Skift Take

You can't fault FCM Travel for testing the waters with a promotion at this point in the pandemic, but this attempt doesn't look like it will take off.

Marketing slogans are rolling out thick and fast to stimulate demand in the leisure sector, with taglines like Test & Rest and Fit to Travel designed to reassure travelers.

Airlines and airports have also been promoting free tests and medical insurance.

That thinking is now being adopted by the corporate travel sector, with one global agency group, FCM Travel, part of the Flight Centre Travel Group, promoting a financial incentive: its Singapore office is hoping to generate bookings by offering to cover quarantine costs for returning business travelers.

Home Alone

“Fly British Airways Business Class to UK and FCM will pay for your quarantine when you return to Singapore,” the corporate travel agency posted on its website.

Apart from stipulating the airline and ticket class, there are other catches. FCM will only pay up to $1,500 for the accommodation costs incurred by that traveler during their Stay-Home Notice — which is what the government is charging anyway.

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And the promotion only applies to tickets bought between October 15 and November 30, with travel completed by January 31, 2021.

The idea was sparked by FCM Travel’s local supplier relations team, which was working with British Airways on exploring initiatives for the market. “We have had some positive feedback but it’s still early in the campaign,” said a spokesperson. “We are always looking at unique opportunities to create dynamic product offerings for our FCM customers.”

With most companies still keeping travel bans in place, is this type of incentive likely to make an impact?

“It’s a good idea, and something the airlines should start doing themselves,” said one company travel manager. “Airlines such as British Airways already have global relationships with hotel chains through their Avios programs, so I’d like to see them leverage these relationships, to partner directly with the chains and offer this in all markets that require a quarantine upon return.”

British Airways did not respond to a request for comment.

Another travel manager told Skift: “It would drive airline choice as an added ‘protection’ if that trip needed to be taken, but if quarantine on return was likely, we’d avoid that trip if possible in the first place. There’s always the risk that the rules might change while on the trip, so it would be good to know if any related costs would be taken care of too.”

However, they also noted that with their international offices closed, and client and affiliate offices also either closed or not accepting visitors, financial incentives wouldn’t seal the deal.

“It is difficult to imagine anyone needing this offer unless they are travelling from somewhere else to Singapore, then transit to London and back to Singapore where they then want to stay longer than 14 days,” added John Harvey, managing partner at consultancy Harvey & Heywood.

“And should British Airways’ global marketing team be concerned about the fact that a $4,300 business class fare, when sold through FCM, somehow has enough headroom in it to fund a S$1,500 cash benefit?”

Despite this, Harvey said it was an interesting example of what can happen when local marketing teams collaborate on initiatives.

Pushing the Envelope

This latest campaign is another example of Singapore demonstrating the value it places on corporate travel. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the country has explored ways of circumnavigating numerous pandemic restrictions to restart international flights.

As early as June it pioneered “fast lane” arrangements with other countries, including China, while earlier this month it established a travel bubble with Hong Kong. It’s also one of four countries taking part in the CommonPass digital health passport trial.

On October 23, it set up a reciprocal green lane with Germany, which could be a future model between Singapore and other European countries. All eyes are on its government to see if these measures will go down in history as forerunners of safe travel reopening or are just despairing moves.

FCM Travel in Singapore said it will now monitor the situation. “If we see a strong response to the campaign and it looks like quarantine will still be a requirement from the UK to Singapore for the foreseeable future, we will certainly discuss with BA if we can extend this further than November 30,” the spokesperson said.

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Tags: british airways, commonpass, coronavirus, fcm, flight centre, quarantine, singapore, travel management

Photo credit: Since the beginning of the pandemic, Singapore has explored ways to circumnavigate restrictions to restart international flights. Victor He / Unsplash

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