adaptor options, the SoundSpa offers a practical way to make sure you start tomorrow refreshed.

There are few more frustrating experiences for business travelers than getting stranded because of a cancelled or heavily delayed flight.

Industry statics reveal the problem is growing more acute, and the number of flight delays and cancellations is consistently rising every year for a whole variety of reasons, from strikes and a higher number of extreme weather events to harder-to-foresee incidents, such as the drone-related stoppage at Gatwick Airport in London in 2018. According to delay compensation specialists AirHelp, an average of 115 flights were disrupted every day in the UK this year. That equates to nearly 20% of all services.

And that’s just one country. On a global basis, there were more than 4,000 flight cancellations and 568,000 delays across the world during a 30-day period between mid-August and mid-September 2019.

Negative impact on travelers

While this demonstrates the enormous scale of the problem of flight disruption, what about the immediate impact it has on business travelers and their organizations?

There’s the natural frustration when a traveler suddenly realizes their plans are going to be seriously disrupted. That quickly moves on to thoughts about what happens next and what they need to do to get their journey back on track.

Unfortunately, there is often a lack of communication from the airline or airport. Think of any major aviation disruption in the past few years and one of the major complaints from passengers is the lack of available staff to ask about what is going on.

This is partly the legacy of airlines moving toward a “self-service” model with fewer employees on the ground at airports. And even if passengers do find someone from the airline or airport, they often don’t possess the flight information or updates that the traveler really needs.

Being stranded has a potential myriad of negative consequences for the traveler, from the stress of not being able to go on their trip and missing an important meeting or event to potentially being unable to get home in time for an important personal occasion or family celebration.

Meanwhile, organizations are faced with the costs of having an employee stranded at an airport. This often results in lost productivity, having to give them extra time off when they return and potentially missing a crucial meeting that costs the company sales and revenue down the line.

The problem can be even worse for those infrequent travelers who are not fully aware of what they should do if they are left stranded by a delay or cancellation. “Can I book another flight?” “Do I need to arrange a night in a hotel? “Is this covered by my travel policy? These are just some of the questions they face when their journey is disrupted.

A proactive solution

Finding a better way to solve these problems and reducing stress for business travelers is the guiding principle behind American Express Global Business Travel’s Proactive Traveler Care™, which has been specifically designed to make life easier for travelers when a disruption occurs.

Proactive Traveler Care automatically identifies travelers who are facing disruption to their trips and reaches out to them proactively to see if they need assistance before they even have to think about contacting us themselves.

We are constantly monitoring flights for potential disruptions. If an airline has a delay of more than one hour, or a cancellation, we receive an immediate notification and a data feed of Passenger Name Records (PNR) showing us which passengers are impacted.

Once an affected traveler is identified, they or their travel booker will be automatically contacted through an email or a text message by one of our experienced staff to determine whether the traveler requires assistance to book another flight or make other arrangements.

This means they don’t have the stress of having to queue for hours at an airport travel desk or sort out an alternative flight. It’s all taken care of, and they are often going to be rebooked straight away on the very next available flight.

This is all part of our commitment to make sure we do everything we can to assist and look after your travelers in these difficult and often very stressful circumstances.

This service works particularly well when we are able to predict forthcoming potential disruptions, such as an incoming hurricane or scheduled industrial action. In these circumstances, we can plan in advance and use Proactive Traveler Care to rebook travelers well ahead of their journeys.

Proactive Traveler Care service is also perfect for dealing with more typical day-to-day cancellations by rebooking flights for affected passengers with the minimum fuss and input from travelers themselves.

Delays and cancellations are a fact of life these days, but we can help take some of the inconvenience out of the experience with Proactive Traveler Care. Perhaps most importantly, the traveler can be assured that we have got their back and they are going to be looked after.

 

Toronto is the vibrant, multicultural, and welcoming city on Lake Ontario’s shore that Peter Ustinov once described as “New York City run by the Swiss.”

Arriving in Toronto

Toronto’s Pearson International Airport is the second busiest international gateway in North America. Flights from Star Alliance carriers and Emirates land at T1, while SkyTeam, OneWorld, and other airlines use T3. International visitors will require either a visa or an electronic travel authorization (eTA), and www.canada.ca can advise on which and how to apply. If you arrive at T3, customs can be speeded up by using a Primary Inspection Kiosk to scan your documents. Downloading an eDeclaration app in advance will further reduce time at this point.

