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Lighthouse during storm

Providing a first-class response during Storm Arwen. 

SSE, a UK-listed energy company, appointed us to manage their travel, accommodation and venue find requirements almost 12 years ago. As with any UK Weather event, SSE need to know that we would once again be on-hand and have the resource readily available 24/7 to support them following the biggest storm of this decade.
 

Objectives.

On the 26th and 27th of November 2021, Storm Arwen (a powerful extratropical cyclone) brought severe winds across the UK, with gusts of up to 100 miles per hour, causing power outages affecting more than 1 million homes. It was described by the Met Office as “one of the most powerful and damaging winter storms of the last decade”. It brought high winds, disruptive gales, snow and rain to Scotland and Northern England.

 

SSE had an immediate requirement to source overnight accommodation for their engineers and mobile workforce who were needed to repair the damage Storm Arwen had caused.

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I'm just so proud of our team, with huge demand on our offline and Out of Hours team, they booked 4,085 out of a total of 4,669 nights (87%) - what a great effort, and thank you to everyone who supported on this, your dedication and hard work has not gone unnoticed!  

Lisa Swithenbank, Account Manager

Results.

To put it into perspective what our team achieved with SSE over those five days, they successfully managed 918 bookings, totalling 5,218 room nights over 62 locations - providing a first-class response. In comparison to the next largest storm in 2019 which saw 394 bookings across just 11 locations.

"A shining example of why our customers work with us.  The collaboration, expertise and ability to deliver such high-volume room nights and travel requirements at short notice ensured SSE had their own employees and engineers in the right places to deliver a service to their own customers, many of which were without electricity. Business travel is so much more than people in 'suits', it’s a service that is fundamental in connecting a business with its customers and keeping the country’s infrastructure operating in times of adversity."

Leanne Fowler, Director of Account Management, Agiito

Number of bookings

918

Support team availability

24/7

Total room nights

5,218

Number of locations

62

Booking methods

Online and offline

Solution.

To ensure SSE’s engineers and mobile workforce had overnight accommodation when and where they needed it, communication was a key driver to the success of this project. Our experienced consultants worked closely with the Travel team at SSE from the 26th November 24/7 for the next five days.  Naturally flexibility was required throughout, with some of the engineers’ jobs taking longer and some completed ahead of schedule – so our team were on-hand to amend and make new reservations as required.

 

Bookings were made online, by e-mail and via our 24/7 team and ranged from Stornoway and Wick in the North, to Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Preston to the South, Aberdeen and Peterhead in the East, and Gairloch and Portree to the West. Many bookings had special instructions to fit in with the engineer’s day – be it a 2am arrival, as they were working overnight, or arrangements for a quiet room, so they could rest during the day.

 

All rooms were booked on a dinner, bed and breakfast basis, should this not be available and to ensure their engineers had access to onsite catering, we co-ordinated with SSE enabling them to arrange for their catering trucks to be dispatched to those far reaching or out of the way properties that were not able to provide a hot meal.

  

We sourced hotels in 62 locations, with large hotel groups such as Accor, Intercontinental Hotels, Marriott, Premier Inn and Village hotels as well as local Scottish suppliers such as Scotland’s Personal Hotels and Strathmore Hotels.  However, as Storm Arwen had caused disruption across much of Scotland and Northern England, the largest number of hotel bookings was placed into small independent hotels, many in the most rural and outreach locations.

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To put into perspective what we've just experienced, this weather event caused five times more damage to our electricity network in the north-east of Scotland than any weather event since records began in 2002.  Since Saturday night we have had around 130,000 customers off supply, over 1,000 points of damage to deal with, and over 100,000 calls to our contact centre. To get the power back on we had over 200 tree cutters, and more than 500 engineers out in the field.

Our part to play is of course making sure all of those field staff and our most vulnerable customers are safe and have a  place to rest and recover or keep warm. I fully appreciate the challenges within the travel industry just now and that resource in all areas of our industry is not where we would like it to be.

So, from me to you and your team, thank you to everyone that stepped up and shared the challenge.  For every minute of  overtime worked, for every call they took from us chasing rooms and for every frustration they had but kept the  professional face on, thank you.  We couldn't have done it without you guys.

Jacquie Peebles, Travel Manager, Scottish & Southern Energy

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