Episode 5: Martin Randelhoff, Future Mobility


Emerging technologies will challenge whole industries and transform the way we travel


About Martin Randelhoff: Fascination for transport and mobility since early childhood

Martin Randelhoff is the founder and publisher of the impactful german blog Zukunft Mobilität where he talks about all topics concerning transport and mobility. In particular, he discusses how we can successfully build sustainable and efficient traffic systems and how our cities and our transportation will look in the future. Randelhoff is also a research associate at the  Technical University in Dortmund and advises companies and institutions on urban development and transport planning.

These topics have fascinated him ever since he was a 10-year-old boy. At the train station in his hometown of Hof, Randelhoff regularly waited on a bridge stretching across the trackbed for his commuting father to return. From this bridge, he could also observe all activities happening on an adjacent container terminal.

These early observations arguably already shaped his decision to later study “transportation economics” in Dresden. This was also where he published his first articles. In the meantime, “Z/M” has established itself as an essential source of information in German-speaking countries.

Additionally, he provides his approx. 13.000 followers on Twitter with the latest news and also uses this media channel as a discussion board.


Mobility and transport are not the same things

Frimeso: How do you define the term “mobility”?

Randelhoff: Mobility is my opportunity to change locations to satisfy my individual needs. When I’m hungry, I need food that I have to get from the store. My secondary need for mobility derives from the primary objective of getting some food.

The difference between transport and mobility is that I have to use one of the different modes of transport to get to the store. If I live right next to the store, I can go by foot, if not, I’ll need a different means of transport.

As distances have become bigger, the demand for transport has enormously increased. On the other hand, the level of mobility has remained almost the same. We take 3.3 trips a day. Women in their 30s mostly make 4, 4 journeys, as they are often still in charge of childcare. 85% of the population is mobile, 15% is immobile and never leaves the house. In total, we are on the move for 72 minutes.


Mobility, working, and business travel in times of COVID and thereafter

Frimeso: To what extent has the mobility of people in general changed with the emergence of the COVID crisis?

Randelhoff: In March and April of 2020, there was a substantial decrease in mobility. People stayed at home and clustered their errands. This development has levelled out at where it was in “pre-COVID times” during the second and third waves. There is practically no difference to be noted anymore. There is a shift, though, from public transport to individual means of transportation, such as bikes, cars, and walking.

Frimeso: What impact will the COVID crisis have on our mobility and transport habits in the long run? 

Randelhoff: COVID was a turning point for transport and mobility. By now, home office is seen as a possible alternative to traditional work at the office. In the long run, it’s likely that many people won’t have to come into the office every day but will work from home for one or two days a week.

For business travel, there seems to be the consensus that many one-day business trips for one meeting aren’t needed anymore. Digital possibilities are simply too great.


Climate protection as a central point of the shift in mobility and transport

Frimeso: Everybody talks about climate protection. So, what are the critical aspects of the German climate change policy concerning business travel and commuting?

Randelhoff: One of the top priorities is strengthening Deutsche Bahn by expanding its infrastructure and providing the funds to buy more trains. (Note: On this topic, refer to the interview with Jan-Wolf Baake, DB, Head of Sales for Business Clients.)

In road transport, a lot is being done for infrastructure development to charge electric vehicles with renewable electricity. However, there are still a number of questions to be answered here.

Frimeso: You write that CO2 emissions in transportation couldn’t be lowered yet. Why is that? 

Randelhoff: Since 1990, transport is the only sector we haven’t managed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for.

Our mileage has increased significantly since 1990. Potential savings from increasingly efficient engines were compensated by purchasing progressively larger vehicles. During the last years, we have benefited from an enormous level of prosperity. The result is that households now own several cars and enjoy traveling to distant countries by plane. In addition to that, there is much more exchange between companies in Germany. We also see an increased exchange of services and goods within the European single market. Equal rights for women, which were long overdue as such, resulted in two employees per household commuting to their workplace. Bottom line, there are several societal factors that you can’t simply solve using technology.


Gas is actually cheaper today than it was 18 years ago

Frimeso: You also mention that the current prices of CO2 have no incentive effect. How expensive does gas have to be for people to change their driving habits? 

Randelhoff: Charging for CO2 emissions in transportation would definitely have a positive incentive effect. Polluters would be charged with the consequential damage they caused. This creates incentives to reduce CO2 emissions.

With the energy tax, fuel taxation actually already exists. The intention was to guarantee that there would be an annual cost increase of 2%, either through an increase in the price of crude oil or through a corresponding increase in energy tax. In fact, the last time taxes were increased was 18 years ago. Due to inflation, gasoline and diesel are actually cheaper today than they were in 2003.

There would have to be a substantial increase in those CO2 prices. Introducing a CO2 price of 8 cents, as it’s planned, is far from sufficient. 


Electric cars: advantage through efficiency

Frimeso: Will electric cars completely replace  fossil-fuelled vehicles? Or are there still alternatives for competitive forms of propulsion?

Randelhoff: Both the EU‘s requirements and reconstructing measures within the automotive industry indicate that most new registrations will soon be for electric cars. Plus, various manufacturers have already announced that they are now developing the last generation of combustion engines.

For passenger cars, battery-powered engines have a big lead that nothing will be able to catch up with for a while.

Roughly speaking, there are two categories of engines: engines that run on fossil fuels and engines powered by renewable energies. Then, there are several subcategories. Each of these technologies has a different efficiency level and energy rate. The bottom line is that an electric car can go up to 4 kilometers further than a vehicle with a combustion engine and up to 8 kilometers further than a vehicle powered by synthetic fuel. Hydrogen and synthetic fuel will also be significantly more expensive due to costs for conversion and transportation.


<a href="https://www.freepik.com/photos/business">Business photo created by katemangostar - www.freepik.com</a>

The future of our cities – less space for cars, more space for others.

