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WORDS BEN WALSH


BBT FORUM REPORT


THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE POLICY


On the theme of ‘Finding the balance between people and policy’, mental health, distribution technology and sourcing strategies were tackled at the autumn BBT Forum


THE KEYNOTE PRESENTATION OF THE DAY, “Mental Health: Public Sector Travel Challenges” delivered by the Crown Commercial Service at the Hallam Confer- ence Centre, London, generated thoughtful debate at the latest BBT Forum as delegates gathered to discuss traveller wellbeing. The autumn BBT Forum took place during


National Stress Awareness Week, and public sector representatives spoke about key ways of improving workplace wellbeing. These include creating a work environment where people can connect and talk, encouraging employees to learn new things and being mindful of other people’s personal lives. BBT Editor Matthew Parsons took to the


floor to lead a panel discussion on whether wellbeing has a role to play in travel programmes, exploring how travel safety policies are slowly starting to expand. How, for example, does an organisation carve out budget for mental health? Matthew Holman, chief executive and founder of Simpila Healthy Solutions, talked about his own struggles with mental health and post traumatic stress disorder while working in the travel industry. Everyone, particularly business travellers, can be sus- ceptible to mental health issues, he said. Paul Tilstone, managing partner of


Festive Road, talked about a hypermobile, hyper-connected world where we are always switched on, and the impact of jetlag, tired- ness and poor diet on business travellers. Carolyn Pearson, chief executive and founder of Maiden Voyage, focused on providing safe spaces for women travellers who had been sexually harassed by male colleagues and the subsequent effect on their mental health.


DISTRIBUTION ISSUES The second panel – “Distribution Dynamics – Plugging into New Supplier Technologies” explored how buyers must be switched on to the latest alliances being formed between tech firms,


Supported by:


airlines, hotels and other suppliers, with NDC-based fares coming into play. The panel was moderated by Ian Fergu- son, founder and lead partner at Ignis Solu- tions. During an animated debate, many delegates admitted to being confused by the distribution market. One claimed it was “a mess” and that technology today cannot deliver a consistent system for buyers, and traveller tracking systems are not where they need to be. However, NDC was also compared to Brexit: “It’s happening, and it can’t be stopped.” Adrian Parkes, chief executive of the


GTMC, admitted that certain airlines are more geared up to the changes than others, while Clare de Bono, director of product and innovation at Amadeus, claimed standards were the engine room of innovation and this was a good time for corporate buyers to demand a better consumer experience.


TRAVEL PROCUREMENT The penultimate session, moderated by Oliver Moore, head of travel agency sales UK and Ireland at Enterprise, focused on how to navigate the new landscape of travel procurement, exploring how buyers must stay on top of real-time pricing, spot-buy- ing, fare-tracking and outsourcing trends to negotiate the best deals for their business. Panellist Julie Murphy of ANA claimed


“transparency and simplicity” were key in procurement and that the GDS was still “the


dominant force”. Anu Kuchibhotla, head of sourcing EMEA at HRS, pointed out the changing demographic of travellers, citing millennials being more loyal to social media networks than to brands or chains: they look for “instant gratification” from their loyalty programme, for example. One buyer also made the point that it was naive of buyers to think they could achieve procurement on the cheap as this was likely to aggravate TMCs, hotels and airlines.


QUESTION TIME During an open discussion, wellbeing, data breaches, NDC and internal social media were touched upon. Simpila’s Holman suggested integrating


a wellbeing phone number into traveller itineraries, while Marc Wise, global sales manager at Amadeus, reiterated how IATA wants 21 airlines in the UK to get 20 per cent of their bookings through NDC by 2020. The subject of whether companies should simply give travellers a budget every month to spend on their travel was broached. One buyer relayed that the use of internal communication tool Yammer was being discouraged as it could lead to harmful information being aired to colleagues.


■ For information about future BBT Forums, contact head of events Emma Gordon at events@panaceamedia.com or visit bbtforum.com


Hallam Conference Centre, London


Joint sponsors:


buyingbusinesstravel.com


2019


JANUARY/FEBRUARY


15


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