12 December 2022, etc.venues Monument, London
Business Travel Show Europe, presented by The BTN
21 November, London Hilton Metropole
A large gathering of industry delegates gathered at the Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) Global Education Conference, held last week in Barcelona. Here ABTN presents a selection of the best sessions.
The week”s events kicked off with keynote speaker Mary Robinson providing delegates with an insightful presentation on leadership issues. Robinson, the former first president of the Irish Republic and now Ethical Globalisation Initiative president, shared her perspectives on managing issues in a global environment. She highlighted how divisions between regions can spread rapidly to other areas and how turbulent the global marketplace is through terrorism, armed conflict, environmental degradation and disease.
Robinson”s themes continued throughout the event with smaller education sessions delving deeply into the prospect of security getting worse (see Comment) and how the green debate will only get bigger.
One of the more interesting sessions covered Green requests for proposals and how booking more environmentally friendly suppliers is becoming more of an issue for travel managers. There are ways and means of achieving a more environmentally sound supply process and suppliers and managers agree they have a long way to go. The conference was Carbon neutral with British Airways offsetting all carbon emissions produced by delegates' travel to and from the event.
A presentation by the UK”s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) showed that over 60% of RFPs include questions on the environment and that ”these can read like a list,” which can either be wholly encouraging or can send hopeful suppliers packing.
Waging War against Travel Managers
The humorously entitled session 'Road Warriors Speak Out' gave two colleagues from BT (British Telecom) the chance to verbally attack each other in front of an audience.
Travel manager Jan Tucker Jones defended her position on staying within budget and only granting business class privileges to employees if the length of time onboard justified it.
But it wasn”t only the travel managers who got a bashing. Hotels came under fire for selling on travellers rooms ”even though it had been booked through my travel manager and was therefore part of a wider business deal”. This type of action doesn”t encourage loyalty from the travel manager or the end user.
Data showed that business travellers” needs can be quite simple. In-room wifi connections, allocated seats on board flights and anything else that takes the edge off the stress can all lead to a relatively happy business traveller. Travel managers were encouraged by the end users to book business travel reflecting these points.
Data presented in the session, from Dr Keith Mason of the Business Travel Research Centre at Cranfield University, showed the key age for travelling businessmen is 35-44. On average business travellers take 21 trips a year, of which 13 are long-haul. If the right deal is given to a business traveller about 76% of those surveyed will actually enjoy travelling for business. It”s a high figure and reasons ranged from getting out of the office (20%), to enjoying new hotels and restaurants (7%).
Of those who don”t like business travel 60% claim this is because it”s ”hassle,” with 25% claiming they dislike it because they are away from their family. While there isn”t a lot to be done about the latter reason, the first is one that travel managers hear over and over again. Travel restrictions and travellers” inabilities to choose their own locations is another key factor but Tucker Jones” view on this is that one in-house booking system is more than enough. ”All travel goes through me. It”s the only real way to ensure staff are safe and we can track where they are at all times. It”s not just about the best deal, it”s about ensuring we can enact our evacuation plan and get all staff home in case of emergency.”
Focus on Middle East
The Middle East question was debated in full at ACTE in a session offering revealing insights into regional business travellers” practices. Middle Eastern travellers are preparing to shift into zero commission status for booking. The way travel agents are paid has historically been as a percentage of the hotel and flight costs”on average around 5-9%.
Credit cards”especially the corporate versions”are fairly unheard of in the region, which has previously relied on invoicing. Travel agents rely on fair-minded travellers returning with the money after a booking has been made. The panel claimed e-ticketing is non-existent but is due to begin.
While local companies have seen this as the usual way to do business, global companies have had to be quick to adapt to local payment customs. The market is changing and travellers and corporations will have to change with it. The panel discussed the rise of foreign labour forces, where part of their deal has often included return flights to country of origin. It offers them the chance to return to their families with part of their salary. The workforces periodically returning home is driving the business travel market. Ironically this is while the workforce helps create new hotels for business travellers to stay.
Corporate travel in the region in the UAE is divided into 60% business travel and 40% leisure. In Saudi Arabia figures are 70% business and 30% leisure travel, with business travel in the Gulf set to double in the next ten years.
New airlines are on the horizon and 200 hotels are due to be built. Jebel Ali airport has already announced its six runways will be equipped to hold the A380.
The Middle Eastern business travel market is booming and positive messages are always on display. The region”s infrastructure holds promise for an influx of business travel opportunities.
The End of the Beginning
In a session focusing on end-to-end solutions, delegates heard presentations from two ends of the travel management spectrum. The panel presented findings that showed only 8% of online business travel spend is carried out online. By 2008 that figure is expected to rise to 22%. A presentation from Seat”s Rolf Widenbrug offered insight into the manufacturer”s relationship with eTravel”s self booking tool. The firm expects, and somewhat relies on, business travellers choosing the lowest fare when booking their own travel. Lower prices are featured at the top with higher fared travel items lurking at the bottom. The supplier believes in ”visual guilt” whereby business travellers will hopefully choose the lowest fare when they can see how much higher the more expensive items are.
Choosing a tool that covers RFPs to expense filing proves popular, and Boston Scientific”s Volker Spichal explained his company”s relationship with KDS. The solution offers booking tool, approval process, ticketing and expenses all the way through to reimbursement. While Spichal raved about the solution he said it did present a challenge for potential rail travellers.
”It”s very difficult to book rail travel on self-booking tools,” he said. ”Especially when the travel is in Europe because rail operations are so fragmented.”
On Tour Extras
The conference provided food for thought and the association made efforts to cover a wide range of topics in order to remind and educate the industry on new tools, changes and trends. A technology showcase enabled delegates to view the latest initiatives from firms such as Get There, Travelocity Business, Amadeus, Radius and Carlson Wagonlit Travel among many others.