SXSW direct – Exclusive flights and pop up lounge at iconic Austin event
It’s the biggest event of its kind and one that has grown enormously over its 30-year existence. SXSW started out in 1987 as an idealistic gathering of like-minded music fans and has since grown into one of the most eclectic and unmissable events of the year. Today, it’s much more than a music event, encompassing film and interactive media, and is unquestionably a central part of the cultural calendar in the US – in 2016 Barack and Michelle Obama became the first ever sitting first family to deliver keynote speeches, another sign of the festival’s growth and evolution.
Among Scandinavians too, SXSW has long been popular, with thousands flocking to the event each year. Until now the only problem has been getting there.
Central to the offering are direct flights from Stockholm. “SAS Travelers will save a lot of time with our direct route underlining our aim to make your time matter and get inspired. This will be an extraordinary flight as well, promises Didrik Fjeldstad, VP Brand & Marketing.
“It’s a long journey from Scandinavia – some people spend 19 or 20 hours getting there, so we did a pilot last year to gauge interest in a full scale package and response was really good,” says Cecilie Svegaarden, Head of SAS Dreams, SAS Growth Initiatives.
“That pilot was one of many one-off trips under the name SAS Dreams, but we have experienced a huge level of interest and potential within this area, so in 2018 will also launch a wide range of corporate experiences, either they are bonus/incentive journeys, or study trips.”
“As a result we decided to do something to gain value and really help our customers make the most of their time at SXSW in 2018, and run two direct flights from Stockholm, one for the interactive festival another for the music. These packages are not sold or available anywhere else, and people find it difficult to arrange these trips themselves,” she adds.
During the flight itself, not only will travelers have their first networking opportunities onboard, but they will also hear talks from relevant keynote speakers and specially curated inflight entertainment.
SAS will also provide travelers with the perfect meeting place once they are on the ground in Austin. House of Scandinavia, a large rebranded restaurant taken over by SAS and American Express, will serve as a meeting point, gig venue, business area and provide a chance for SAS to look after travelers and showcase, together with selected partners, what Scandinavia has to offer. There will be keynote speakers, impromptu gigs by Scandinavian artists and parties, in a pop-up version of the next generation SAS and Amex Lounge.
“Amex is one of our most important partners in EuroBonus and SAS. They also do lounges all around the world, so it was a natural fit for them here,” says Sveegarden, reiterating the value of these tie-ups.
For the bank card giant, the House of Scandinavia and SXSW in general is a great opportunity to extend its partnership with SAS.
“This project is about showing that we do all different kinds of things. We know that SAS’ and our customers are curious and this is a way of helping them experience something unique. So for us its quite logical that we participate,” says Fredrik Sauter, CEO American Express Nordics.
The 380-seat venue, with four large rooms and outdoor patios, is located Downtown next to the Convention Center, and will not only provide a perfect meeting point for visitors, but also give them an idea of what kind of experiences the new lounge in Oslo has to offer.
“It will be the number one meeting place for Scandinavians – somewhere to network have meetings, lunch dinner, most importantly it is somewhere to catch up. Every day you have hundreds of things to see and go to, so we are trying to help our customers make the most of their time there, by offering curated help, and recommendations. we will also have daily recaps – what have we seen, heard, discussed and how can we bring this back to Scandinavia,” says Svegaarden.
Activities in the House of Scandinavia will be run in conjunction with a host of partners and will kick off with a welcoming party on 8 March. It will be open every day from 8-14 March, from 8am till 12pm.
“We’re going to bring a piece of Scandinavia to the rest of the world. It’s also important that everyone visiting SXSW gets a taste of Scandinavia. The food will have a Nordic touch to it and the place is modeled on the new generation of SAS lounges, so you can see it as a showcase for Scandinavia. Two of our partners, VisitDenmark and Carlsberg will host a bar called “Hygge” – it’s part of VisitDenmark’s campaign to make hygge an internationally recognized word.
As part of the showcasing drive, Scandinavian Music Export offices, record labels and music-related companies will also help arrange intimate performances by Scandinavian acts and present relevant speakers.
“Google and YouTube will bring their networks and will host small events for their members. Abelia and Oslo Kommun have a great focus on innovation and technology and both will host a lot of pitches here. Oslo Business Region is holding a Nordic pitch competition as well – it’s the partners who will bring the value and the program,” adds Svegaarden.
Amex’s Sauter agrees. “For some people, we may be helping them to make up their minds to go there, while for others it is about ensuring they will hopefully have a better experience than without our participation. It’s our aim to bring our customers something extra in life.”
For both getting to and staying in Austin, SAS travelers have been offered a variety of SXSW packages, that include direct flights and connections from the rest of Scandinavia and a selection of hotels around the city, through SAS’ partner Apollo. You can still book the direct flights on 8 March and 12 March via the SAS website.
“At SAS we believe that traveling makes you more open-minded, inspired and creative,” says Didrik Fjeldstad. “We want to utilize our brand and products to help inspire people, develop their ideas and together make a difference. With our SAS Dreams Experience at SXSW we aim to do exactly this by making it easier for people with a traveler’s mindset to network at one of the most creative hotspots in the world.
And this is just the beginning. SAS is looking at other initiatives as well within the direction. SAS wants to create more exclusive/unique experiences and be the hub for the traveler community all around the world.”
Text: Geoff Mortimore