NIT (Naval Interior Team) is a Finnish ship-construction company founded in 2000 that specialises in designing and constructing interiors and internal structures of ships, and the management of such projects. NIT has constructed, among other things, dozens of restaurants, spas, saunas and staircases to ship-owners based in Turku, Rauma, Helsinki, Papenburg and Bremerhaven. The company’s most recent large-scale project led it all the way to Mitsubishi’s shipyard in Nagasaki, Japan. There NIT worked on the AIDAprima and AIDAperla cruise liners’ spa-facilities and staircases, as well as various technical spaces of the ships.
– Our project in Japan began three years ago, and along with it, the amount of our travel spending increased significantly, NIT’s director and co-owner Kenneth Luoma tells.
– We needed to make our travel plans clearer and the whole travel function better organised, which is why we decided on a partnership with CWT at the same time.
– Our main destination so far during our partnership has been Japan. NIT employees based both in Finland and abroad have flown there on account of the project, financial director Kauko Mannerjärvi continues.
– A telling example of the volume of growth in our traveling and activities is that, while four years ago our total revenue was seven million, last year we spent three million euros on travel alone. The rate of growth in both has been immense.
Looking for – and finding – ways to save money
– At times, simultaneously up to seven hundred people have been working for us in Japan, and together with CWT we take care of travel arrangements for all these people, Mannerjärvi relates. – It is clear that, as someone responsible for the finances of the company, numbers are important to me. At worst, the expenses coming from changing travel plans alone could amount to tens of thousands of euros. In cooperation with CWT we began to look for ways to decrease the amount of money spent on such costs, as well as on actual flights themselves.
– We decided to begin booking flights earlier, and now our goal is that all flights are booked at least six days before the journey. The detailed weekly reports we receive from CWT are important to us. They give us information of instances in which travel expenses have been particularly high, and this gives us a chance to change things.
– Also, we are now more organised in our traveling and are paying increased attention to provider agreements, Luoma adds. – CWT gave us valuable support and information to back up our negotiations. All in all our average flight prices have decreased, and we are pleased to have been able to save money, as well as with the fact that we now have increased knowhow on how to plan and manage our travel as a whole.
Concentrated booking is the best solution
– To accomodate for our travel needs for the project we arranged with CWT the best possible service model. All bookings are handled by CWT’s Turku service team and they are mostly done by our employee in Japan; aside from this person only few others are allowed to make bookings, Mannerjärvi tells. – We have also clarified our travel policy and, for example, adopted an expense limit, from which it is allowed to deviate from only with express permission. Oili Hirvelä and the other business-travel experts at CWT know our travel policy well and see that it is followed. Because of the six- and occasionally even seven-hour time difference between Japan and Finland we did not wish to use CWT’s Japanese branch. Occasionally our travel plans change suddenly, and we are very happy with the service team at CWT Turku and Henri, our employee in Japan in charge of travel arrangements, and with their cooperation and flexibility.
– If everyone involved in this project were to book their own flights, this could not have worked out, Luoma says. – We have also been able to reduce the number of passengers who book their trips through channels other than our partnership deal with CWT and we are very happy about that as these bookings have without exception always failed, in one way or another. And even so I still hear people arguing that doing so is cheaper or easier. I am looking forward to the day when those arguments end.
– Booking in a concentrated way also increases travel safety. When there is a large number of passengers and they are traveling a lot, it would otherwise be impossible to keep track of who is where and when in the case of an emergency or a crisis.
Functional solutions and excellent cooperation
– Our cooperation with the travel agency is beneficial in a number of other ways as well, Mannerjärvi notes. – Passenger profiles filled with care speeds up the booking process and ensures that all bookings are correct. And we as travellers do not need to remember or look up our details each time a trip is booked. Furthermore, for the management in charge of business travel the CWT Portal is useful and important: all essential information can be found in the same place. Comprehensive reports and information about price development, for their part, help us monitor and guide future travels.
– Even though for the sake of simplicity we use the service team to book our sometimes complicated business trips, I myself book my personal leisure flights and hotels on CWT Portal. The range of hotels in the service is enormous, the benefits and prices very good, and booking is easy and safe. For these I naturally use my own personal credit card.
– Aside from knowing where our employees are traveling and staying thanks to the concentration of bookings, we also benefit from the 24-hour service provided. We have needed it often and have always received great service.