Frimeso: In the cities, the goal is to make people use public transport more or motivate them to use their bicycles. Looking at German cities, however, space is limited. How can this still work?

Randelhoff: When you aim to promote other means of transport, cars will have to give up space. This is done, for example, by creating more zones with a speed limit of 30 km/h or with structurally isolated infrastructures for the remaining modes of transport. Often, you can save on parking spaces or give up a moving walkway. It takes four months for people to get used to the new situation, and a new balance will be created. Today, cities are considered residential spaces, where a large part of economic activity occurs. To be competitive, cities have to become more attractive – thus, it’s not only a question of immediate environmental protection. 


“Electrification and automation will drastically change transportation.”

Frimeso: What will transport be like in 20 years?

Randelhoff: Electrification and automation will drastically change transportation.

The change in engines will be heard, seen, and smelled. Non-motorized transport and transport using LEVs (Light Electric Vehicles) will increase and diversify. Examples are e-scooters, e-motorcycles, e-bikes, air cabs in rural areas, or electric cabin scooters with 6 or 8 seats for public transport or private use.

For freight, we’ll see more drones and delivery bots on the streets. Rescue helicopters could be replaced by rescue drones. Yet, there won’t be a complete change in vertical transport mobility. It would simply cause too much of a stir to have aerial devices permanently flying overhead. In addition, these means of air transportation consume a lot of energy, which contradicts climate protection goals.

Automation of transportation will have an even more significant impact on transportation and private car ownership. Offering modern mobility involving autonomous vehicles will ensure that many people will do without their personal cars and the associated costs.  

Frimeso:  When will we be driving autonomously all over the country?

Randelhoff: I don’t want to dare make a prediction. Automation will first creep up on us with certain features of comfort and convenience that we already know today. Then, at a later stage, we will experience fully autonomous driving. But plenty is happening already. The company Waymo already offers fully automated ridesharing in the USA. Other companies like Gaussin in France are successful in truck container management automation. In Germany, legislators are already working on the first law to govern automated driving for real-world operations.

In addition to that, automated transport will need to be accepted socially. It will be necessary to determine how to utilize the advantages and minimize the disadvantages. For example, sensor technology will cause autonomous vehicles to travel slower than our passenger cars do today. If pedestrians know that a car will stop when they enter the roadway, they will take advantage of that. Will that be banned? Or will we end up with new versions of car-centric cities? Will we have to rebuild our cities to accommodate this? There is still a lot to be worked out there.


The future of business travel: Hotels will strongly be affected by automation. 

Frimeso: How will automation impact our way of traveling for work?

Randelhoff: Business travel transport will change drastically. There will be fewer domestic flights. Overnight stays in traditional hotels will lessen. At night, you will simply enter the sleeping cabin and take an overnight trip to your destination. In any case, it remains to be seen to what extent people will travel at all. Much will be possible with virtual reality from people’s offices or homes.  

However, as social beings, people will continue to travel, but trips will be more efficient.


I highly recommend the blog Zukunft Mobilität.
Anyone who wants to book Martin Randelhoff as a keynote speaker can find more information here.

© 2021 FRIMESO All rights reserved

Episode 4: Jan-Wolf Baake, Head of Sales for Business Clients, Deutsche Bahn (DB)

Trip Trap - Jan-Wolf Baake, DB

Business customers travel already today climate-neutral


About Jan-Wolf Baake: “At Deutsche Bahn, we’re all part of a big family.”

Following a long and successful career at Deutsche Bahn, Jan-Wolf Baake now leads DB’s corporate customer sales department. With his team, he assists DB’s approximately 32.000 business clients with planning business trips that are both affordable and efficient. Baake has previously gained experience in the company at DB Regio in North Rhine-Westphalia and in DB’s long-distance transport division where he worked on price strategy and price development. Baake is a true “Bahner,” a railroad enthusiast who knows all aspects of DB’s railroad universe.

A tourism manager by degree, he enjoys traveling by train himself and even enjoyed “comfort status” before starting his DB career. In his opinion, a train is a “nice mode of transport, with which you can manage your time well.” Of course, there are also situations where a train isn’t the most convenient means of travel when traveling extremely long distances, for example. Nevertheless, he generally prefers taking the train even in his private life. He also likes to use the train for work and even does without a company car.

He adds that the “Mythos Bahn” the “railroad myth” really exists and feels that the staff is like one big family. There is a pronounced atmosphere of togetherness. This has been especially apparent during times of crisis like the Corona pandemic. At Deutsche Bahn, people stick together and lend each other a helping hand. Baake says it’s nice to work in a company like that. That feeling of “togetherness” is what DB tries to convey to its customers, too.


DB’s Corona measures: “The risk of infection on trains is no higher than in normal, everyday life.”

Frimeso: For the safety of its customers and employees, Deutsche Bahn has implemented extensive hygiene measures. What are the critical aspects of those measures?

Baake: There are multiple vital aspects: We have increased security during travels, reduced infection paths, and promoted hygiene measures.

Our measures concern the station and the vehicles. In addition to ample dispensers for disinfectant, there are markings for distancing and regular announcements about the obligation to wear a mask. We have hired additional security personnel to pay extra attention to compliance with those measures.

We clean our trains regularly. In addition to that, cleaning them on the road during long-distance journeys has intensified. Surfaces that are frequently touched are cleaned every two hours. There are over 4.300 employees tasked with cleaning trains and stations. At on-board bistros, only prepackaged takeaway food will be offered until further notice. Specific seats will be kept unoccupied as far as possible.

Our app DB Navigator enables contactless booking, payment, and check-in. This way, passengers don’t even have to present their ticket anymore.

However, Deutsche Bahn also counts on passengers to take responsibility for themselves. It’s only possible if we work together. At the moment, everything works very well, which, of course, is aided by fewer long-distance journeys during the crisis. In local transport, challenges are still present at peak times. But social distancing now works well even in those instances.

