The FCM FOCUS conference is held annually and is attended by over 250 employees globally. Over 70 of the 90 countries that FCM trades in participated and New Zealand was fortunate to be one of them. This year the conference was held in Oman, a Middle Eastern country tucked away on the southeastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. FCM Travel Solutions New Zealand was represented by three senior members of the team including Anthony Bodle, our Account Manager Leader for Auckland. Ant shares his experience of travelling to Oman and attending FCM FOCUS below.
As one of FCM’s Account Management Leaders, I find the FCM FOCUS conference is the most valuable to attend. The content covered is detailed and the global networking is so valuable to both myself and our clients.
Anthony Bodle, Account Management Leader - Auckland
Flying Qatar Airlines
It’s just over seventeen hours to get to Doha and then a further sixty minutes to arrive at Oman's capital 'Muscat. On the flight over I sat in an economy exit row which had its pros and cons. The con was sitting in close proximity to the bathrooms which meant lots of passing foot traffic. On the plus side, being on an exit row meant that I had much more legroom than standard economy seating.
I was particularly impressed with the onboard service, which was exceptional. I was well fed throughout the flight and found the crews attitude refreshingly accommodating. With the help of a sleeping aid, I enjoyed about 7 hours sleep with the rest of my time filled with movies from the wide selection of choices.
These factors combined, meant that we arrived early morning in Muscat in a much better frame of mind than expected!
A touch of First Class
The return flight was a far different experience.
Having completed several days of conferencing and late nights, the prospect of spending the next 24 hours in airports and on planes was not an exciting one, however, on check-in, things started to look up. For the first sector, we were upgraded to Qatar's first class cabin. It was only a short flight but it was an indication of things to come (or so I hoped).
During this sector, I was treated to some of the best service I have ever experienced. The only downside was it was at 11.30 at night and only an hour long. Had it been longer I am sure I would have taken much more advantage of what was on offer.
Experiencing Business Class
On landing in Doha and completing the transfer process we were informed that we were on standby for an upgrade to business class but that we had to wait for the flight to close and boarding to begin before we would know. With a nervous hour-long wait ahead of us, I approached the Qatar help desk and with a smile, I informed her that it was my birthday (it was actually my birthday) and all I wished for was a business class seat. After a short wait, the representative handed us two business class boarding passes and said 'Happy Birthday Mr Bodle. I could have hugged her. It was then a very smooth walk to the gate with all the ques dissipating to my business class golden ticket board pass. On board, I was personally welcomed by the crew member that would be looking after me for the next 16 hours. A full list of beverages was offered along with an 'a la carte' and on-demand menu. All amazing things but the best part was the lay-flat business class seat I was perched on. Before the flight was at cruising altitude I was in my Qatar issued PJ's, sipping a glass of Australian Shiraz and watching a movie while my meal was being prepared. I felt like a 'Boss'!
For the remainder of the flight, I enjoyed a mixture of sleeping and movies all while the 16 hours in the air seemed to easily pass by. We touched down in Auckland at 4.06am and I was through customs (with my bags and bags of duty-free), collected my luggage and seated in my taxi all by 4.45am. A bit too easy I think. Thank you Qatar Airlines!
Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa by 'Shangri-La'
The conference was at the Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa by 'Shangri-La'. This is one of three hotels looking over the Gulf of Oman in Muscat. The property seemed to have been forged out to the Mars-like surroundings (like most buildings in Oman) with the additions of manicured grass areas, swimming pools and a rooftop bar. It is the perfect setting for 3 days of conferencing and activities. The hotel was an ideal venue with multiple ballrooms and plenty of space for break out meetings, themed dinners and both outdoor and indoor entertainment. cievents put on an amazing few days with the use of the latest in technology and taking advantage of surroundings and culture. Heading home we left feeling informed, inspired and focused!
Would I go back to Oman? Yes but this time I would explore the sights outside of the hotel environment.
Would I fly Qatar again? In a heartbeat!