Exploring Abu Dhabi's architecture

| September 20, 2018

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Macca Sherifi explores the soaring architecture of Abu Dhabi, from the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (szgmc.gov.ae), to the futuristic low-carbon neighbourhood, Masdar City (masdar.ae). For some of the best views of Abu Dhabi, head to Observation Deck at 300, set in the Jumeirah at Etihad Towers Hotel (jumeirah.com). Produced by Lonely Planet for Etihad Airways. All editorial views are those of Lonely Planet alone and reflect our policy of editorial independence and impartiality.

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We work one-on-one with teachers to create incredible educational tours that meet their specific needs and budget. All Explorica tours are fully inclusive and expertly designed to immerse participants in the local culture while introducing them to the people, places and experiences that make each destination unique.

OTHER ARTICLES

As travel giants circle, understanding the economics in tours and activities is vital

Article | March 3, 2020

In the past 24 months, the tours and activities sector has moved from, to borrow a Cinderella analogy, the cinders to the palace, where its untapped potential has moved into the sights of major travel retailers and investors. These retailers and investors, as we know, included Booking Holdings, Tripadvisor and SoftBank via their investments in Klook and GetYourGuide. These moves have led to lots of opportunities for operators and consumers alike, but, as always, change does not come without its casualties. Some operators are to dealing with distributors and they understand that such partners can be both partner and competitor.

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6 tips & tricks for planning business travel

Article | February 25, 2020

There are many hints out there for how to get the most out of your business travel, thousands if not millions of tips and tricks. That’s why this condensed list of 6 is what we’ve found most useful when planning your first, second, hundredth or with the way society is now, millionth business trip….think about the carbon footprint for that though.

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5 Reasons the BMW Performance Center West is a Business Itinerary Imperative