As far as the risk of infection, in general, is concerned, it’s very low in local transport, despite the fuller trains, thanks to regular ventilation. In long-distance traffic, security has been increased due to excellent ventilation systems. According to a study of Charité and DB, our train attendants are at lower risk of infection when wearing a mask than our employees elsewhere. The risk of infection on trains is no higher than in normal, everyday life.


Copyright: Deutsche Bahn AG / Volker Emersleben

The key advantages of traveling by train: Using your traveling time, flexibility, and local transport ticket availability in cities

Frimeso: Aside from aspects concerning climate protection that I want to ask you about in detail later, what are the general advantages of traveling by train?

Baake: Traveling time becomes useable time. Customers can do whatever they want during their journey. Customers have time to themselves. For many, trips are divided into three parts. One is usually spent on food and reading the paper. Next, there is a part where people will take a breather or catnap for a while. Finally, they will spend a part of their journey preparing for or following up on a business meeting.

This advantage is especially evident for routes with a traveling time of three to four hours. Those are traveling times for which we compete for most with airplanes, which would take maybe an hour for the same distance. When traveling by plane, I have to get in line, board, and sit down for a relatively short time before getting off again. Big airports like the one in Munich or Berlin-Brandenburg aren’t in the city. A central train station is.

Also, we have ensured wide availability of local transport fares within our DB-Navigator app. This way, you can also add a ticket for local transport to your booking.

WiFi on trains continues to improve, as well. Admittedly, it’s not possible for everyone to stream a movie at the same time. On our high-speed trains, the latest technology is still hitting its limits. But it’s enough to do some work.

Another advantage is the frequency, the high speed, and the associated great flexibility when traveling. If my business appointment takes longer than planned, it’s often possible to take the next train no more than an hour later. On the Hamburg-Berlin route, we now operate a half-hourly service. Taking the train is almost like commuting with the S-Bahn (local transport).

Frimeso:  bahn.business has over 30.000 business clients: How do you divide them and who are your customers?

Baake:  Generally, we are in constant exchange with our customers, regardless of scale, i.e., even with the smallest companies. For instance, we offer educational events and webinars about our programs and topics such as our security concepts. The medium-sized segment is served by our account and business service. Our key accounts have a dedicated contact at our company. These customers usually operate their own travel management. This is where Deutsche Bahn caters to travel management on the one hand and the actual traveler on the other. We also work with strategic customers with whom we want to tackle issues collaboratively. A separate department takes care of corporate bodies, public administration, the federal government, and the Bundesländer – regional states. Our biggest customers are the federal government and the German Armed Forces.

Using this division, we can best meet all needs.


Focusing not only on conventional business trips: The future is holistic

Frimeso:  bahn.business arbeitet mit den Unternehmen vor allem auch bei Fragen der allgemeinen Berufsmobilität und des Pendelns zusammen.  In unserem Vorgespräch sprachen Sie bildlich in diesem Zusammenhang von einem ganzen Bauchladen, mit dem Sie in die Unternehmen gehen.

Baake: That describes it quite well. We have a wide range of mobility services that far exceeds traveling by train or bus, e.g., Call a Bike or our car-sharing service Flinkster.

The trend is shifting toward a holistic approach to corporate mobility. So it’s not just about conventional business trips, but also about how employees return to the company. We discuss several issues with companies, all the way to questions of location and the associated requirements for special connections. We also discuss sustainability issues, where service companies in particular often still create a negative carbon footprint. As far as technical solutions are concerned, we offer the mobility budget Bonvoyo as an app. Such negotiations are always extensive and exciting. We often also cooperate with business partners to ensure a holistic approach.


Commuting: DB Regio’s relationship with private providers “We are partners!”

Frimeso:  How could you describe the relationship between the Deutsche Bahn subsidiary DB Regio and other regional providers? Concerning the rail network, how do you structure this relationship, and to what extent do you align your timetables with those of your competitors for transfer times?

Baake: Local transport is ordered by the responsible authorities through tendering. Those tenders describe how frequently a train should run on a particular route. DB Regio is a contender in a competitive process. We win and lose in this process for many different reasons. However, following the procedure, we are always a partner focusing on the customer’s needs. Because only if the network system works, we’ll achieve the common goal of getting people out of their cars and onto rails. That is only possible, if we provide a good enough offer to people, that they will decide to use our services. You can see this in our interconnected tariffs. It’s absolutely irrelevant which company people travel with.


The “last mile” is a challenge: Including other means of transport when booking business trips.

Frimeso: One of the most significant issues with conventional business trips seems to be that while it’s possible to get from Munich to Frankfurt quickly if you need to go further into the countryside, it will often take longer. What is Deutsche Bahn doing to solve this strategic problem?

Baake:  We are aware that the “last mile” is one of our challenges. This also applies to traveling by plane, however. The key competitor here is traveling by car, which can be used to drive to the destination. That is why we try to include other means of travel like bikes, car-sharing or scooters so that people can book them easily using our systems.


DB’s important role in climate protection: Climate-neutral business travelers!

Frimeso: The train is considered to be the most environmentally friendly way to travel. According to their own statements, Deutsche Bahn has committed itself to the ambitious goal of achieving climate neutrality by 2050. You’ve already achieved a lot in this regard: comparing 2006 to 2019, you reduced emissions by 35%. How did you accomplish this, and what are other milestones in your strategy for sustainability?

Baake: We are Germany’s top electricity consumer. That is why we can’t switch all usage to ecological power overnight. There just isn’t enough supply. We are cooperating with energy suppliers systematically and we are also working on generating electricity ourselves. The path to an ever-higher share of renewable energy is unstoppable.

Apart from procurement, challenges are ensuring that it’s really ecological power we’re using. Aside from that, there are routes where locomotives are still diesel-powered today. This is where we are looking to find alternative means of propulsion, such as hydrogen-powered vehicles.