Traveling to the city

Downtown is 15 miles (25 kilometers) away and can be easily reached by taxi in 30 minutes. Licensed taxis and limos offer a flat-rate service — expect to pay CAD $50-60 — and ridesharing apps UberX and Lyft also operate from the airport. Catching a bus can take time and involve transfers, so the best public transport option is the Union Pearson Express train. It departs every 15 minutes, takes 25 minutes to reach downtown, and costs less than $13. If you wish to drive, all of the major car rental companies have a presence at the airport.

Getting around

Taxis are plentiful downtown and, while they are meant to accept credit cards, some still insist on cash only. As you’d expect, Uber has a strong presence. The Toronto Transit Commission is an easy-to-use mix of subways, buses, and streetcars. If you intend on making multiple journeys across the network over a few days, get a PRESTO card and top up accordingly. An electronic day pass can be purchased on the TTCconnect app and scanned from your phone. Finally, Toronto is a lovely city to explore on foot when the weather is good.

Where to stay

Best places to eat

  • Le Swan is a French diner, mixing bistro classics and diner standards. Perfect for night owls, they bring out the fondue pots after 11 p.m.
  • White marble and leather create a sumptuous setting, but it’s the elaborate tasting menu that catches the eye at Don Alfonso.
  • Kojin mashes Asian influences with Colombian staples and truly excellent meat from the grill.
  • A stunning octagonal room and menu featuring filet mignon and Dover sole mean there’s nowhere better to enjoy classic dishes than Arthur’s Restaurant.
  • A notable new arrival, Giulietta serves wood-fired pizzas, fresh pasta, and a memorable crudité plate with a bagna cauda dip.

Where to meet friends and colleagues for drinks

  • With its ever-changing backdrop of contemporary art, the bar at The Drake Hotel is a fashionable place to meet.
  • Pretty Ugly is a memorable venue stuffed with taxidermy birds. It offers a good selection of nonalcoholic cocktails.
  • Voted Canada’s top bar in 2018, Bar Raval’s Gaudi-esque mahogany wood panels and convivial atmosphere bring a touch of Spain to Toronto.
  • A thatched bar and tropical tunes make the new Shameful Tiki Bar an escapist and fun location for a relaxed evening.
  • For a sophisticated and well-lit venue in which to conduct business, head to the bar at Alo.

Free time in Toronto? Five things to see and do

  • Step into the Bata Shoe Museum. Shaped like a shoebox, the building houses 12,500 pairs of shoes – some dating back 4,500 years.
  • Explore Casa Loma, a majestic 98-room castle built by a 19th-century millionaire.
  • Take in a show at the botanically themed Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre — the world’s last operating double-decker theater.
  • Join an exhilarating EdgeWalk around the top of the CN Tower – attached to a harness, of course.
  • Marvel at the whimsical Berczy Park Dog Fountain, featuring life-size sculptures of 27 different dog breeds (and one cat). 35 Wellington Street East.

 

Over the past two years, our clients have expressed a growing interest in integrating corporate sustainability goals into their travel program. This push for sustainability is primarily driven by consumer behavior, more so than regulatory pressure or the corporate conscience.

Modern consumers are choosing products and services that meet sustainability standards. Increasingly, the right choices for the environment are also becoming right for business.

This white paper by American Express Global Business Travel, entitled « Green Travel: Approach to Integrating Sustainability in Business Travel, » looks at key environmental sustainability trends and provides practical guidance on how you can integrate sustainability into your travel program.

To access the report, fill out the form below and then click on the “Submit” button. You then will be redirected to a new screen where you will be able to download the document.

* Champs obligatoires.

At American Express Global Business Travel (GBT), we recognise there is a tremendous opportunity to drive savings in the « Travel & Expense » category. Based on recent interactions with some of American Express GBT’s clients, we see a need to help identify corporate-wide solutions that can deliver greater visibility on meal spend and that can provide potential savings. Whether it’s implementing meal programs with select catering services, formally introducing set meal expense limits, or adopting dining-related mobile technologies and virtual wallets, we hope to call attention to some strategies that can trim costs in this expense category.