Article | August 26, 2020

With the travel and tourism sector having taken a gut punch this year amid coronavirus concerns, many business groups and professionals are seeking new and innovative ways to enjoy memorable team events, proffer inspiring staff incentives and have some impactful one-on-one with customers and clients particularly those activities that inherently facilitate large crowd avoidance. With that, I’ve found a fabulous option in the BMW Performance Center West. This permanent performance driver training facility, located in Thermal, California near Palm Springs, offers one-of-a-kind experiences for both business groups and individuals that are taught by BMW professional driving instructors on a private course. With up to 5.1 miles of expansive track layouts, the facility offers various driving programs and schools allowing participants to get behind the wheel of “the Ultimate Driving Machine” and learn key skills. Things like proper vision, basic car control, panic braking, handling, last-minute emergency lane changing, distracted driving, high-speed control and precision driving are all taught. Plus, it’s just plain old adrenaline-inducing fun. The facility, which opened in 2015, offers various driving solutions for people of all ages and capabilities, and they also have special programs and meeting space for private and corporate groups. So, your entire department or company at large can get in on the action! There are multiple one- and two-day driving schools and experiences, private instruction, customizable events and the opportunity to experience the expansive, luxurious facility in either BMW or MINI vehicles. Here are my top five reasons why this facility is a must-visit vacation destination, with the finer details courtesy of the BMW Performance Center West: 1. Private Instruction in the latest and greatest models Instruction at the facility encompasses the full line of the newest BMW and MINI vehicles. In fact, there are reportedly over 100 new models available for activities at the BMW Performance Center West. Also notable is the fact that all BMW driving experiences and schools are taught by professional BMW Driving Instructors, many of whom are professional race car drivers with dozens of wins. They even hold two world records: Longest Drift in eight hours (232.5 miles) and Longest Tandem Drift (39.25 miles). These BMW Professional Driving instructors teach you how to handle your vehicle in challenging situations and conditions including accident avoidance, cornering, drifting, car control, braking and more. A skidpad allows drivers to feel oversteer and understeer, simulating hydroplaning or driving on black ice and providing the opportunity to learn how to handle those situations. The skidpad also provides advanced drivers with the thrilling experience of drifting. The tight performance track offers plenty of opportunity to learn how to control a vehicle at various speeds and cornering situations. Drivers can definitely satisfy their need for speed and excitement on one of the four tracks and experience driving scenarios they’ve only ever seen in the movies. 2. A variety of track experiences are available In addition to BMW-dedicated tracks and a polished wet skidpad, some classes take advantage of the FIA certified race tracks of The Thermal Club. There are three tracks there with a combined length of 5.1 miles. The North Palm track is 1.2 miles long, the Desert Palm track is 1.8 miles long, and the South Palm track is also 1.8 miles long. Their newly-opened Off-Road Track allows drivers to experience extreme angles in the BMW X-series vehicles, splashing through water obstacles, driving over bumpy off-road trails and more. The vertical angles are literally steeper than any street in San Francisco and the visual sensation is amazing. Drivers often say, “I didn’t know a car could do that!” 3. A range of performance driving experiences are offered Each BMW Performance Center West’s fun and action-packed driving programs delivers a robust experience that you’re sure not to forget. These include: -- BMW Performance Center Drive: This option packs a real punch with two intense and exhilarating driving sessions capped off with a Hot Lap by a Certified BMW instructor. -- M Track Drive: This is the perfect combination of machine and track with six hard-charging laps on one of the tracks of The Thermal Club pushing a BMW M3 or M4 to its limits. Featuring the facility’s most powerful and responsive vehicles, the M Track Drive will put you behind the wheel of an M car for six exhilarating laps on an FIA Certified racetrack. You’ll follow an instructor’s car for a warm-up lap and also learn the proper line for achieving the best time. Then, try to keep their car in your sights as speeds and g-forces increase, pushing your M car to its considerable limits. -- The Ultimate BMW Mixer / The Track Meet: This is a unique driving and dining experience that elevates gift-giving, business networking and client entertaining to