From her base in Sydney, Anne Costello buzzes around Asia in her capacity as Regional Director, South Asia for the global Text 100 Public Relations firm. We asked this frequently-flying PR exec to share her travel tips.
How many days would you spend travelling each year?
80-90 – it usually works out to just over one week each month.
What city do you most often visit for business?
This year it’s definitely been Singapore. I was there once a month for a week or two each time just between January and July. Lots of our regional clients and new business prospects are in Singapore. In addition there are a lot of regional conferences that I speak at in Singapore.
What are your best tips for Singapore?
My top tip for visiting Singapore is to make sure you try the local food in the non-air con small places or in the food courts – it’s amazing and so cheap. Cleanliness is so high in Singapore, I’ve never had any issues with street food. Visit Little India and Chinatown for great shopping too.
What's the one thing you do (or try to do) on every trip?
I always make sure I have time to spend with our juniors in our offices for training or I take them all out for lunch. Sometimes clients, new business meetings and leadership team meetings mean I’m tight on time but I want our juniors to know they are the future of our agency and I want to hear from them.
On any business trip, what do you like to do in your spare time?
Most of the places I visit in Asia I’ve been to before so after I’ve done the touristy must-see spots, I tend to shop. I also ask our local teams for a recommendation for a good massage. Those long haul flights don’t get any easier!
What’s your favourite city to travel to?
Delhi – I just get a massive buzz when I walk out of the airport as it’s usually my gateway to India. I usually land in Delhi before I head to Bombay and Bangalore.
You’ve got a spare day in Delhi: what do you do?
Hands down, no debate, I shop! I usually go to India with a list of requests from friends and family for everything from carpets to jewellery.
When you’ve overseas, what are your favourite stores to shop in?
In Singapore or KL its Zara. In India, it’s the markets.
What’s your favourite hotel?
It’s hard to go past The Scarlett, near Singapore’s Chinatown. The rooms are small but beautifully decorated and the staff so friendly. They have a great roof top bar with fabulous seafood too. And because I’ve stayed there so much it feels like I’m going into the Cheers bar – everyone does know my name! The rooms are decorated beautifully, the staff cannot do enough to be helpful, it’s mid- price but feels much more up market and it’s just a five minute walk to our office.
Tell us about your best overseas dining experience.
I’ve had so many... I’m vegetarian so it has to be in India where you can find the best veggie food in the world. On my last trip I went out with our Bangalore team to a beautiful south India restaurant in a lovely old house with lush gardens. It was made memorable because I tried many dishes I’d never had before and loved, the venue was lovely and we had a really fun evening.
What are some essential carry-on items you’d never leave home without?
My music, some leggings or track pants to change into, papaya lip balm, my own noise-cancelling earphones (the best invention ever) as well as my trusty pashmina. I always carry a note book for any thoughts on the flight or whilst I’m on the road. I also take a file that sits on my desktop between trips called ‘reading’ so I can catch up on business mags, news, research, trends etc.
How do you typically spend your in-flight time?
It’s usually a mixture of reading work and personal material – usually the Harvard Business Review and some trashy mag too. I also like to listen to some new music and often take notes of things to buy on iTunes after the flight. I don’t tend to watch movies but instead the comedy shows.
I also find on planes my mind goes into fast forward mode so I often have some of my best campaign or business ideas when I’m flying so I always note them down or if the idea just keeps growing I get out my laptop and try and develop it. I find if I don’t write it down, it seems to get left on the plane and I never remember it when I land! I’ve always wondered if it’s the attitude or because I feel genuinely relaxed with nothing else to think about when I’m flying.
How do you beat jetlag?
A good night’s sleep is the only thing that works for me and when my body clock is all over the place, then sleeping tablets for a couple of days seem to get me in time with where I am. If I land at 3am I need to be bright eyed and bushy tailed for a meeting at 9am and there is often no down time for the duration of my trip.
What are the first things you do on a business trip after settling into your hotel?
Take a shower to wash off that 'plane' feel, then I check my emails and call the local Text 100 Managing Consultant if it’s not too late to discuss the meetings the next day.
What do you like most about travelling, even though it’s for work?
I love the newness of being in a different office, with different teams, working with different clients or seeing them again after a while. I really enjoy experiencing different cultures – I think I’m a bit of a gypsy at heart so work travel satisfies my need to keep moving.
What advice would give airlines to improve the experience of the business traveller?
Provide enough space to be able to put your laptop on the table in economy. I fly economy nine times out of ten these days, and I’d ask airlines to recognize the fact that post-GFC many of their economy passengers are travelling for business and that they need to up the level of service in their economy cabins. I’ve stopped flying QF because of this and now favour the Asian airlines where the attitude of their cabin crew is very friendly whether you’re sitting in first, business or economy.
What are your biggest travel gripes?
Wasting time at airports: queuing for check in, queuing for immigration, queuing to get on the plane. And the attitude of QF crew in economy.
What’s your best travel advice?
Australian Business Traveller's ‘Frequent Flyer’ interview profiles businesspeople who regularly travel within Australia and overseas and lets them share their favourite destinations, hotels, activities and tips with the rest of the business traveller community. If you're interested in being interviewed, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.