George Freney is the Managing Director, APAC for conTgo, a company that provides SMS alerts to travellers of itinery items as they're coming up — and particularly if things change in their itinerary. Based in Sydney, he travels regularly within Australia to visit clients as well as round the world to conTgo offices in Copenhagen, San Francisco, Singapore and London.
How many days would you spend travelling each year?
50 - 75
What city do you most often visit for business?
Canberra, five to 10 times per year. We provide mobile technology solutions to Qantas Business Travel (QBT) for their QBT Connect product and they have a significant number of Federal Government clients. I travel to Canberra to assist QBT in selling QBT Connect to the government accounts.
What are your best tips for Canberra?
If you are arriving at Canberra Airport in the morning (8am to 9am) make sure you have a car organised. The taxi queue can be 30 minutes and it's often freezing cold outside where you have to wait!
What's the one thing you do (or try to do) on every trip?
I try to go for a run — not on a hotel treadmill, but around the city. It is a great way to get a feel for the city and where everything is. (Though I have to be honest, it doesn't happen every trip!)
On any business trip, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I rarely have spare time on a business trip, but when I do, if it is a new city or country, I love to try the local food and wine. If it's a good shopping destination, then buying something nice for my wife is mandatory!
What’s your favourite city to travel to?
London; I just love it, even in the winter. I was just there, and there was 15cm of snow in Trafalgar Square — magical. London is the city with everything — you can really do anything you want. The major downside is that good food is very expensive unless all you want is a curry.
You’ve got a spare day in London: what do you do?
I love to catch a Premier League match if it's the weekend or browse the shops if it's a week day. You can buy just about anything in London.
What’s your favourite hotel?
The W Hotel in Hong Kong. It is ultra modern, cool and just an overall excellent experience. It is also right on top of the Kowloon MTR station which makes it easy to get around and to the airport.
Tell us about your best overseas dining experience.
In Copenhagen — a traditional Danish Christmas meal. It was about 12 courses; mainly pickled fish and meats with flowing Schnapps. It was memorable, because it was my first Danish meal and also our first company Christmas dinner. I confess I can't remember the name of the restaurant; I had a lot of Schnapps.
What are some essential carry-on items you’d never leave home without?
I cannot fly without my Bose QuietComfort 15 headphones. Crying babies disappear with these brilliant headphones. [Australian Business Traveller tip: although Bose QC15s cost $499 in Australia, you can take advantage of the dollar-for-dollar parity with the US dollar at the moment, and order them from Amazon.com for $US299. To work around Amazon's restriction on shipping to US addresses only, order through a freight forwarding service such as PriceUSA.com.au.] I also take a pair of pressure socks if flying for over five hours. They are brilliant, but do look strange if flying in a pair of shorts!
How do you typically spend your in-flight time?
It all depends on the length of the flight and the timezone of my destination. I try and get into the timezone of where I am going as quickly as possible. So, I try to work on my laptop until it would be time to go to sleep in the destination, and then try to sleep the rest of the flight.
How do you beat jetlag?
I start behaving as much like the time zone I am travelling to before I actually leave on my trip. This includes meal times and sleeping. You can’t always do it perfectly, but the closer you get, the better you feel.
What are the first things you do on a business trip after settling into your hotel?
Unpack, get organized and then either hit the gym or go for a run (as I mentioned earlier, I prefer the latter, because I can see a bit of the city.) If I have to go straight to work, then I usually just have a quick shower and then head straight into the office.
What do you like most about travelling, even though it’s for work?
It might sound weird, but I like being on planes. Like everyone else, I hate the airport and queues, but once settled onto a flight it can be quite a pleasant zone away from the distractions of day-to-day life.
What advice would give airlines to improve the experience of the business traveller?
To me it is all about the airport experience. Once I am on a plane, I am generally pretty content. I would like to see dedicated security lines for business travellers, systems to ensure we are always seated us at the front so we can get off quickly and make sure priority baggage actually comes out first. Nothing annoys me more than seeing non-priority bags come out before mine — how is it that airlines and airports haven't managed to crack this nut yet?
What are your biggest travel gripes?
Queues — I hate them! Frequent travellers should be able to pay extra to avoid having to queue (even if flying economy). I also really get frustrated with people who cannot move through security checks quickly and get off planes without holding up everyone behind them. It is really not that hard to be organised in advance — take stuff out of your pockets and put it in your cabin baggage before hitting the security screening queue for example, and pack your stuff up in the plane before it lands, rather than after.
What’s your best travel advice?
That is a tricky question. Making sure to prioritise time to exercise is one of the keys for me; it makes me feel much better. The other thing is to try to maintain normal eating habits, even though you are faced with endless hotel buffets and restaurant meals. A sudden onslaught of rich food and no exercise compounds jet lag tremendously. And of course, (excuse the plug) always make sure you have a corporate mobile communication and services solution like conTgo’s Mobile Travel Assistant, which gives you updates on your itinerary as well as letting you get in touch with services like taxis no matter where you are in the world by sending an SMS.
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 [email protected].