a whole new level. It’s a great way to get a taste of what the group events can offer. The mixer is a half-day experience that includes a delicious chef-prepared lunch, three exhilarating driving sessions in a fleet of brand-new BMWs and a Hot Lap around the track with a BMW pro at the wheel. The afternoon is capped off at a private reception with hors d’oeuvres and beverages at the BMW Performance Center. If you do have business needs, the facility has meeting spaces with multimedia capabilities, site-wide Wi-Fi and both indoor and outdoor dining with a delicious catering menu. 4. Both one- and two-day car control schools are available Engage your senses and push through your comfort zone by learning vehicle handling, quick judgment and accident avoidance skills—all developed in a controlled environment with a BMW-certified instructor observing and coaching via radio. These include real-world driving conditions and scenarios—wet pavement, emergency braking and lane changes, distracted driving and more. For the two-day options, participants will build on and reinforce the skills and techniques learned on day one. More seat time and real-time feedback takes driving abilities to the next level. Day two is when things really “click” and safe driving instincts kick in. This is also the day participants will experience an Instructor Hot Lap. There are a wide range of driving school options at the BMW Performance Driving Center that are available to individuals and groups, alike. Below is a brief synopsis of each: -- Car Control School: Take the wheel of a BMW and head out to the track, where professional instructors will hone your driving skills. Understanding stability control, knowing what to do when a vehicle starts to slide on the wet skid-pad and practicing proper vision through the lane-change course will allow you to anticipate situations on a real road. Available as a one-day, or for even more in-depth instruction, two-day course. -- M School: Take the wheel of a high-performance BMW M vehicle and experience the power of M firsthand. Accelerate, corner and brake faster than you ever have before, then learn to maintain control in low traction conditions on the facility’s wet skidpad and keep 400 horsepower under control. End the day with a hot lap in an instructor-driven M vehicle. Available as a one-day, or for even more pulse-pounding excitement, a full two-day course. -- One-Day M School: Learn the theory, physics and mechanics of performance driving. M School builds confidence and consistency while perfecting control, handling, acceleration and braking techniques. -- Two-Day M School: Take everything you learned on day one and push “GO.” Slaloms, drifting, braking, cornering at optimum slip, full- and modified-time laps at speeds you’ve only dreamed of. -- Advanced M School: Game on. M School graduates are an elite class of driver. They’ve proven that they’ve got what it takes to handle the ultimate challenge: BMW’s Advanced M School, held for two full days at road course tracks with pro Instructors, is the closest you can get to a racing experience. -- MINI Motoring School: Take a John Cooper Works MINI Cooper and run it through an autocross course, lead/follow session and some stunt driving techniques, all under the watchful eye of a professional instructor. The mighty MINI will have you grinning from ear to ear all day long. -- MINI Tricks and Stunts School - The first half of the day gets you intimately familiar with the MINI’s handling and capabilities, but the fun meter gets cranked to 11 in the afternoon. They’ll cover silky smooth reverse donuts on the skidpad, J-turns and reverse turns. -- Teen School: There’s a lot for brand-new drivers to keep in mind and the BMW Teen School will allow them to experience how a vehicle feels at the limit in the safety of a closed environment. From wet skidpad exercises and panic braking to performing a double lane change, teens will leave with a solid foundation of vehicle control and a big smile. This option is available as either a one or two-day curriculum. 5. Amenities abound Set against a backdrop of breathtaking mountain views, the BMW Performance Center not only boasts a private course where only you can experience the Ultimate Driving Machine, but also a luxurious modern building, gourmet café, coffee bar and gift shop with exclusive merchandise that you cannot buy anywhere else. Customized corporate retreats and group events held at the BMW Performance Center are a refreshing change from the cliché team-building sessions. All programs are designed to improve dynamics, build trust and facilitate group communication. They have meeting spaces with Multimedia capabilities, site-wide Wi-Fi and indoor and outdoor dining space. In all, this is an unforgettable experience that also makes a great gift idea. With stay at home orders having been lifted, getting behind the wheel of a new BMW at the BMW Performance Center West is a “bucket list” excursion sure to leave you longing for more.

