Fidelity Takes Return to Travel Step by Step 

The company's renewed travel program re-orders priorities, putting traveler well-being, work-life balance and sustainability above cost.

“Business travel now looks completely different to how it did back in 2019. It’s more personal now, and every trip is treated as its own project,” said Carol Fergus, global travel and meetings director at Fidelity International.

Backing that up at Fidelity is ‘Ten Steps Back to Travel,’ a new program designed to scrutinize every trip from the point of view of the employee and employer. “When we think about travel now, we consider traveler well-being and work-life balance, sustainability, technology and cost, in that order,” Fergus said.

That philosophy puts the onus on the employee to decide if they actually want to travel or if a virtual meeting might be sufficient, she said. “The whole point of it is to make people really think, ‘Why am I doing this?’ What’s the value of the trip? How is it going to affect them mentally and physically? How is this going to affect their family?”

She continued: “When a booking is made, it’s then about providing them with the tools they need, the information they need, and asking them the questions to ensure they are properly prepared for travel.

“It’s about ensuring they have the tools to keep on top of that decision and track any changes in travel requirements. We need to make it seamless so they can carry that journey through themselves.”

Fergus added that “a really good TMC supporting you as a gatekeeper and providing the right information at the point of sale” helps prevent travelers becoming over-reliant on the Fidelity travel team. 

“There’s an element of hand-holding, but then the onus is on the traveler to monitor the trip. Anyone who thinks they can just turn up at the airport now is going to have a very sorry experience when they arrive.”

Ten Steps Back to Travel was put together “mainly because of Covid” and its new complexities, but as it progressed naturally embedded well-being and diversity, equity and inclusion, said Fergus.

“Business travel now looks completely different to how it did back in 2019. It’s more personal now, and every trip is treated as its own project.” 

Fidelity Investment’s Carol Fergus

Rolling Out an OBT

Fidelity has recently rolled out Concur as its global booking tool and, as travel recovers, is aiming for 76 percent of bookings being made through it within a year. “We’re not going to mandate it for the first six months. If they need to speak to the agents, they can continue to do that, but we’ll give everyone all the training,” said Fergus. “After six months, we believe most people should be well on their way to knowing how to use the tool. At that stage, we will stop them from phoning the agents for point-to-point bookings. We’ll hold their hands for the first six months ... but after that they’re on their own.”

“We make sure women traveling on their own or the LGBTQ community are provided with additional relevant information, but it’s also asking all our people to be thoughtful travelers. We ask them to think about the countries they’re going to and consider what’s culturally acceptable.”

Like other corporates, Fidelity sees the restart of travel as an opportunity to achieve new sustainability goals, primarily the halving of its carbon emissions from air travel. “We’re using 2019 as our baseline, and we have incremental targets of cutting emissions by 20 percent, 30 percent and then 50 percent by 2024, and that correlates more or less directly with our travel volumes.”

The company also is clamping down on one-day trips, promoting rail travel where practical, and looking at the composition of trips. “If you’re going to Asia, for example, do a network trip. Visit Singapore, China and Hong Kong in one trip and stay longer if that works for you. That supports emissions-reduction targets but also helps manage costs too.”

Fergus already is witnessing some generational differences as business travel recovers. “Some people just aren’t ready to travel yet, and some have decided it’s just not for them anymore after getting on and off planes for years,” she said.

“I think the younger generation will need to be controlled a bit more. They get the sustainability piece, and they’re great using technology, but they want to get out there and see the world. And I do believe they need to experience other countries and cultures in order to develop and to grow. I don’t think we can talk about diversity, equity and inclusion without people experiencing different cultures and broadening their horizons. It’s about finding the balance between sustainability, well-being, cost and giving those individuals that experience.”