September 2022, Virtual
September 29 2022, Virtual
Now in its 27th year, the Business Travel Awards
Kevin Maguire, CCTE*, was elected by his fellow members to lead the National Business Travel Association (NBTA) in America, an association for corporate travel professionals providing education, networking, events, advocacy, research, news, and information to help members advance their careers and companies.
I was honoured to be part of the recent Crossroads - Paragon Business Travel Conference & Expo in Milan. This was the first event of its kind: co-hosted by 11 business travel associations under the umbrella of the Paragon Partnership (a global alliance of buyer-led business travel groups, mainly from Europe); pan-European in content and attendance; combining educational opportunities with a trade show component; and drawing more than 350 attendees, including more than 100 travel buyers.
I attended as the elected leader of NBTA, the world's largest business travel group and one of the co-hosts of Crossroads Milan. NBTA's 3,200 members live and work in more than 30 countries around the world. Our affiliate groups - NBTA Asia Pacific, NBTA Canada, and NBTA Mexico - provide regionalised services in those markets. NBTA hosts or co-hosts leading industry events in key markets around the world including Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the US, and now Europe with Crossroads.
As NBTA president I get the opportunity to talk with colleagues around the world. In those discussions I see challenges that are similar around the world and developments that are unique to each region, but I always learn more about our industry. Crossroads gave the European industry a chance to collectively discuss some of the topics that are at the forefront of people's minds for that segment of the market.
It's an exciting time for the European industry, because there are a lot of changes taking place, which means a lot of opportunity to create new value. Two topics that generated significant discussion - and that will certainly impact ABTN readers for years to come - were green travel and strategic meetings management.
While the environmental impact of business travel is a topic being addressed around the globe, the European industry is arguably most advanced in its discussions. That is due in part to the fact that the European industry has been talking about the topic longer, but that's not the only factor. European infrastructure provides businesses the greatest flexibility in making business travel decisions based at least in part on environmental considerations. For example, in many markets there is a viable choice between air travel and high-speed rail - a consideration that does not exist in many parts of the world. Further, European businesses operate in a social climate in which people are more likely to weigh environmental impacts as part of the decision-making process. Lastly, with the advent of the Companies Act in the UK, we are starting to see a legal framework that requires a company at least consider the environmental impacts of its actions.
One of the questions I heard several times at Crossroads Milan was whether the current methods for measuring business travel carbon outputs are adequate for the future needs of the industry. There are many different carbon calculators available in the market, some backed by third-party environmental organisations. Some companies have eagerly begun using these calculators and looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprints as related to travel. We can all agree that any reduction in CO2 emissions is a positive development. Nonetheless, some attendees questioned whether the availability of so many calculators could potentially create new challenges. Is one calculator better than another? If they vary, how will companies benchmark their travel carbon outputs or reductions versus other companies? On the other hand, several attendees argued that any use of a carbon calculator with the goal of reducing output is positive, as long as the calculator is used consistently over time. The discussion is an interesting one, and a vital one for the business travel community.
Buyers drive this market. The tools available to help travellers and companies understand and manage the environmental impact of their travel will be shaped by buyer demands. I'm sure this topic is one we'll be discussing for years, with the tools available evolving over time as buyers become more sophisticated and more demanding. I look to forums such as Crossroads and media outlets such as ABTN to provide opportunities for greater understanding that will help the industry advance the ”greening” of business travel.
Strategic Meetings Management
More than 100 people attended a Crossroads session on developing a strategic meetings management programme, a sure sign that there is great interest in the topic. This is the practice of creating and implementing an enterprise-wide approach to meeting policy and spend. With companies spending as much as 40% of their travel costs on meetings, many see management of that spend as the next frontier in travel management.
Meeting planning is often done by a multitude of people in a variety of areas of a company, generally with little or no mechanism for identifying the planners or visibility into the expenditures. Getting a handle on as much of that information as possible is a key first step in the development of a strategic meetings management programme. With that information, a meetings manager can develop a programme that helps control costs and empowers planners to focus on creating the most successful possible meetings for their goals.
Particularly for companies operating in multiple European countries, the challenges and the opportunities associated with meetings management can be great. With the active and engaged group of leaders who were asking all the right questions at Crossroads Milan, I”m sure that more and more businesses operating in Europe will begin realising those benefits.
Thank you to everyone who helped make the first Crossroads a success - attendees, sponsors, media partners (including ABTN), co-hosting organisations, members of the education committee, and speakers. An important pan-European business travel dialogue has been opened. I look forward to seeing many more of you at Crossroads 2009, location and dates to be announced soon.
* NBTA's Certified Corporate Travel Executive (CCTE) programme, designed for business travel management professionals who want to enhance their knowledge, skills and productivity.