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How Corporate Travel and Expense Management Is Evolving Post-pandemic

Article | December 3, 2020

The travel industry is getting back to business, and demand has skyrocketed for travel technologies that make interactions possible between companies and corporate travelers. A recent Gartner survey reveals how 2020 affected CFOs with their corporate travel and expense management tasks globally. How will finance teams report and forecast expenses? How can corporate travel costs be managed? How to manage travel expense management processes effortlessly? Does this sound familiar to you? These were a few valid questions that kept companies engaged in finding answers during the pandemic. Many finance leaders want to implement proper corporate travel and expense management services and find solutions to bring consistency and clarity to their financial processes. While switching from manual processes to automated management systems can be difficult post-pandemic, with an efficient travel and expense management tool or software, your company can gain optimum benefits and stay productive in the future. This article will show you how it evolved through the coronavirus phase efficiently. Adoption of T&E Management Process for Seamless Work Experience An American Express survey found that 55% of the chief executives and senior financial managers ranked rising travel and expense costs as a top concern during the peak pandemic phase. Digital transformation of your processes is a critical strategy for spend management, and it ensures that employees are using the right product to get the best value. By adopting an efficient travel and expense management tool, your company can gain stellar benefits for your finance team to cater varied requirements, and keep a rigorous control over corporate travel spend. Before looking into how travel expense management processes are evolving post-pandemic, here are the benefits and value travel and expense management solutions offer. Also, this will further facilitate your finance team to manage the current corporate travel scenario effectively. Benefits of Travel and Expense Management Solutions The travel and expense management didn’t disappear during the pandemic. Instead, it accelerated its core value. The idea of integrating travel and expense management services with the help of big data in the travel industry is to leverage best practices for travel expense management that can help analyze and extract key information to diverse corporate travel finance functions. Travel industry leaders who are integrating effective travel expense management services in their corporate travel system have experienced the following benefits: Automatic processes of expenditure Data-driven decisions are smarter Time-saving mechanism Simplifies budgeting Ability to forecast more accurately Delivers better user experience Quick access to integrated data from expenditures Gain deep data visibility Higher rate of compliance with corporate policies in finance These significant upticks will benefit your company and will simultaneously improve your corporate travel policies. Understanding these benefits will help you identify how travel technology can help your company manage complex financial tasks that arose during the pandemic. According to a Gartner survey, a travel expense management system is essential as a key solution to manage the corporate travel economy. Any company, big or small, needs to control its expenditure to recover during the pandemic. Complex Forms of T&E Management Are Gone Legacy processes may get a job done, but they are more time consuming, error-prone, and do not provide visibility into travel spend. And when your travel and expense management process is slow and cumbersome, it can slow down the growth trajectory of your business. Corporate travel and expense management automation and its associated features like corporate travel policy, quick and easy booking, automated expense and reimbursement solutions, live credit card feeds, backup analytics capabilities, and more have taken precedence post-pandemic. These services offer more visibility into the travel spend of your employees. With top travel and expense management solutions, your finance teams can monitor and control costs and expenses in the long run. While many corporate travelers have started researching and organizing trips online, you need to add value to financial services by adopting automated travel and expense management solutions that work effortlessly. Core Focus Areas of Travel and Expense Management The post-pandemic era has seen a lot of companies embracing new and updated travel and expense management solutions to drive cost savings, and enable finance teams to have a better control over their road warriors. Here are some: Contactless Data Record Is the next Big Thing Travel and expense management systems allow employees to record all corporate travel bills and receipts through mobile apps and create expense reports immediately. Big data in the travel industry has played a significant role during the pandemic. Technology leaders have already experienced the benefits of travel and expense management. For example, TripActions’ travel and expense management platform uses data to learn about business travelers’ preferences, and predicts within 30 seconds what travelers are going to book with 90% accuracy. The advantage of big data to travel and expense management has already organized several effortless finance processes for corporate travelers to experience seamless budgets. Automation Is Crucial Integrating travel and expense management solutions could easily add to the unimaginable overheads that companies are experiencing. Automation is one of these solutions. Its integration in the travel and expense management system will give rise to a paperless world that will facilitate finance functions to build an audit trail. With this, it also ensures total compliance to keep the organization and its process fast. Agile Technology Is the Enabler Critically for the travel industry, agile technology has allowed multiple methodologies for incremental development in corporate travels, which has transformed the processes from rigid to flexible. The agile process in corporate travel and expense management allows analyzing tangible results on expense. The approach also provides the potential to change plans according to the requirements. For example, Lola.com, the agile travel management company is helping corporate travelers book, re-book, and take the task of expense reports off the table easily. Finance teams arrange travel policies in minutes and equally manage, control, and view expenditure effortlessly. In short, agile technology is making it much easier for travelers