Business Travel Show Europe Kick Off, 23 February,
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3rd Annual Sustainable Business Travel Summit
Caroline Allen is part of the newly re-structured ACTE team in EMEA region. She talks to BTE about her new role
The growth of The Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) in the EMEA region in the last few years has been rapid. More markets emerged, besides the traditional ones in Western Europe and the Nordic areas, not only in southern Europe but also increasingly in Eastern Europe.
At the same time, the Association has welcomed a steady growth of new members in both Africa and the Middle East.
The problem has been that many of these markets are at different stages of maturity and the issues facing one are were not those confronting another. Hence the major re-structuring which has seen the vast EMEA broken into three more manageable and definable entities.
The fact it has been broken up suggests the growing importance of a region which previously had just one regional director.
Monique Swart is the new regional director for the Middle East and Africa; Christine Dunton-Tinnus is the new regional director for Western, Southern and West Central Europe and Caroline Allen takes over as regional director for Northern and East Central Europe and Russia.
The new team has weekly conference calls and regular communications to discuss forthcoming events and any new issues arising.
Ms Allen joins ACTE after 22 years' experience in the travel industry. A British national, she worked for 12 years in the leisure sector before switching to corporate travel where she has worked for UK independent agencies Reed and Mackay Travel, The Travel Company (now part of BCD Travel) and the Appointments Group. More recently she has worked for Travelport, the IT company which owns of Galileo and Worldspan.
With the first of her two regions home to relatively mature markets, it is clear Ms Allen's focus will be on the emerging markets of the east – places like Russia, Ukraine and Poland where the potential is enormous.
The economies are growing and with them, the level and range of business travel. But while few the obvious candidates like Amex, CWT and HRG have already well established themselves, there are few local agencies which are equipped to handle clients on a global basis.
Corporates are also not always aware of the savings to be made from a properly structured and managed policy for their travellers.
The ball was set rolling last month with a networking meeting in the Prague Hilton.
"It was just to see who are the key players in the market, what are the key issues, what level of maturity the market has reached in terms of managed business travel," Ms Allen said.
"There is a different way of conducting business in some of these emerging markets. Agencies can be different. We don't know at this point in time what can be shared and what can be offered by ACTE."
One of the issues in countries like Russia is that agencies often work in leisure, business travel and the MICE industry without specialising in any. But as the Russian market expands and matures there is likely to be a shake-down of agencies deciding which field(s) they wish to work in.
After the Prague evening, the next major event is likely to be an ACTE Executive Forum in Russia later this year, probably November. Talks have already begun on issues affecting the market which include visas, e-ticketing and BSP.
One of the key issues facing ACTE in setting up such a forum is identifying the main buyers in these emerging regions and persuading them to join ACTE in order to keep up the vital ratio of buyers to suppliers.
Besides its normal policy of setting up planning committees for each event, another concept ACTE is pursuing ,Ms Allen said, was appointing ACTE ambassadors or "champions" for each country. Appointments have already been made in the UK, France, Germany the Benelux countries and Italy with others to follow in the Nordic region and eastern Europe.
"These are ACTE members but they are volunteers, generally from a buyer background, who will explain the benefits of belonging to the Association for both buyers and suppliers. They can also provide us with feedback on issues. It is in everyone's interest to maintain the buyer/supplier ratio," Ms Allen said.