Although my HQ is in Singapore I spend most of working life traveling across Asia Pacific doing talks or meeting fellow entrepreneurs and potential clients. The spine of my business in Asia is Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Sydney, and I regularly visit all these places as well as cool and interesting cities in the rest of Asia Pacific every month.
Along the way I have picked up some tips on how to make business travel a more pleasurable and positive experience. I thought I would share some with you. I would be keen to hear yours too.
1. Put everything on a credit card that earns you miles
I travel business class but rarely actually ever pay for it. How? Well, I use the Amex Krisflyer Card which generates Singapore Airlines Krisflyer Loyalty Program miles. I then use these miles to book all my business class flights. How do I ensure that I have enough expenditure to generate enough miles? I put everything on it.
Everything from my office rent to hotel stays, Uber trips to corporate hospitality, literally everything. Where they don't accept Amex I use my Visa Infinite which does the same thing. I effectively get free business class travel through it.
If in doubt as to which card to have and use, check out business travel website www.FlyStayTravel.com by Singaporean entrepreneur Maxwell Davis.
2. Stick with one airline
It pays to stick with one airline. This way you can build up enough points to redeem flights. If you do have to pay for tickets you get miles to go on top of your free miles redeemed above which combined means your next flight is free. It also means you can get access to the airport lounges (see 7 below).
3. Stick with one hotel chain
Absolutely essential, even more so than one airline. I know so many travellers who chop and change hotel by going with price but then end up with no high status in any hotel. In the end it pays to be loyal.
I always stay in Shangri-La's. Jing-Ann Shangri-La in Shanghai, Island Shangri-La in Hong Kong, Sydney, even on staycations in Singapore. By doing so I am now a Diamond Level Horizon Club member. This means that I no longer have to buy the Club Room level to get access to the Executive Floor (see 6). I now just buy the cheapest room and still get all the Club benefits which are considerable as you will see.
4. Maximise executive lounges/club floors
The Executive Club Lounges become my co-working office when I am outside Singapore. They're amazing and massively underused. Not only are the hotels always in a central location but the executive lounge always have stunning views over the city….Shanghai over Pudong, Sydney over the Harbour Bridge and Opera House, Hong Kong over Victoria Harbour. They are always quiet and empty.
There is freeflow breakfast/canapes/sandwiches, coffees, teas, drinks, and in the evening alcoholic ones (in Jing-Ann Shanghai Shangri-La alcohol is served 24/7), excellent for entertaining clients.
The staff of the executive lounges effectively act as your PA ushering in your guests in a very professional manner and dealing with coffee/tea/drink requests.
Potential clients, partners, and fellow entrepreneurs are always impressed with the view, experience, and that positive association and relaxed feeling rubs off on the meeting ensuring a positive experience. No one minds coming to such a view (see 9) to meet you.
5. Maximise airport lounges
Not quite at the same level as hotel executive lounges, airport business lounges do allow you to do work. I always pick the multimedia/computer area as it's often not used and quiet compared with the hustle and bustle of the main lounge. That way I can maximise my work before getting on my plane. I do of course take advantage of the free tea/coffee/drinks/champagne and food while working, better than the airport bar or Starbucks.
6. Look out for the priority queues
One of the most frustrating things with business travels are queues. I hate queues. They are needless. If you have experienced the best airport in the world, Singapore's Changi Airport, you will know this. They manage to have zero queues and are the 16th busiest airport in the world, so why can't everyone else have the same clam and seamless experience? I go to Hong Kong and Shanghai and I literally have to allow extra time just for the queues.
Shanghai especially you need to go through three sets of queues just to get into the departures area. Madness. So as they can't organise themselves other than through having a million ropes and ant-like warrens, I have to help myself bypass them. Shanghai has a priority queue for those short of time and Hong Kong has a queue for priority passengers. I've know idea what the definition of either of them is, but I take advantage of them to save me time.
7. Frequent traveller card
Hong Kong has a frequent travellers card which is a neat idea to shorten the queues as theirs is always minimal.
8. Use Uber, not hotel cars
Hotel cars can cost several times that of a local taxi or Uber. Uber is especially useful in Shanghai where it seems there are never any cabs. I use them in Hong Kong too when I want a nicer ride or am travelling with a client.
9. Encourage people to come to you
One of the great things about having a short term "office" in the Shangri-La Executive Lounge is that people are happy to come to see you. All locations are central, so easy for people to visit. Also because I create a "limited time" call to action in my meeting request too, it creates a "special occasion" opportunity to meet.
I usually only have a certain amount of time to meet people, so I pack them in every hour. This has the added benefit of enabling the meeting to be focused, we both know we have an hour to talk and when the next appointment comes along it means the meeting has a natural end.
On Tuesday last week in Sydney, for example, I had two or my full pays packed from 7am to 10pm of meetings. Exhilarating and exhausting at the same time but always inspiring.
10. Use social media to create meetings
What I have found very effective is using a call to action limited time to meet on my social media messages to potential clients. I have found using the message "Visiting Sydney/Hong Kong/Shanghai" works very well. It creates an interesting point of interest which is followed with a very simple message of a desire to meet the person to discuss their B2B social media strategy. Simple and effective.
We use the data breakdowns to target those that have changed roles, been in the news, and been active. Altogether only 1 in 4 people on B2B ocial media platforms are actually active. It's these that are more likely to respond to a message, no matter who they are and how high up they are.
It works. Last week, for example, I sold out my time slots, I literally ran out of time to meet people and as a result have several people I was going to meet scheduled for a Skype instead.
Hope this helps you in your Asian travellers. I would love to hear from you on what makes your travelling and doing business in Asia easier.
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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Chris Reed has 25 years of senior marketing experience on both the client and agency side in the UK and now in Asia Pacific. He is the CEO and founder of Black Marketing.