Business Travel Show Europe Kick Off, 23 February,
Global Travel Risk Summit Europe, April 2023,
3rd Annual Sustainable Business Travel Summit
While it would be unfair to call the UK and Ireland Institute of Travel Management (ITM), moribund, it is an organisation which punches well below its weight. As the largest organisation of its kind in Europe, it is seen far more often than it is heard.Paul Tilstone, its new executive director who joined this month from P& O Travel, has already made it his mission to change that.“My goal in effect,” he told BTE, “is to make every single individual in the travel industry, particularly in the UK, aware of what the ITM does and that they should be seeking to become members.”He pinpointed three main areas where he was looking to develop the organisation over the next couple of years: research, improved education and improved services to members.Research, he said, was something that in the past ITM had “dabbled” in. “I think we can provide a much greater role for the industry in developing that service,” he said.“I am look at the prospect of online surveys to the members, both suppliers and buyers, not just the general managers and travel managers but also the travellers and the bookersâ€¦to try and build up better pictures of purchasing habits and opinions about what works in the industry and what doesn't.” He said he wanted to turn the research into the “voice of the ITM” and spoke of the possibility of producing research papers which could be used throughout the industry. These would include the opinions of influential buyers. “We are in the perfect position to start offering this information,” he said.On improving education in the industry, Mr Tilstone cited the current fashion of one-day events which he thought ITM which already runs numerous regional workshops and meetings for members, could emulate. He also wanted to work more closely with consultants in the industry and perhaps start a “consultants' list” of experts available to give members advice on any projects or work they were doing.“I think we need to go out there to the business travel shows and create more awareness among travel buyers and suppliers that the ITM is a great place to build a network of contacts. The proof is in the pudding because attending the (ITM) 2005 conference I came away having learnt so much about the industry and about people's opinions. It meant you could not actually put a price on membership,” he said.In regard to other organisation, Mr Tilstone said he wanted the ITM both to have close relationships but also take its own path. He saw the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply, the Institute of Facilities Management and organisations representing conference organisers as ones with which the ITM could work closely.There were also issues, notably the US proposals on security legislation where ITM would work with other organisations. But he stressed this would be in the “loosest terms â€“ no official contract or anything like but in areas where you have established where you can work with each other.“There is no question that the ITM should be seeking its own path. We shall be developing our programme ourselves,” he said.Another area of potential criticism has been that ITM has both buyers and suppliers â€“ two groups whose interests do not always tally â€“ among its membership. But Mr Tilstone said he believed it was a “necessity” that both groups belonged.“Going back to my past experience, a buyer does a better job when he understands what the supplier needs in order to fulfil a contract and if you look at the trend over the last couple of years, travel has moved away from the travel manager to the procurement manager.“Travel has been done in a more procurement way and there was no real consideration for the value that a TMC brings to the table.”Procurement he said had now taken a closer look and had begun to understand the intricacies of the industry. “A travel manager benefits from having a closer relationship with the travel supplier.If you talk about the ITM promoting best practice, that to me is best practice,” he said.But Mr Tilstone said that the ITM should be “buyer-led” as “if they do not feel that the organisation is representing them wholeheartedly, you are going to lose buyers and you will then lose suppliers and sponsors.”Mr Tilstone also plans to take a hard look at technology â€“ not in the sense of closing his eyes and hoping to goes away but an assessment of its real value.“It's one of those things that everyone has a different handle on, depending on where you are coming from and whether you are a buyer or a TMC or whether you are a SBT provider.“One of the things I would like to see and this comes back to the educational programme is the ITM getting a handle on whether technology helps or whether it is technology for technology's sake. It is possible that at this stage the complexity of doing things online or offline, like undertaking tenders, does not necessarily benefit buyers.”Mr Tilstone said there were obvious areas of benefit, like SBTs, online check-ins, Blackberries, internet service in hotel rooms, automated online MI. But there were other less clear areas. “I would like to get involved in dissecting how we are progressing with, help to simplify the technology options because I think it is far too complicated at the moment,” he said.