We also provide companies with proof of the sustainability of their travel and work with them to assess their carbon footprint in the context of occupational mobility.

Because the need for sustainability is particularly high among companies, all our business customer tickets are 100% tied to eco-power. The electricity used by business customers is covered by the feed-in of renewable energy. For diesel routes, we purchase additional compensatory electricity to cover business travels. Business passengers’ travels are climate-neutral with Deutsche Bahn. Businesses can count on that!


Frimeso: To what extent does training your employees play a role in climate-friendly operations? How big of a role does the utilization of the network play?

Baake:  We do a lot when it comes to sustainability. It starts with recyclable coffee cups and ends with minimizing the usage of resources. We are the number one user of electricity in Germany. We can’t just ask ourselves where electricity comes from, but we have to see to avoid its usage. This applies to our buildings, but also to our vehicles. For example, we train our vehicle drivers in energy-efficient driving. On the Frankfurt-Cologne route, this can save the amount of power used by a multi-family house in a year.

Utilization also plays a role. We are focusing on this, just as we are working on the optimized frequency and an efficient railway network.


The future of Deutsche Bahn: DB will continue to rise

Frimeso: What will be DB’s share in the future transport mix of cars, planes, and trains?

Baake: Deutsche Bahn will play an even more significant part in the mixed means of transportation. In addition to the topic of sustainability, issues of individualization and being mobile quicker are relevant. In the short term, we’ll see a significant increase in short-distance cross-border routes. Some people still think that to get to nearby destinations abroad, it’s better to use the plane, even though it’s quick and easy to get from Düsseldorf to Amsterdam by train without noticing the border.


© 2021 FRIMESO All rights reserved

Episode 3: Tristan A. Foerster, Managing Director of ClimatePartner

Klimaschutz. Tristan Foerster, ClimatePartner

The pandemic affects our grandparents. Climate change affects our grandchildren

About: Tristan A. Foerster

After holding many responsible positions in different industries, ranging from business consultancy to finance and digital services, in early 2010, Tristan A. Foerster decided to significantly help fashion the success of ClimatePartner as their co-CEO.

ClimatePartner bietet Klimaschutzlösungen, mit denen Unternehmen ihre CO2-Emissionen berechnen und reduzieren, Klimaschutzstrategien umsetzen und die unvermeidbaren Emissionen durch Klimaschutzprojekte ausgleichen können.

Tristan Foerster has traveled a lot during his career. He likes traveling. He also stresses that he “virtually draws energy from contact with other people.” Due to the company’s many offices and their clients’ expressed interest in meeting with a decision-maker during contract negations, Mr. Foerster still travels regularly. During the pandemic, however, many clients have concluded that travel isn’t quite as important anymore.

ClimatePartner values climate-friendly travel as an internal priority. During our conversation, Mr. Foerster emphasizes the merits of traveling by train, “as long as it doesn’t take more than 5 hours”. In addition to that, Tristan Foerster usually plans his itinerary so that he can attend several meetings. However, if it cannot be avoided, employees travel by airplane, as well. Emissions caused by those trips that cannot be avoided are compensated through the support of carbon offset projects.


The progression of an entire industry over time: “Children have changed the world!”

Frimeso:  Who are your clients, and how widespread is the general consciousness to take on climate action in businesses? Has the mindset concerning this changed over time?

Foerster: We provide custom solutions for over 3.000 business clients in more than 30 countries at this time. We have an enormous spectrum of clients. Among them are retailers and freelancers to major corporations. We provide custom solutions for over 3.000 business clients in more than 30 countries at this time. We have an enormous spectrum of clients. Among them are retailers and freelancers to major corporations.

When I first started my work, it was mostly middle-class family businesses that positively and actively contribute to protect the climate. Those clients put an emphasis on economic and social sustainability.

We could convince more and more companies that you can achieve a competitive advantage by taking on climate action through the years. You can broaden your target audience by outwardly conveying social values such as protecting the environment and climate in addition to sales and profits.

Two trends have helped to put climate action on the companies’ agenda once and for all: On the one hand, since 2018, businesses have to file “non-financial reporting” containing their carbon footprint, according to the EU directive a sustainability report of sorts. Even though this regulation only affects big companies that had usually already generated those types of reports before 2018, those companies approached their suppliers to ask about their carbon footprint as well, to round out their report. Consequently, we also work with a lot of small and medium-sized businesses.

On the other hand, when a 16-year-old girl named Greta Thunberg took to the streets in 2018 and started the “Fridays for Future” movement, this influenced the overall mindset regarding climate change and protecting our climate once more. Often, the decision-makers are parents who further discuss this topic at home, in a private context, with their children on strike from school. Children have changed the world. And this has resonated with no less than executives.


Climate-neutral business travel by way of entrepreneurial involvement in carbon offset projects

Frimeso: How can a company ensure climate-neutral travels? What are some projects to compensate emissions in this context?

Foerster: Let’s discuss the meaning of the term “climate-neutral” first. We can’t do anything without causing CO2 emissions. For a company providing services, business travel is the most significant cause of CO2 emissions, making up about 60 to 80% of the grand total.

Being climate-neutral doesn’t mean doing something “free of CO2“. Instead, it implies that first I know how much CO2 I am causing by doing something, and then do my best to keep that emission as small as possible. Those emissions that I cannot avoid, I compensate through carbon offset projects established in developing and emerging countries. Those are actually projected to aid development that, while helping to reduce CO2 emissions locally, at the same time improve life for people there. So climate-neutrality is created by way of balancing generated and prevented CO2 emissions.

Frimeso: How exactly do you work with your clients to develop a concept that enables climate-neutral travel?

