Trials and tribulations of the corporate traveller

The Dolly Parton song, ‘Working Nine to Five’ rings angrily in my ears whenever I think about wasted corporate travel budgets. The unnecessary frills of the extravagant hotel industry don’t impact the guest positively, and limit the financial freedom and enjoyment of their stay.

A modern trend has emerged. Employees are given free rein to spend their travel budget as they please, no longer reliant on bureaucratic HR to organise their trips. Free from these shackles, a savvy businessman or woman can now choose which restaurant to eat in, which shuttle service they use, and who is allowed or not allowed to accompany them. The door is open for executives to have more say in how their travel budget is divided and spent. With this new power comes more responsibility. Take entertainment, for example. The traveller now has more options available to him: that Pieter Toerien production? Trevor Noah tickets? Or a few rounds of drinks at the 19th hole? No longer dictated to by the corporation, a thrifty traveller can ditch the cramped expensive hotel room, in favour of a more uplifting experience.

For those who travel often, confined to these little expensive hotel boxes where the rooms and corridors blend into one continuous monotony of drab, the hotel room is now a less attractive part of business travel. Even for those who don’t travel often, it’s gentler on the psyche when a few comforts from home are experienced in their stay. Hotels were created to be efficient, not flexible, and bring with them a plethora of unnecessary sundries that add to the cost and are never used.

When was the last time you swam in a hotel pool? Ever thought about the cost to maintain a large hotel swimming pool? With water shortages – most don’t fill them up anyway – there is no discount in rate as a result.

Hotels have become incredibly expensive operations to run. The only way to cover its cost is through the amount of money the hotels can charge for their service and facilities. The global hotel industry has moved away from heavily reduced corporate rates; only those who produce large amounts of room nights a year benefit from a great corporate rate.


Enter serviced apartments

They are a lot more nimble and open to negotiations. Serviced apartments are the corporate travellers’ flexible home away from home. The first gem of a serviced apartment compared to a cramped hotel room is the space. There actually is some! More than extra space, the home away from home is easier to mimic. Invite colleagues over for a couple drinks in the comfort of your own setting, away from the hotel bar with dried peanuts and overpriced scotch. Private meetings in your own apartment provide a confidential alternative to stark conference rooms, air conditioned to death.

Speaking of peanuts and scotch, the first thing most guests do when entering their hotel room is open the mini fridge, pre-stocked with the hotel’s choice of beverages, peanut packets, water bottles (which are conveniently marked up by 300% for the hotelier) and an ice bucket devoid of ice. Having your own serviced apartment gives you the freedom as to what is, or is not, in your fridge. No hotel room accommodates the guest in self-catering because expensive fringe services are a profitable source of income for them. It forces the guest to either order room service at their exorbitant prices, or mosey themselves down to the hotel restaurant, or use the shuttle service to get to the closest collaborative restaurant or shopping centre.

You return after your meal and a few drinks, walking through a busy hotel reception with the maître d eying your every wobbly step. Did you break a rule? Then, you find yourself next to a room full of kids on holiday with their parents making a racket. It sounds like they are hitting tennis balls against the other side of the wall. You struggle to fall asleep. The next morning’s 8am meeting may see you yawing uncontrollably. A good night’s sleep is all you want.

Being in your own setting, a homely serviced apartment, affords you more privacy and a quieter, better night’s sleep.


Unnecessary costs

Having your room made up and cleaned every day is a luxury you may wish to defer elsewhere. If you are not a messy person, removing this feature to reduce the cost of your stay is yet another tailored request that goes with the serviced apartment territory. Go head, chuck your used towels on the bathroom floor! Goodness there is more than enough space in your apartment, opposed to the hotel’s shower-only cardboard box.

Maybe you don’t want to rush downstairs at precisely 09h29 for breakfast. Maybe you don’t want the smallest, microscopic juice glasses invented by Middle Earth pixies. What you really want is a croissant and coffee, and you want it at 11h15, and not to cost you the “optional” (or starve to death) 220 bucks for the standard breakfast plan. R220 will buy you one fine bottle at dinner tonight.

Oh and let’s not forget, if you leave the hotel parking lot with a rented car, you have to pay for parking! What’s the point of being forced to hire a car for the duration of your trip when you only need to Uber two or three times? Doesn’t it make more sense to save the money for something you really need (like a Thai foot message, to be precise)?

Serviced apartments allow you to take control of your travel budget. Here’s where you can cut down on:

  • Stocked fridge at your request with your requirements
  • Self-catering lends itself to less cash spent on hotel restaurants
  • Not paying exorbitant nightly hotel fees which include services and features you won’t be using
  • Free parking
  • Discounts on future bookings
  • Choice on housekeeping when it suits you
  • Less front office staff hence more of a welcome feeling. Staff are encouraged to get to know regular guests and to treat them like family as opposed to a once-off guest experience.
  • Left over budget to spend on Trevor Noah tickets for his next show!

Success will be measured on repeat business, not on a one-night stand because serviced apartments happened to be priced right in a competitive market.

Back to that Dolly Parton song. If you have the privilege of managing your travel budget, let it work for you. You work hard from nine to five. You deserve the little extras you want, not what is dictated to you by the hoteliers, so that your work stay away from home makes you feel you feel as if you are are working from home.

Anton is an accomplished achiever in the South African hospitality industry with over 15 years of experience. Graduating from the Cape Town Hotel School, he then went on to start his career as a Guest Relations Manager at the well-known luxury retreat, The Grove hotel in the UK. He used his knowledge and experience to return to South Africa and form part of the Protea Hotel team who conceptualised and opened the Protea Fire and Ice! Hotel in Cape Town. One of the highlights of Anton’s studies was being able to attend the internationally recognized General Managers Programme at Cornell University in New York. After winning several industry awards and becoming an established and accomplished General Manager of Fire and Ice! Hotel Cape Town as well as the Protea Hotel Fire & Ice! Melrose Arch over the period of six years, he joined South Africa's largest private hospital group, Netcare. Anton was appointed as the General Manager for the Netcare Milpark Hospital. Netcare’s flagship hospital. With a passion for hospitality, he wanted to re-join an existing private property portfolio where he could add value through his operational experience and also create and actualize new opportunities for the stakeholders through his unique network. In his spare time Anton is a keen Mountain Biker, Slalom Waterskier and a PADI Dive Master.