To access the report, fill out the form below and then click on the “Submit” button. You then will be redirected to a new screen where you will be able to download the document.

* Champs obligatoires.

Heading to Munich? Here is some advice on getting the best out of a visit to this beautiful city.

 Arriving in Munich

Munich International Airport has flights to 266 destinations — the most in the world from a single airport. Terminal 2 handles Star Alliance members and partners (except Turkish Airlines), plus Lufthansa, while Terminal 1 handles everybody else. Getting through the airport is easy and efficient, and most passengers from within Europe can speed up immigration by using EasyPASS self-service kiosks if they hold an electronic passport.

Traveling to the city

The airport is 18 miles (28.5 kilometers) northeast of Munich. The S1 (via the west) and S8 (via the east) S-Bahn train services to the city center leave every 10 minutes and take 35 minutes. The Lufthansa Express Bus departs from both terminals every 15 minutes and it’s a 45-minute trip to reach München Hauptbahnhof (Munich Central Station). Car rental is available via Sixt and Avis Budget, and carshare services car2go and DriveNow also have bases here. Taxis are plentiful at the airport.

Getting around

Munich’s extensive, integrated public transport system consists of a subway (U-Bahn), trams, buses, and commuter trains (S-Bahn). If you plan on making several trips, purchase a Streifenkarte (« Stripe Ticket »). This is a cost-effective way to make up to 10 individual trips across the network, depending on which zones you travel through. You can buy tickets at the stations or while on board trams and buses, but make sure to validate them at the stamping machines or risk being fined. Munich is very bike-friendly, with rental points at many U-Bahn and S-Bahn stations. The city is also very walkable, with parts of the central area around Marienplatz being pedestrian-only. Taxis can prove expensive and driving is best avoided, especially during rush hour.

Where to stay

Best places to eat

  • Restaurant 181 is the ideal destination for a quiet but impressive business dinner. It has two Michelin stars and great city views.
  • For delicious Italian food, head to Osteria Italiana. The oldest Italian restaurant in Germany, it dates back to 1890.
  • Hearty Bavarian classics, such as pork knuckles and apple strudel, dominate the menu at Augustiner am Dom.
  • For a celebratory meal, try the eight-course gourmet tasting menu at Tantris, Germany’s longest-standing Michelin star holder.
  • Preysinggarten serves up glorious Mediterranean dishes and tasty vegetarian and vegan options in a cozy 19th-century building.

 Where to meet friends and colleagues for drinks

  • For the quintessential Bavarian beer hall experience, visit the famous Hofbräuhaus.
  • Named after Charles Schumann, Germany’s most famous bartender, Schumann’s Bar is an institution in the city.
  • Step back in time at the Die Goldene Bar, stylishly decorated with gilded wall maps from the 1930s.
  • Located in a former royal residence, Pfälzer Residenz Weinstube, with its neoclassical columns and arched ceilings, is more relaxed than it first appears.
  • If you’re not sure where to go, try the Bayerischer Hotel. It has several incredible bars, including the Hof Roof Terrace, Blue Spa Bar, opulent Falk’s Bar, a piano bar, and an outpost of Trader Vics.

 Free time? Five things to do

  • Marvel at the Asam Church, a tiny, late baroque chapel full of ornate marble work and statues.
  • Take the wheel of a performance model BMW and speed around the track at the BMW Driving Academy.
  • Enjoy a concert in Freiheiz, an old power and heat supply station with amazing acoustics.
  • Mike’s Bike Tours, the city’s much-loved bicycle tours, are a relaxing, enlightening way to see the city
  • Take a day trip to the fairytale Neuschwanstein Castle, supposedly the inspiration for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.

Where to get fit and feel good

  • Müller′sches Volksbad is a fantastic public swimming pool with steam baths and a sauna in a beautifully restored Art Nouveau building.
  • Olympiapark, home of the 1972 Olympics, is now a massive activity center offering everything from watersports to skiing.
  • For drop-in meditation, mindfulness, and yoga options, check out Meditation-in-muenchen.de. Some classes are in English.
  • Blackbike.club offers pay-as-you-go spin classes. Simply sign up online to book your bike.

Not so long ago a group of mathematicians and scientists proposed a summer workshop at Dartmouth College in New England to study a newly emerging area of research.

