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• over 50 leading suppliers from across the industry exhibited at The Business Travel Conference in October, which took place at the Novotel London West. Below is a summary of their news, while on pages 14-18 you'll find a comprehensive review of the event's educational programme.

• serviced apartment specialist Citybase relaunched the company at TBTC'10, with a crimson-colour branding and a new website that in January will offer online rates and availability of its inventory which includes 6,500 units in London, 20,000 across the UK and a presence in 24 countries.

• Us AirwAys’ new lie-flat bed will be fleet-wide in 18 months’ time. It launched on the Heathrow Philadelphia service in May this year. Encouragingly, spokesperson Jas Gill says business class cabins are filling up again on ex-UK services.

• Jet Airways is launching a daily Delhi-Milan (Malpensa) service on December 5 using A330s in a two- class configuration, business and economy class. It now claims to be the largest carrier domestically with 26 per cent of the market by volume.

• For the first time ever, Hilton's European expansion will overtake that in North America during 2011 and 2012, with a big push for two brands, principally Garden Inn and Hampton by Hilton. The seven Hamptons currently will expand to 15 in the UK, while growth for the Garden Inn brand – currently in Rome, Luton and Aberdeen – will take place across continental Europe.

• scotrAil is now offering a print-at-home ticket service on the Caledonian Sleeper Service for bookings made online.

• Hotelscene has launched three White Papers, forecasting 2011 rates, business around the Olympics in 2012 and its take on specialist agents versus generalist agencies.

• emirAtes is soaring ahead financially, quoting impressive first half profits for 2010 larger than the whole of 2009.

• soUtH African luxury hotel chain Southern Sun is making a bid for more UK corporates’ spend for its 85 four and five-star properties. Spokesperson Lynette Esposito advised buyers not to be “too quick to delegate spend to TMCs as it’s often a biased view and hotel spend goes to global preferred partners.”

Booming budget hotel sector



SOMEWHERE out there in the lanes and byways, our loyal corporate sales team is toiling away. While their whereabouts are generally a mystery, word reaches me that the thorny subject of last room availability has raised its head again during talks with our TMC partners in recent months. As debates go, it’s an interesting one mainly because both sides come to the table with a full understanding of the concerns of the other. In fact, both sides have sympathy for the view of their ‘rivals’ in the negotiations. But I suppose we should be grateful

A NEW report by hotel consultancy HVS predicts budget and limited service hotels are the way forward for economic recovery across the hospitality industry. According to data from Lodging Econometrics, currently 33 per cent of hotels planned or under construction in Europe fall within the budget sector, with the UK accounting for some 38 per cent of those planned. Lower building costs, the shorter development and market penetration time, and the fact that financial backers see a safer and faster return on their investment mean that developers and operators are finding it easier to attract funding for budget hotels, which include the likes of Travelodge and Yotel (pictured).

The report's co-author, Ana Campos-Blanco, associate, HVS London Office, says, “This is a resilient and very exciting segment of the market. The budget hotel sector has proved its worth and become revolutionary, introducing a wide range of innovative solutions in terms of space, design and cost that require reclassification of brands between ultra-budget, core-budget, upper-budget and design-budget.” She continues, “Hotel operators

have embraced the opportunities of the current market focusing on optimising their budget brands and developing new concepts that are viable solutions and match the priorities and tastes of modern hotel guests.”


WINGS Corporate Travel has a goal of growing in the UK to match its business in South Africa where it began 20 years ago. It currently has nine offices in four countries, the bulk in South Africa, and one in Dubai and is a family-owned business. “In the next five years we would like to be in ten countries, with all wholly-owned offices,” says Paul East, chief commercial officer of Wings and formerly of FCm Travel Solutions. The purchase of Travel Alliance a

year ago began the UK expansion drive and now bigger offices have opened in Aberdeen to help tap into its oil and gas client specialism and quadruple its size there. Offices will also open in Great

Yarmouth and more in Scotland, and East is planning expansion in London and Manchester. “We’re not the cheapest,” he

says, “but we win business on our service and technology.” He claims the company has very experienced staff, mostly with 15 to 20 years’ experience. “Our core principle is high-touch mobile confirmations; it’s a VIP style, concierge service.” Wings provides a suite of in-house developed technology, including Go Reconcile which manages billback; Go Info is for destination and product information via a portal; Go Locate is a traveller tracking tool; and Go Track is a tool to help maximising refunds for unused e-tickets.

LRA is on the agenda at all. It only pops up in times of plenty, and with a relatively buoyant London market – plus the 2012 Olympics very much on the radar – this is a debate nobody minds having. For Guoman Hotels, LRA is something that we’ll discuss on a case-by-case basis. Having said that, we are sticking pretty much to our guns and demanding that TMCs can deliver what they promise in terms of volume to access room rate guarantees. In a key market such as London, it is probably unrealistic for us to insist that TMCs reduce the number of properties they work with as a way of driving bookings to us. Our London properties enjoy high levels of corporate bookings, but high levels of transient leisure business too. We’re not forced into accepting lower value FIT and can hold our rates pretty strong. What we want to see is LRAs used properly. Some TMCs will have a deal in place, but the first you hear from them is when they want the rate during key weekday calendar events such as Wimbledon, the Chelsea Flower Show or World Travel Market. What’s in it for us, especially when demand then reaches unprecedented levels? As such, we’re giving corporate partners a three to six-month trial when they ask for new LRAs. Ideally, they’ll be the ones who deliver the business by enforcing travel policy – and know that rate isn’t everything. On our side, as a group we’ve

made a conscious decision to invest in customer experience as the best way of demonstrating our value. Goodwill, not confrontation, is the way to keep customers coming back.


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