Foerster:  Three steps: evaluation, avoiding emissions, and compensation

First, we engage in evaluation with our clients. Using our tool, we call up business travel data and then calculate the companies’ CO2 emissions. The best way to save emissions, of course, is to not generate them in the first place. Thus, we subsequently work out a concept to prevent emissions. Many business trips are necessary and can’t simply be cut out. This part is mostly about how the trip is conducted. The remaining amount of emissions at the end can be compensated with so-called carbon offset projects.

Frimeso: Can you name some specific examples for what a project like that is typically like? Does ClimatePartner also develop such projects?

Foerster:  Some examples are projects to protect forests, where we plant trees that can absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. We also organize projects for prevention, like the usage of clean cooking supplies. Generally speaking, development aid is complex. Facilitating access to clean water for people in cooperation with our partners prevents the emission of CO2 on the one hand. On the other, it allows people to take time to pursue orderly work. Because without that drinking water, people often have no other choice but to boil the water with wood they have spent the whole day collecting.

At this time, ClimatePartner offers about 100 active projects. Beyond that, we have access to about 3.000 other projects. We also develop our own propositions with our partners now. Companies can also aim for their own projects.

Frimeso: Who creates those criteria, audits them, and certifies those projects as approved projects?

Foerster: Some NGOs are specialized in defining criteria to determine what a carbon offset project actually is. Adherence to that criteria is then ensured by specific control frameworks.

There are four basic principles:

1) A project has to ensure a permanent reduction of CO2 emissions.

2) A project has to be made feasible through additional financing in the first place. It would make no sense to additionally fund a project that is already profitable.

3) The same certificate cannot be used for two different companies. In this context, the projects cannot be established in industrialized countries in Europe because those are already under the obligation to reduce or prevent emissions by law.

4) Carbon offset projects are regularly audited and certified by independent third-party bodies, typically by an auditor contracted by TÜV, SGS, or others. This ensures that those reductions have actually taken place retrospectively.


“It can be emotional to see how those projects improve people’s lives for the better.”

Frimeso: Are there any projects that are particularly close to your heart?

Foerster: That’s hard to say. Projects are often distinct and personal. Fates depend on them. It can be emotional to see how those projects improve people’s lives for the better. Let’s use the run-of-the-river power plants that we are building in the Congo as an example. No more than 3% of the population had access to electricity until now. Remote areas now having access to electricity, thanks to the new power plants, don’t just create jobs. All of a sudden, people have light at night. There are new possibilities that alter the lives of many people. The same project also supports the Virunga Nationalpark, where the last wild mountain gorillas dwell.

When it comes to forest protection projects, we involve the population to protect and retain forests rather than deforested for a quick buck. We teach those people to practice forestry and thus use the forest to generate income, such as cultivating Brazil nuts in Brazil. People can, in turn, live off of that. They become part of the project. That way, forests aren’t lumbered for a change.

I personally am a fan of protecting forests and projects involving reforestation because it’s a natural way to restore or secure an ecosystem.


The label “Climate-neutral business travel” For more external transparency

Frimeso: ClimatePartner also certifies “climate-neutral business travel” using a label. How does that work?

Foerster: At the end of the process, the company receives a label that indicates climate-neutral business travel specifically. This label also contains an ID that shows the amount of CO2 calculated and which carbon offset project was used to compensate for that. This conveys the transparency of balance to the outside.

Frimeso: There are travel management companies amongst your clients?

Foerster:  That’s right. We do work with travel management companies and companies in travel expense accounting, who can offer their respective customers climate-neutral business travel.


Climate action in times of the COVID pandemic

Frimeso: The COVID pandemic undoubtedly has had positive effects on released CO2 emissions, although all of us are looking forward to finally be on the road again. To what extent has the COVID pandemic affected ClimatePartner? Has the interest in climate action stayed unchanged?

Foerster: ClimatePartner is doing very well because the topic is increasingly becoming key and relevant, and more and more companies want to act on it. The demand for climate action even increased during the pandemic. Some industries are greatly affected by it and are not looking into sustainability topics at this stage because they simply have other things to do. This involves the travel and food sectors and the hotel industry. On the other hand, however, many consumer goods companies are strategically repositioning themselves concerning climate change.

The pandemic shows us that such topics cannot be tackled by one country or company alone. It’s a worldwide topic that we have to face and solve together. It’s a similar story with climate action. It’s a problem that is already showing its consequences, which will only worsen if we do not act on it. We won’t be able to tackle it alone; we’ll have to tackle it together. The pandemic affects our grandparents. Climate change affects our grandchildren. People are starting to become aware of that.

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Episode 2: Hans-Ingo Biehl, Executive Director of the “GeschäftsreiseVerband VDR”

Hans-Ingo Biehl:  Executive Director and Athlete

Frimeso: Could you please introduce yourself?

Biehl: My name is Hans-Ingo Biehl. I am 62 years old, married, father of two children, and live in Darmstadt. I am working for the VDR, headquartered in Frankfurt/ Main, since 2002. I already worked in the Business Travel industry previously.

Frimeso: Do you often travel in your capacity as Managing Director of the VDR, outside the context of the current pandemic?

Biehl:  I do. We have seven regional branches. I try to be there as often as I can.  I am also regularly visiting political Berlin, and I travel to Brussels.

Frimeso: I have read with great interest that you support the one and only FC Bayern Munich? Can you explain why?

Biehl: I was born and raised in Darmstadt. Hence my heart belongs also to our local club SV 98 Darmstadt who I played for.  But I have always been a great admirer of FC Bayern. As an eight-year-old, my family and I were on holiday at a lake in Bavaria. I got the chance to watch a friendly that ended at 25:2. Gerd Müller came to us boys after the game and handed me his shirt. The shirt has worn off over the years, but I have kept the emblem up to this day.

Frimeso: You already mentioned your past as a footballer. What else do you practice?

Biehl: In the past, I was focusing on ballgames. After football, I played basketball in the second national league. Today you find me at times on a golf course. I play Tennis and try to stay as active as possible.  I also like running. Sport is part of my weekly routine.  Sport gehört zu meinem Wochen-Rhythmus dazu.