This new field was called “artificial intelligence” (AI) and the brains behind the summer school felt that, within just two months, they could make “significant advances … in making machines use language, to form abstractions … solve problems … and improve themselves.”

These were revolutionary ideas, but the timescale was a little out.

Working smarter

Today, we are still waiting for machines to get this clever. However, we are — at last — starting to see real progress thanks to computer processing power and data storage becoming less expensive. While AI has not reached the point where it can replace humans, it has notched up some impressive achievements, powers voice assistants like Alexa, and helps Amazon deliver smart recommendations.

The travel sector has also started to embrace some aspects of AI, notably in customer service. A number of airlines, including British Airways, have introduced chatbots that allow customers to ask questions or make bookings using natural language. At a smaller scale, Edwardian Hotels launched its Edward chatbot in 2016 to handle room service requests from its guests.

Other travel companies have used AI in different ways. Technology provider Avvio unveiled an AI-powered hotel booking engine which, it has claimed, could increase direct bookings by 25%. Meanwhile, Trainline has been using AI to identify train carriages that are most likely to have empty seats, and IT company SITA has developed a tool that, it claims, can help to predict airline delays before they happen.

New tools, new ideas

American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) has also been making use of artificial intelligence, both within the company itself and within the tools it offers to clients.

One interesting area is the use of AI to power recommendations and searches within GBT’s online booking tool, Neo™, which analyzes a traveler’s previous behavior, and that of similar travelers, to predict where the traveler wants to book. Neo also uses an AI-powered search engine that can “think” more like a person.

Machine learning — a subset of AI in which computers tweak their own algorithms to get better results — is at the heart of Trip Recommender™. If a traveler books through GBT and there is no hotel in the booking, the traveler is automatically emailed a curated list of hotels based on their previous trips.

Daniel Raine, consulting and business intelligence leader for GBT in the UK, says that although there has been something of a hype curve for AI and most uses have not revolutionized the world overnight like the Dartmouth College researchers optimistically hoped, practical uses are indeed starting to appear.

“Businesses have been slow to catch on. There was a disconnect caused by an initial lack of understanding and high setup costs,” he explains. “At GBT, one of our primary uses of AI is for data management, particularly for cleansing data from multiple sources such as suppliers, payment providers, and clients.”

Meet “Kevin”

Raine’s team is also using the technology for contract loading and interpretation to help reduce manual processes behind the scenes, including the creation of an AI bot called Kevin. “We are working with clients on airline RFPs where they receive contracts and pricing from various airlines in a multitude of formats and of differing quality,” he says. “Kevin who goes through those contracts, in whichever format they are received, finds and extracts the contractual terms and pricing. He then runs the pricing through our models and identifies anything that doesn’t look right. There is still a manual backstop to fill in any blanks, but Kevin is learning and improving all of the time, and we see the manual residue decreasing the more data Kevin consumes.”

Kevin has helped the company end the laborious task of going through contracts line by line manually, a process that could be complicated by human error. Raine also sees the fruits of the company’s investment in AI within hotel sourcing. Already machine learning is being utilized for the normalizing and matching of data from different sources at the beginning of the process. Over the next year, he believes that it can be widened out further across the hotel sourcing process, in identifying negotiation opportunities and used to help GBT build what is known as “choice architecture” — the way solicitation choices can be presented to clients.

“There is room for AI technology and intermediaries to make the process of choosing better,” Raine says. He also believes that AI will help crunch the increasingly large amount of data being generated when someone travels and gain a deeper understanding of traveler behavior. Hotel sourcing, in particular, is one area where this could work really well.

“There might be a thousand hotels in a city. Traditionally, we might have looked to include hotels in the program where travelers have stayed before, or based on location or brand, or those that typically end up on corporate programs. Going forward, adding in additional data sources, and utilizing AI, we will be able to understand traveler choices better, identify new patterns so that we can make more informed recommendations, and curate a more bespoke hotel program.”

Looking to the future

AI has been with us as a concept for six decades, but the signs are that it is starting to really help those in business travel build more efficient processes, present us with smarter choices, and understand traveler behavior better. Kevin may not be the spectacular creation envisaged by those New England intellectuals, but he is part of the quiet revolution improving the world of business travel from the inside out.