What are the expectations of business travellers today?
The profiles of business travellers are very varied, but they are all characterised by a fairly high frequency of travel: at least 8 trips per year and up to 30 for some. In addition, these travellers have the particularity of travelling on major routes. This is no surprise in France: Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Strasbourg, Lille, Nantes or Bordeaux are the country’s major economic centres, and therefore attract entrepreneurs and employees who carry out projects, conclude business deals or form partnerships there.
Their primary need is therefore to optimise their time. Reservations must be able to be made quickly and the boarding process must be as smooth as possible. And, once on board, professional travellers want to be able to work to lose as little time as possible during the journey.
In addition, they expect flexibility adapted to their constraints, in particular to be able to simply change their ticket or to be reimbursed if a meeting is extended or cancelled. This is one of the reasons why we are developing many services in stations, such as spaces to work in peace and quiet between trains, for example.
And of course, business travellers must optimise their budget, so they are sensitive to the fares and advantages reserved for them.
What services were already offered before the crisis to OUI.sncf travellers on business trips?
With the website and mobile application OUI.sncf, professional travellers can book and pay online and then store their ticket in their smartphone. No more paper tickets, no more cards! Everything is dematerialised and available in their smartphone.
They also have the option of choosing exchangeable and refundable tickets up to 30 minutes after departure. And on board the trains, we offer Wifi on most major TGV lines. The roll-out of Wifi continues on SNCF lines, and is starting to be deployed on Intercités and TER lines. This is a very strong demand from professionals, who want to “make the most of” their travel time by working with fluidity during their journeys.
In stations, business travellers can take advantage of our Grand Voyageur lounges or office, coworking or meeting spaces. And once at their destination, we offer a range of services to facilitate their journey to their final destination.
Has the health crisis influenced the expectations of these business travellers?
The main expectation today is safety without hesitation. This is obvious among professionals, because employers have an obligation to ensure the safety of their employees when they travel. The best we can do today is therefore to ensure that all health measures in stations or on-board trains are strictly observed.
What are the “new” challenges in terms of professional mobility? Have they changed in recent months?
The SNCF and all the players in Business Travel are observing it: teleworking, already in progress before the crisis, will have an impact. We believe that more and more travels linked to meetings or project follow-up appointments will be replaced by videoconferences. This will also allow to save money in the coming months to absorb the financial shock induced by the health crisis.
Nevertheless, many business trips will still be necessary to approach a prospect, maintain a relationship of trust with a client or negotiate a contract, for example.
In addition, one phenomenon has emerged or increased with the COVID crisis, namely the desire of a large number of Parisians to leave the capital to live in less dense cities. Questioned in a study conducted by the media organisation Paris-jetequitte.com in May 2020, 54% of respondents said they wished to leave as soon as possible after the confinement. This trend could well materialise with the more massive and weekly use of teleworking, thus changing the rhythm and flow of professional travel.
And what about station services for professionals? Especially workspaces and lounges?
The interest is still there, but with special attention paid to health safety. And on this point, some spaces are more to be welcomed than others. The office, coworking and station meeting spaces of our partner Multiburo are subject to strict preventive measures and should be in particular demand in the coming months at least. Through this collaboration, we are striving to provide business travellers in transit or on their way to their destination with clean, quiet, private and concentration-enhancing spaces, even in stations.
OUI.scnf therefore meets the new expectations of professional travellers by relying on a network of selected partners?
Exactly. Our strategy is clear: we don’t just want to be a train ticket machine. We want to provide access to all the services that can make life easier for the professional traveller in the simplest, most centralised and smoothest way possible. This obviously concerns mobility, but not only. We are approaching partners who are experts in fields that are not part of our scope. Ultimately our idea is to bring together all forms of mobility around the train: car hire, car sharing, electric scooters or tomorrow’s flying VTC, who knows?
We already offer office or coworking, hotels or restaurants services in or near stations, but it is easy to imagine all these complementary services brought together in a single, easily accessible platform.