1 November 2022, London Marriott Hotel County Hall
21 November 2022, Hilton London Metropole
12 December 2022, etc.venues Monument, London
ACTOR AND COMEDIAN Woody Allen recalls how he took a speed-reading course. “I read War and Peace in 20 minutes,” he says. “It’s about Russia.”
Joking apart, such superficial knowledge could be the lot of the inexperienced business travel buyer who, without thorough training, might think their role is simply about purchasing airline tickets and hotel rooms.
Which is no joke, according to Anne Godfrey, chief executive of the Guild of Travel Management Companies (GTMC). “Since I joined the business travel world two years ago,” she says, “it has become increasingly obvious that it’s an industry with great career opportunities, but one which, unless we step up our efforts, could find itself with a shortage of skilled staff.”
Derek Roylance, the proprietor of Buying Skills, which specialises in procurement training, agrees there is a lack of in-depth knowledge in the complicated process of buying business travel.
“Only large organisations with massive travel spends tend to have their own centralised travel buying departments,” he says. “Often, travel is a fragmented operation, with travellers making their own arrangements through a variety of suppliers. Obviously, no economies of scale are realised and money is wasted.
“In these circumstances, staff will fight to protect the status quo, as they can receive so many perks from the travel trade, such as private air miles obtained off the back of company money.”
The pressing need for expert training for the travel buyer is met by a number of specialist companies. They will send in the cavalry to rally the troops, guiding them through the principles of purchasing travel and suggesting systems to control not only the budget but also maverick staff who might unwittingly take off with a slice of the corporate silver.
‘Education, education, education’ is the mantra of bodies such as the Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) in these economically challenging times. Which is why it brings together leading experts to provide topical and innovative programming for its membership.
Says ACTE executive director Ron DiLeo: “Educated individuals enjoy respect among their colleagues and can effectively contribute to the issues and overcome challenges at their workplace to provide the best return for their organisation. It is education, networking and exchange of best practices that are vital in guiding organisations back to economic recovery.”
But don’t just take DiLeo’s word for it. Satisfied student Megan Stowe, global sourcing manager for Intel, adds: “Being a member of ACTE gives you unlimited access to extensive industry knowledge and education, as well as key network contacts you can use for benchmarking or to compare practices.”
While most of the major companies offer face-to-face training sessions in-house, at a local hotel or conference centre (depending on the size of the group), no such restrictions apply to the growing trend of learning in cyberspace.
Online Travel Training (OTT) offers such a facility, with more than 100 free travel product training courses. All are tailor-made, many aimed specifically at travel buyers, and each featured in OTT’s Business Travel Academy, which is supported by Buying Business Travel. Says Bruce Martin, OTT’s operations director: “Product knowledge is ever more important in the current economic climate.
Buyers and corporate agents need to be armed with this to enable them to compete in the ever-changing travel industry environment. E-learning is a great way to keep up to date with supplier products – it’s quick, bitesized and available 24/7.” Feedback supports Martin’s claim: his client retention rate is 95 per cent year-on-year, and more than 50,000 courses were passed at OTT in 2011 alone.
The breadth of the challenges facing corporate travel buyers this year is revealed in Carlson Wagonlit Travel’s (CWT) 2012 Global Travel Forecast. “Travel buyers in most parts of the world are facing tough negotiations as the landscape increases in complexity,” says CWT Solutions Group vice-president Nick Vournakis. “At the same time, economic uncertainty continues in some parts and has resurfaced in others, prompting increasing questions on exactly what 2012 holds in store for organisations and, by extension, business travel.”
All of which makes detailed education vital for the corporate travel buyer. Happily, travel organisations seem to be meeting the need. The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) offers members a wide range of training opportunities (see ‘Training Resources’, overleaf). One financial services travel buyer says of his training with the GTBA: “The course opened a new dimension for me. I am no longer perplexed by acronyms or discussions about revenue yield management.
“I understand so much more about the basics of the travel world and my company has gained because I am not disadvantaged by a lack of knowledge when dealing with suppliers.”
A strong believer in thorough staff training, London City Airport (LCY) is extending its programme to handle the role of aerial gateway to the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics at the Olympic Park, three miles down the road.
Says marketing director Tricia Handley-Hughes: “Airports should not overlook the importance of keeping travel buyers in the loop. LCY provides an ongoing programme in this respect. Our activity applies to travel buyers, not just in the UK but at the other end of the route, which we see as crucial in the lead up to the Olympic Games.”