The Business Travel Organisation VDR

Frimeso:  The name VDR stands for the German term, “Association for German Travel Management” The name does not include the phrase “Business Travels.” How did this name come about?

Biehl: The VDR evolved from the Idea of establishing an interest group to organize the corporate travel departments. In 1974, eight travel department managers joined forces and formed a club of travel managers who then evolved into the VDR.

Many people are still not familiar with the term “travel management.” We have nothing to do with private travels.  We are not a travel agency. We do not offer any services for travelers. However, we are an interest group for those commercial enterprises who are sending their employees on business trips.  We help to establish the right frameworks and also guide our members to efficiently organizing such travels.

We successfully positioned the VDR within our industry as a brand.  But we also positioned ourselves as Germany’s “Business Travel Organisation.

Frimeso:  With what kinds of companies do you typically work? Are these larger enterprises or SMEs?

Biehl: Generally speaking, any company can become a member with a particular entity dedicated to the organization of business travels.

We work with a wide range of companies. We work with large DAX corporations as well as with SMEs. SMEs often employ one assistant who is organizing business travels. In these cases, we work with the assistant as our principal point of contact. In DAX companies, Business Trips are organized by entire departments of 10 to 15 people. These departments are not comparable to travel agencies, though. They rather function as strategic travel planners who design travel guidelines. Furthermore, they establish the criteria under which travel can occur, and they relentlessly optimize the internal travel processes.  These core responsibilities are what we refer to as Travel Management.


A network that is helping everyone

Frimeso: One of the many benefits of becoming a member may be your vast network. What makes your network so unique?

Biehl:  We offer a platform where travel managers from different companies can exchange information regarding their business. A travel manager from Siemens can talk to the travel manager from Mercedes. A travel manager from an SME can have useful exchanges with travel managers from other medium-sized enterprises.

These exchanges are precious for our members. They discuss issues like: “Who has already implemented a worldwide credit card as the payment method? What are your experiences, and what do you have to consider?”


Communication as one of the VDR’s key responsibilities

Frimeso: Your website is well structured. Your association is also active on Social Media. You have a fantastic Podcast. It seems that the VDR has a strong emphasis on communication and on the creation of quality content?

Biehl:  We need to provide information in a contemporary manner. In terms of PR and communication, we have always been recognized.  Over the past 10 years, Social Media has become a precious channel. Insofar, we are doing much more than what we did only 10 years ago.

A good communication strategy is crucial for our members. They regularly feedback to us that they depend on receiving high-quality information for them to be able to do a great job.


VDR Business Travel Report: The Standard Text of a whole industry

Frimeso: The VDR annually issues a comprehensive report of the German Business Travel industry’s current state. Why do you spend so many resources on gathering and analyzing all these various figures and statistics?

Biehl: The VDR Business Travel Report has genuinely evolved into the standard reference oeuvre for the industry, acknowledged by our politicians as well as by our economy.

We conduct representative interviews with 800 organizations all over Germany. These organizations base their replies on their internal travel expense systems. Only companies with at least 10 employees can participate. Hence the report does not cover the independent architect traveling to a larger construction site in Germany.  The information is also covering relevant hot topics and trends.

Key data for 2019: In 2019, 13 Million people traveled for German companies 200 Million times and expensed € 55,3 Billion.


The pandemic will have severe consequences in the fiscal year 2020 (and also in FY 2021).

Frimeso:  These figures will show a different picture for 2020.  Can you already be more precise about the pandemic’s expected impact on the German Business Travel industry?

Biehl:  We have developed a barometer by which we survey every two to three weeks the industry’s general sentiment.

Last month, business traveling was at 10 % by comparison to the same month of the preceding year.  We also expect restrained activities for 2021. We assume that 20% will return. At the end of the day, everything will depend on developments around COVID. There are also regional differences that we will have to consider.

The situation is generally obscure. Some weeks ago, for example, some German regions temporarily prohibited lodging people coming from areas with high infection rates. Companies refrain from traveling rather than having to worry about their employee not being allowed to stay overnight or having to isolate himself for a week upon his return.


Digital Transformation will change the world of business travels for good. However, it will not entirely replace the need for human interaction.

Frimeso:  Do you expect a full recovery of the business travel segment? If so, when do you think this will happen?

Biehl: am afraid that, at this stage, we are not able to predict what exactly is going to happen. However, we do expect to see a timely recovery. Will it be as it was before the pandemic? I honestly doubt that.  Many companies learn to use digital tools to their full potential and understand that many things can be done onsite. Companies will scrutinize the necessity of flights to Berlin to join a business lunch more than they perhaps did before the pandemic. A certain percentage of business trips will not take place any more.

Frimeso:  However, onsite meetings, combined with the opportunity to interact face-to-face, will always be necessary. Direct sessions instill closeness, whereas the possibilities of building solid customer relationships with video conferencing seem to be limited. Do you agree?

Biehl: This is true. Collaborating via Zoom is possible. Even Staff appraisals are now done via Zoom. But the outcome of these meetings is more successful. If you already personally know the other person. I agree that when you have not developed a feel for the customer yet, an onsite meeting will be more fruitful. Hence, onsite sessions and personal interactions will always be necessary. However, we will have to wait and see whether these meetings’ frequency will remain the same.

In any case, the business travel sector will reposition itself. Many companies will examine whether their employees will have to travel as often as before the pandemic.


Business Travelers willing to spend more than vacationers

Frimeso:  Your analysis also concludes that business travelers spend €169 / day on average, whereas a vacationer spends barely half. Do you know why?

Biehl: Companies reimburse all expenses of a business traveler. He may be inclined to choose a restaurant he would not go to if he were on holiday.  One of the main reasons may be, though, that often vacationers benefit from all-inclusive holiday packages.


