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THE BUSINESS TRAVEL MAGAZINE I 39 The Review ➔ NBTA gets going in Lisbon


THE FIRST annual conference of the recently formed National Business Travel Association (NBTA) of Europe took place at the Sheraton Hotel in Lisbon, welcoming over 200 buyer delegates from 17 countries across the continent. The organisation, backed by the UK-based Institute of Travel & Meetings, claims to represent over 2,000 regional corporate and government travel and meetings managers with direct responsibility for more than 100 billion euros of travel spend every year. NBTA Europe's advisory board chairman, Caroline Strachan, kicked of proceedings by tackling changes that are sweeping through the industry. “This is a new beginning for the global economy. We are facing new challenges and new attitudes,“ she said. “For me the biggest concern is


the new 'normal'. Our roles are changing and we will start to focus on the 'why' of travel and meetings, not the 'how'.“


In a session titled 'The Economics


of a Rising Tide' business economist Dominic Swords (pictured above) predicted a year of uncertainty and said that “now is the time to start thinking about being innovative.“ The were was much debate about the evolving airline industry, on which Swords commented that “codeshare alliances are a poor substitute for consolidation.“ In a session dedicated to the subject, called 'Air Fair?', Peter


OPTIMISTIC OUTLOOK AT HBAA


SOME 60 per cent of delegates at the annual HBAA Conference optimistically predict that their business will grow by five per cent or more over the next 18 months. That was the result of a straw poll conducted by keynote speaker Melvin Gold of Melvin Gold Consulting who opened the two-day event in September. Gold believes the bulk of the growth will come from the budget hotel sector, and said luxury hotels will need to compete on their differences such as meeting space, restaurants, choice of pillows and free internet access, for example. “Stick to what you do well as brand integrity is key.” Gold warned that the public sector cuts is an area of change and risk for hoteliers and could derail the recovery. It accounts for 50 per cent of the economy this year and one PwC estimate is that it accounts for 30 per cent of hotels’ business. He remained optimistic overall, quoting low-cost airlines, favourable exchange rates, low interest rates and the Olympics as real plusses. “The Olympics will cause a real


peak in 2012, partly because of the more positive attitude towards tourism,” said Gold. In another session, on training,


led by Rosemary Bannister of HT Training, the new trading environ- ment was examined, pointing up how much tougher it is to get in front of buyers. Bannister quoted the results of the 2007 Chally Group Report of 2,500 organisations on what they wanted from their suppliers. Seven priorities were listed: to be personally responsible for the clients’ success, to under- stand their business, design the right solutions, be creative, solve their problems, be an ambassador for their business and be accessible. The session on social networking highlighted the fact that Generation Y consider email passé and only 14 per cent trust adverts and that it will change the way business communicates as mass media is coming to the end of its useful life. Hotels will need first class websites, Twitter to build the brand, Linkedin to assist internal communications and back links to YouTube, the most visited website in the world.


Glade of the Star Alliance noted, “In 2010 we have seen airlines that were fiercely opposed to alliances talking about forming a fourth.“ He added, “Joint ventures and consolidation drive simplicity into our industry.“ Sally Defina, advisory services director at American Express Business Travel, meanwhile, said, “There are pros and cons to alliances. Some clients are embracing alliances and joint venture deals but others are shunning them. Clients fear that fares go up and discounts will go down, and that's possible.“ Defina said alliance pros include better coordinated schedules, more choice of routes, shorter connections, access to more lounges and expanded frequent flyer programmes. The cons, however, include varying discount structures across member airlines, inconsistent data, potential for slower decision times and inconsistent product offerings.


AMEX OUTLINES 'NEW NORMAL'


FORTY per cent of companies in the UK have asked their own business travellers for ideas on how to save money on corporate travel costs. The findings were part of a


study by American Express Business Travel's aXcent service, which also found that over three-quarters of staff have become more conscious of their own travel costs since the onset of the recession. The study of over 500 mid-


sized companies reveals what Amex refers to as the 'New Normal' for UK business travel. The survey found the top five measures for reducing travel spend were offering more facilities for videoconferencing, asking staff to take public transport rather than taxis, removing first and business class travel for flights under a certain amount of hours, downgrading hotel choices, and flying one way in economy but the other in business class.


THE LOWDOWN IN BRIEF


• A new public sector-only travel website has been founded by former Rosenbluth, Expotel and Travel Company director Mark O'Brien. The new facility follows a two-year university consultancy project with Barringtons International, the company behind the new – www.publicsectordirect.com. The business has partnered with Key Travel which will provide operational support including ticket fulfilment, customer services and emergency out of hours support. The website's founders say it will apply the same principles of the consultancy project by using extended, negotiated contracts to offer the same potential cost savings across the public sector, covering educational institutions, central and local government, the Army, Police, Ambulance and Fire services, and the NHS. “This is the first travel company in the UK to operate exclusively for the public sector with a website registration process that only public sector workers can take advantage of,“ says O'Brien. “The public sector has a combined travel spend of £3.4billion, but it's suffering funding cuts and is under heavy scrutiny to reduce expenditure.“


• CHESHIRE'S The Travel Visa Company is now offering a same-day application service for Chinese tourist and business visas and, for an extra charge, will also deliver the traveller's passport to Manchester Airport on the day the visa is lodged and completed. The company also provides a quick reference guide to visa requirements around the world at www.thetravelvisacompany.co.uk.


• CORPORATE deals will take on increasing importance again in 2011 as demand for business travel continues to return – that's the message from the 2011 Industry Forecast of Advito, the consulting arm of BCD Travel. Advito's vice president, Bob Brindley, says: “Demand in 2011 will bring travel volumes very close to their peak in 2008. Price increases, in turn, will in most cases bring costs per mile back to or a little below their peak in the first half of 2008.“ Brindley continues, “We recommend that buyers be even more vigilant in choosing supplier agreements carefully; promoting use of preferred airlines through policy and pre-trip controls; and redoubling communications to travellers to book flights early.“ On the accommodation front, meanwhile, Advito predicts a more balanced year, with the strong position that buyers have enjoyed for two years shifting slightly back to suppliers following a steady increase in demand for accommodation.


36 I THE BUSINESS TRAVEL MAGAZINE


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