– Overall, we are enourmously satisfied with the broad variety of services that CWT provides, Luoma and Mannerjärvi conclude together.
Getting to grips with Japan
– When this massive project in Japan began, we had no special knowledge of the country nor any experience of conducting business there, Luoma reveals. – So we have encountered some surprises, but nothing significant. We must allocate more time for everything than we are used to in Finland and in previous foreign countries where we have operated. Hiearchy in Japan is quite strict and decisions are made high up the ladder, which takes time. And while the Japanese work long hours, from a Finnish perspective their working methods may sometimes seem somewhat inefficient. For example, sometimes we have seen several people working on something quite insignificant simultaneously. The plus-side is of course that the unemployment rate in Japan is relatively low. And the fact that work is respected is visible everywhere and working is held as a matter of honour. At the workplace you can see quite a few older people working, proud of what they do, as well; though this phenomenon is partly explained by the fact that the country’s pension system does not provide all pensioners with sufficient income.
– All in all, I regard Japan as a great country and I respect its culture and its temperate, respectful citizens. It just took a while to get used to it.
– I still have at least three trips to Japan left. Last year I went there ten times, and seven times before that, if I remember correctly. For both Kauko and I, a one way trip from home to Nagasaki, where we stay, takes 21 hours. If we travel via Osaka or Tokyo, we usually spend a night there, which of course increases the overall duration of the trip. Even though as an owner I can make an exception to our travel rules and travel in business class with the lounge benefits that come with that class, I, to be frank, would prefer not to make such long trips. The time different wears one down when you have to re-set your watch almost once a month. It does not happen so easily anymore, Luoma tells of the downsides of glamorous-sounding business travel.
– I have fifteen trips to Japan under my belt now, Mannerjärvi shares. – We have an accountancy office in Tokyo which is why I visit quite often. I think that Finnair Economy Comfort- seats make the ten-hour flight more comfortable, but sadly they are not free anymore even if you are a Finnair Gold Plus-member. The seats provide ample space to sit comfortably, have good headphones, and you can always find a good place for your hand luggage, as you have the benefit of being one of the first to enter and exit the plane. Well, it is still luckily quite affordable. When I visit our other accountant I do not need even that, even though I have to go all to way to Manhattan, because this Manhattan is located in Turku.
Luoma and Mannerjärvi are of one mind as to what is their favourite location to visit in Japan: Kyoto, especially when the cherry trees are in bloom. Both have visited the town on trendy ’bleisure’ trips with their wives and friends. Tokyo is too big for their tastes.
From sunset to a new dawn
– We have now been doing business in Japan for three years and will be finished this spring, Luoma says. – We do not currently have plans there for the future, but we are very interested in continuing there if Mitsubishi can offer us suitable and profitable business opportunities. In Europe, we have closed four deals and options for further four cruisers. The situation, therefore, is quite pleasing, considering that as recently as 2014 the whole business of ship-construction seemed to be dying.
– Our next project, in Ålesund, Norway, is about to begin, Mannerjärvi reveals. – We are hoping to get a few direct weekly flights from Helsinki to Ålesund to the flight program of some airline. Aside from direct flights, reaching Ålesund is going to be very time-consuming and the costs, too, would be almost equal to that of reaching Japan. Which seems a bit strange. I am sure that Ålesund, being a beautiful seaside town, would be of interest to people other than us as well. It will be interesting to see if direct flights will become available.
Owner Luoma has anyhow decided that he will not travel to Norway, except perhaps to fish.
Curious about the future
– We at CWT have learned a lot about Japan and gained valuable experience through this project, Katja Ettanen, account manager at CWT tells. – It has been great to follow and further develop this cooperation. We are now ready for the new challenges that the project in Norway will involve us in. Changing destination will give us too an opportunity to look for new ways of doing things. If a good flight connection will be established, we might consider trying our online-booking system for flight reservations. And the CWT To Go- application could be used to book hotels; it can be easily modified so that the choice of hotels would be limited to those hotels which fit the travel policy of the company. We are happy to know that the app can already be found in many NIT employees’ mobile phones.
For more information about NIT visit: www.nit.fi .
Text: Päivi Lappi
Images: CWT, NIT, Viking Line, Aidaprima ©Louagie ©Maritime Photographic.