and companies all round. To address the use of agile technology in travel and expense management, Jeanne Hopkins, former CMO at Lola.com, the agile travel management company shares “Finance teams at Lola.com have tried managing, controlling, and got visibility into expenditures efficiently by implementing travel and expense management. Small and mid-sized businesses have to be fast and dynamic in the changing scenario of travel, so that actions like booking, re-booking, and managing corporate travel could be performed with efficiency and results in high productivity.” A Hassle-free Expense Management System Expense has been one common challenge with corporate travel programs. Integrating travel and expense management in your company can eventually introduce you to a hassle-free work solution. As the process involves collecting receipts from multiple sources, either from hotels, flights, or car rentals, travel and expense management solutions make it easier for a manager to look at all corporate travel costs at once. Also, in terms of future travel spend and potential savings, the capability of this management remains exceptional. Modern travel and expense management solutions also include self-service, real time, and easy navigation. For example, for travelers, Lola.com has a large inventory of flights and hotels that allow users to avoid going to various sites to compare fares, and save preferences, loyalty programs, and provides payment options in one place. Traveler profiles are automatically stored so that users can book with one click. The 24/7 support team then ensures easy booking and re-booking for its users without any delay. End-to-End Integration Is the New Order of Workforce End-to-end integrated systems in your company will help your finance team implement best practices for travel expense management. This will make it easier for your employees to initiate, approve, and pay each transaction out of hundreds within minutes, thereby creating a seamless task without any manual involvement. Travel and Expense Management Trends When you automate your travel and expense process, it will not only maximize your returns but, at the same time, it will minimize your spending. This will save you both time and money. Below are the reasons you will want to consider making a switch to automate from a manual process. Remove Guess Work from Expense Process For finance personnel in your company, the new travel and expense management system can be set up in five minutes. One of the travel and expense management tools, like Expensify, helps with easy expense tracking and reporting. Similar to this, SpendCatcher – a mobile application of MobileXpense.com that is infused with AI and deep machine learning extracts payment information with just one tap. Supplier-direct Bookings Companies whose employees use a corporate travel and expense management system can receive reports according to department, employee, direct travel supplier, hotel, or car rental company. This information helps managers analyze spending patterns by actively monitoring it with up-to-date information in one flow from various travel suppliers. In this case, Concur TripLink connects to corporate travelers for direct bookings across the borders. It gives visibility of bookings no matter where it is booked. True Visibility into Spending The corporate travel and expense report management system automatically flags and creates analyses of dashboards highlight hidden expenditure. This can be helpful to know: How much expenditure is going in personal corporate travel cards, and why Find expense categories easily Find out why expense is falling short and ask for details In this context, MasterCard International is rapidly approaching towards a smart, web-based expense management system to control spending, generate comprehensive spending reports, and accurately integrate purchase data. Thus, delivering business efficiently, quickly, and easily. Rise of Bleisure Travel Corporate travel and expense management also includes ‘bleisure travel’ for corporate travelers, those looking to combine business travel with leisure time. With agile travel and expense management tools, you can make quick changes in plans to keep your employees and finance team happy and productive while mapping the budget. In this case, Lola.com has made travel and expense management real by providing an effortless way to manage, book, and report on business plus leisure travel, by encouraging its employers to save most of their time and money. Travel technology offers a deserving platform with travel and expense management to companies for added efficiency and visibility over travel spend. As corporate travel businesses are returning rapidly towards their regular work scenarios, the travel industry will see a rise in revenue. Travel and expense management system will be one of the powerful remedies to the travel industry and will increase its scope to drive growth post-pandemic. According to the new Skift report, 88% of corporate travelers will drive travel technology company growth. 86% of corporate travel managers believe it. Put an end to complex budget management and legacy processes; it is time to know how to manage travel expenses in corporate. Frequently Asked Questions What is travel and expense process? The aim of the travel and expense process is the complete administration of travel expenses, including the recording of expenses, posting in Financial Accounting (FI), and allocation in Controlling (CO) and Funds Management (FI-FM). The process also involves the valuation of costs associated with business-related activities. Why is expense management important? Expense management is important for businesses because it helps employees to keep an accurate track of expenses. This caters to them to plan financial aspects for the future with more clarity and confidence. Capital flow is a daily process in any business, so to manage some significant amounts could get efficiently done through expense management and generate a profit. What is travel and expense management? Travel and expense management is a process that includes finance management by the employee when on a business trip or any expense is made for business goals. Each travel and expense management consists of detailed records of costs, expenditure, budgeting, and report submission.

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Spotlight

Explorica

We work one-on-one with teachers to create incredible educational tours that meet their specific needs and budget. All Explorica tours are fully inclusive and expertly designed to immerse participants in the local culture while introducing them to the people, places and experiences that make each destination unique.

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