The LCY Academy, supplied by Online Travel Training, delivers information over five modules for the newcomers to the LCY staff: transport options for travelling to the airport; facilities on arrival; route networks; airlines; and staying connected.
Information on route development is provided through an LCY corporate sales manager, who works closely with the travel buyer to assess usage of LCY by the business traveller.
The airport also offers presentations to travel buyers, travellers and PAs, corporate road shows, and airport visits to provide first-hand experience of updated equipment and infrastructure.
LCY has allocated budget and resources to the inbound market for 2012, and plans a London Ambassadors’ information pod for the duration of the games, plus a VIP meet-and-greet desk.
A complex business Some idea of the training needed to understand the complexities of the travel buyer’s role is also contained in the GTMC prospectus. Though the courses are primarily for agents and consultants, they are available to non-members and are taken by travel buyers as well. The Consultant Certificate in Business Travel, for example, is a starter qualification covering everything from business travel destinations and discounted air fares to rail travel, financial services and information technology.
The GTMC Advanced Certificate in Business Travel, the next stage for those keen to step up the corporate ladder into more senior managerial positions, requires even more serious study, exploring topics such as conferences and trade fairs, chartering aircraft, the no-frills carriers and supervisory skills.
But before reaching those exalted heights, remember that giving staff ease of access to education and training courses at any level will be beneficial. As Woody Allen also said: “Eighty per cent of success is showing up...”
The Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) is a not-for-profit body established to provide executivelevel global education and peer-to-peer networking opportunities. Membership spans all business travel sectors, and ACTE has more than 6,000 executives in 80 countries.
ACTE webcasts are a series of one-hour online discussions presented by industry and subject-matter experts. They give members a convenient, efficient view of hot issues, informing them of dynamic trends, economic analyses, crisis management techniques and more.
Half-day Powertalks fuse networking and education, offering candid, small group discussions and off-the-record analyses of vital business issues. Executive Forums are held regularly throughout the world. Designed to be responsive to key issues affecting the travel industry, they offer informed commentary from industry leaders and suggest marketplace solutions. A typical forum will bring together 75 to 140 corporate travel buyers and suppliers.
ACTE also offers two global conferences a year, one in north America in late April or early May, and one in Europe in October. Each conference attracts more than 1,000 business travel professionals from around the world and focuses on providing education and analysis of emerging trends.
Around the World in 80 Hours is a hands-on, global immersion training-and-development programme resulting in a certificate. Participants gain additional market knowledge via a customised itinerary that includes as many destinations as a schedule allows. Included at each destination is comprehensive classroom instruction, industry and cultural briefings, VIP networking events and site visits to key suppliers.
Finally, in London, there is a twice-yearly Forum organised in conjunction with Management Solutions-UK.
The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) Europe is run in association with the Institute of Travel & Meetings (ITM), which has an established and widely recognised education programme. This includes the fundamentals of business travel management – the key elements of a managed business travel programme for junior positions or those new to the sector. Topics include managing supplier relationships, safety and security, travel technology, and measuring success. The course is also available online.
A manager-level programme (from autumn 2012) is designed to grow managers’ and directors’ expertise in developing travel programmes. The course looks at how business travel is integrated with the changing global business environment, and ways to realign programmes for optimal productivity and efficiency. Topics include risk management, contracting, communication, budgeting and data management.
There is also a global leadership programme, which is geared towards senior professionals. These advanced level courses focus on business strategy, with participants using an interdisciplinary approach to uncover the opportunities and challenges of doing global business in today’s fluctuating and hi-tech environment. Topics include strategic thinking, managing culture and talent, change management and more.
ITM also produces templates and diagnostic tools to assist travel managers and buyers in producing a more effective programme. These include:
www.itm.org.uk & www.gbta.org/europe
The Guild of Travel Management Companies’ (GTMC) training programmes are now run by the Confederation of Tourism & Hospitality (CTH). Each training group is small, with a maximum of 12 participants per programme, which are designed to minimise time away from the office using workplace and home study. Courses are available to non-GTMC members (though fees are cheaper for members) and range from starter qualifications to management certificates.
Online Travel Training (OTT) is a leading provider of travel and tourism e-learning. It partners and works with key travel industry organisations, including Advantage Travel Centres, Buying Business Travel and Lufthansa City Centre travel agency. It offers more than 100 free travel product training courses. Many of these are geared specifically to travel buyers and corporates, and are featured in OTT’s Business Travel Academy, supported by Buying Business Travel. Courses include those on Avis, London City Airport, Easyjet, Star Alliance, Marriott Hotels & Resorts, Qatar Airways, and Lounge Pass.