The critical political concerns of the VDR: Achieve optimal conditions by reducing administrative constraints, simplify travel management and travel sustainably

Frimeso: You do have a Political Agenda. How does it look like? Which issues are most critical for the VDR’s?

Biehl: We discuss with the political representatives all administrative and legal conditions that impact our industry. Mind you that this segment is generating a lot of money. Furthermore, we create awareness for any Travel Management related issues.  We analyze and discuss tax regulations. We develop strategies for climate-neutral traveling. In short, we try to be involved in any political decision-making process.  We are also positioning specific issues in Berlin and Brussels and emphasize our willingness to help.


Better travel conditions for SMEs thanks to V-Kon

Frimeso: What are the core services that you offer your members?

Biehl:   Just to point out a view, with V-Kon, we do offer better travel conditions for SMEs. SMEs benefit from bulk purchase savings negotiated by us with airlines and rental car companies. Most of the larger companies have arranged their own skeleton agreements. Smaller companies, however, can benefit from similar reductions by joining the VDR.

We also answer any sorts of legal and tax-related queries. We submit these kinds of questions to our legal advisor. We do offer a whole range of additional services.


The challenging role of a travel manager: Working where leadership and employee interests converge

Frimeso:  You also organize a job fair for travel managers. What kind of skills are required for the Travel Manager to be successful?

Biehl: The job profile has changed considerably over recent years. Back then, travel managers were focusing on operational tasks like the booking of employees’ travels.  Today, travel managers are strategists who draft general travel frameworks and guidelines. He or she also has to communicate all changes in travel policies internally.

The Travel Manager manages the company’s expenses for travels. He will often have to answer queries like why travel expenses are still higher than they have been in previous fiscal years. At the same time, he will have to explain to his staff members why they suddenly cannot travel first class anymore.  A travel manager’s position is undoubtedly demanding, let alone because you always try to reduce costs.

The travel manager must be a good communicator with a strategic mindset.

Frimeso: Companies also can work with a third-party provider as their travel manager. What is your thought on that?

Biehl: This is possible too. Some external TMCs (Travel Management companies) assume also travel management responsibilities. The challenge remains, however, that such processes are best controlled from within the company.  Outsourcing your entire travel management function is risky.

We instead suggest that at least one employee should be in charge of travel strategies. Third-party providers can then help to implement those strategies.  Decisions related to travel criteria and guidelines should be made in-house.

Frimeso: Who can become a member of the VDR?

Biehl:  Any company with an organizational entity dedicated to the organization of business travels can become a member.

You can reach us via https://www.vdr-service.de. There you will also find all information that you may be looking for.
We also regularly organize events concerning business travels. Also, non-members can register. We are currently running these events virtually.


© 2020 FRIMESO All rights reserved

Episode 1: A chat with Christian Kläs


The concept of work-live balance also applies to business travel

My wife, Julia, discusses with me my latest project Frimeso and the new Podcast Series TripTrap. I am just briefly summarising the first part where we talk about myself and Frimeso. The second part deals with my take on Business Trips.


Me, Frimeso, TripTrap

About me:  My wife and I have lived in several foreign countries until we finally settled in the “Greater Region,” with Luxembourg being at the center. We are familiar with issues concerning mobility and also commuting. We commuted for years from France into Luxemburg city and spent countless hours in urban railways or metros of various cities in previous years. Sales, forging client relationships, and working in international corporations go hand in hand with traveling.

I worked for many years directly and indirectly for the digital media industry, dedicating myself to content discoverability and media technology. During my last tenure, I was fortunate enough to learn more about the fascinating world of Inflight Entertainment, Entertainment in Hotels, and -to a lesser degree- in automotive.

About Frimeso:  Frimeso supports content creators in any way possible. We live in a time where anyone who creates content professionally is automatically turning into an independent entrepreneur. He or she will have to deal with all sorts of things that prevent him/her from his/her actual work. We do so by focusing on particular target groups, as we strive to create synergy effects for our customers. Knowing the specific communities our customers are engaged in helps us achieve great things with our customers.

About Trip Trap: This podcast addresses business travellers, commuters, genuinely interested people, and professionals that deal with the travel industry in their daily lives. Every fortnight, we will be talking to diverse people who will be sharing their insights on the business travel industry. Listening to your podcast shall be entertaining and informative at the same time.


How to define “Business Travellers”?

Christian: There are various ways of defining “Business travelers.” For me, these are people who are away on business, regardless of whether for some hours or some days. It also does not matter whether you travel nationally or you go overseas.

I have observed, however, a difference between younger and more seasoned travelers. I am not referring so much to the actual age but each traveler’s domestic situation. Young people often have not yet started their families. They love to travel frequently and regularly. Older travelers sometimes prefer to stay home taking care of their children. That is not to say that they do not like to travel. But the initial enthusiasm often yields to the reality of every day’s life.


A business trip must be rewarding: Good Planning is essential!

Julia (from now on, Frimeso): What does the perfect business trip look like for you?

Christian: A trip must be rewarding. A good outcome is not always synonymous with economic success alone. But I should feel that something good has come around during a trip, even if just on a personal level, for example, when you realize that you have been able to establish a meaningful and lasting relationship with a customer. Such trips should not span over the weekend, which happened often enough in my professional life. I do not want to complain, though. There are many professions where people work on the weekend.

Frimeso: What does a traveler have to consider in everyday traveling life?

Christian: Actually, there is a lot to consider when planning your trip.

If you have a family, somebody will have to take care of your kids. We do, fortunately, live in times where the significant others live independent lives from each other. However, you will have to discuss planned travel schedules with your family. Generally, I am always asking myself whether I will be spending enough time with my children during travel weeks. Spending enough quality time with the family should matter to my children and me because I want to see them growing up. Hence, when organizing any trips, I always try to get my priorities right: Family First!

You will also have to decide on the right means of transportation. Should you go by car or train or should you fly? Often enough, choices are limited as they depend on your travel destination and any available connections.

The art of efficiently organizing your meetings may be another challenge: A common pitfall is to underestimate distances between meetings’ locations. If you have an appointment in North London, for instance, and you scheduled your next meeting somewhere in the south of the city, you will have to factor in enough time for your transport. I have often misjudged distances, which naturally causes additional pressure.

Networking: I am personally not a big fan of enormous functions, especially in the evenings. They are undoubtedly necessary to attend. But I always found it more useful to socialize in smaller groups.

Booking the trip or (getting it done by your travel manager) is also an important issue.

If you are going overseas, you should be knowledgeable about the business culture you immerse into. It is great to master a foreign language. But being fluent in German, English, or French is not enough. You also have to know how things work in other countries. Being knowledgeable about other cultures also applies to national business trips since every organization maintains its own corporate culture. Learn about your customers first! It already happened to me that, in one round, I was the only one in a costume and vice versa, where I was the only one in jeans.

Since we live in an era of climate change, one should also evaluate whether every trip is necessary.


Carefree traveling produces business success

Frimeso: You were always mentioning that the most important thing for you is your composure while traveling. How can you achieve being relaxed on a business trip?

Christian: First, I was trying to avoid at any cost to leave the house early at 5.00 am. I learned the hard way that being sleep deprived while traveling would make it difficult for me to stay focused during a long day of meetings. As already mentioned, being relaxed also depends on whether you have calculated the transportation time between meeting locations. It is also helpful to come prepared for your meetings. Finally, If there is an urgent matter on your office desk that needs your attention, you will most likely take it along on your trip, which jeopardizes your next trip’s successful outcome.


Frimeso: Your goal not to leave home at 5.00 am did not work out well for you! Why not?

Christian: It often is inevitable considering that the host organizes many meetings. One has to go along with that.


Frimeso: How important is a good hotel?

Christian: I am not very demanding with regards to the hotel category. Since I am not always traveling by car, the actual location of the hotel is critical. A hotel must be clean, obviously. Friendly staff and a TV in my room are crucial too. Business travellers are critical to hotels in general. Many larger hotel chains have particular dealings with companies or commercial travel portals. It helps if you feel comfortable and looked after.


Frimeso: You were not always relaxed while traveling, mostly when you were about to board an aircraft. How come?

Christian: To be honest, I am generally anxious before boarding. I do not appreciate the feeling when taking off. It is not as bad as it sounds, though. I am through with it as soon as we are hitting the ground. I even have similar anxiety while being on a TGV, depending on the train’s actual speed. I bet that travel anxiety concerns many more frequent travelers than one would assume. Do you not believe me? Just look around in your cabin next time you are landing. I do not have a degree in psychology. Still, we are most of the time not talking about a classical form of anxiety concerning frequent travelers, but rather about a way of “sensitivity.” I have learned to control it and can work calmly, even during a flight. At the apex of the terrorist attacks some years ago, I remember a constant uneasiness in crowded public places like train stations or on trade shows. I remember unconsciously screening situations and other people’s behavior, which was irrational. I did not talk about these issues to anyone in my company. It did not bother me all too much. Furthermore, it seemed silly considering that everyone else was continually traveling also, many even more than I.


Frimeso: What else do you do to relax?

Christian: I think it is essential to organize yourself a bit of free time on a trip, especially if you are away for multiple days. When you happen to be in a city where you have some old friends living, meet them in the evening. It is nice to be able to meet someone outside of the context of your daily work. I also like to go out with colleagues, and I indeed enjoy an evening in my hotel room just with a cold beer and a good movie on the TV.

Something that did not work all too well was doing sport during a trip. I like running. But just for practical reasons, I most often traveled without my running shoes. I have always tried to get my bag through as cabin luggage, which results in my running shoes staying at home. I believe, however, that exercising during your trip helps you offsetting the daily pressure. It’s good to keep healthy and fit.

After all, the concept of Work-Live Balance also applies to Business Travels.


© 2021 FRIMESO All rights reserved


Why this podcast – Trip Trap?

This podcast is intended to provide a forum for travelers but also for those who are in some way involved with the topic. We want to find out together how you can meet the typical challenges of everyday travel.

Every two weeks, I introduce you to people who travel, commute or are otherwise related to the subject of business travel.


The underestimated economic power of the business travel industry

According to Statista, the number of business trips by German companies increased steadily between 2009 and 2019. We have reached almost 200 million business trips a year and this figure does not even include the many travel activities from commuters. The Association of German Travel Management (VDR) calculates on its homepage that in 2019, 55.3 billion euros were spent on business trips.

Obviously, the numbers for 2020 will be significantly lower. Many digital products that can replace a meeting, for example, have now reached absolute mainstream. Nevertheless, it remais very unlikely that business travel will be significantly reduced in the long term given our internationalized economy.

The major aircraft manufacturers are already giving us an indication of this. Airbus, for example, expects a full economic recovery by 2023. But even if it may take a little bit longer and this prediction affects air travel in general and not just business travel, it gives aa good indication that players of the travel industry are well prepared for the recovery.

And even if this boundless optimism may not be shared by everyone in the industry, the topic of business travel remains relevant for Germany as an export nation, as well as for Austria and Switzerland. So many jobs depend on this market …

There are now many great portals and blogs that deal with these topics.


Questions we will tackle over the next weeks

When does a business trip make sense? What do I have to consider during the booking? How can your company save money in the organisation of business trips? To what extent can and will video conferences replace on-site meetings beyond the Corona period?

We will equally talk to affected travelers: How do I travel relaxed and how can I combine work and pleasure ? Which means of transport is the right one for me? How do I give presentations in another language?
Or also: How many people in the DACH region are affected by constantly having to commute to their workplace. And how is your day-to-day work like under such conditions?

But all of this is only the tip of the iceberg!


Thank you for being there.

We wish you a nice trip!