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CONFERENCE REPORT


WORDS MAT THEW PARSONS IN CADIZ


BUILDING TRUST FOR THE FUTURE


The Advantage Travel Partnership celebrated its 40th anniversary at the end of May at its overseas conference in Cadiz, Spain


TRUST AND CLIMATE CHANGE dominated keynote presentations at this year’s Advantage Travel Partnership conference, with the MICE sector also on the agenda. The consortium also announced new


collaborations. Advantage has joined forces with personal assistant network Miss Jones PA to offer members access to suppliers and buyers, as well as run networking events. Speaking at the conference at Hotel Valentin Sancti Petri, in Cadiz, Spain, global product director at Advantage Neil Armorgie (pictured above), said it will connect with more buyers, as Miss Jones PA comprises 20,000 members. Meanwhile, Advantage has teamed up with training organisations to help members source and train up apprentices. A new “Apprenticeship Solutions” programme has been launched in partnership with Travilearn and TrainingStation for business and leisure members, respectively. Advantage will help TMCs find apprentices, as well as pair them with a tailored programme across the spectrum of skill needs. Training will incorporate one- on-one coaching through classroom teaching and self-study online learning modules. The consortium also plans to launch a dedicated “small meetings” service in partnership with a technology platform. Armorgie told BBT: “In the first two weeks of the pilot, £25,000 worth of small business meetings was put through it.”


VOICE OF AUTHENTICITY The main theme at the two-day event was “trust”. During a keynote speech, Sarah Smith, BBC Scotland editor, drew parallels between journalism and the travel industry.


24 JULY/AUGUST 2019


She urged Advantage members to create a voice of authenticity, as she had done at the BBC. “Trust hasn’t vanished; it’s not disappeared, but it’s moving in a different direction,” she told delegates. “Trust used to flow upwards into institutions, regulators and authorities. Now it flows sideways. People trust their colleagues more than their CEO. They trust neighbours, not regulators. “You can see how this trust transfer


operates online. But if this was an era of total mistrust, nobody would be letting out their homes on Airbnb, no one would hail an Uber. People are prepared to trust people like me far more than those experts or the elite. They’re more likely to trust someone more like themselves,” she added. “You need to work out what that means when you market yourselves; how you talk to your clients. At the BBC, we realise people value empathy over expertise.”


MAKING TRAVEL SUSTAINABLE Meanwhile, conference moderator David Meade argued there was now a focus on sustainability. “With travel becoming unpopular due to environmental issues, what can we do to become carbon neutral, and what impact will that have on perceptions?” he asked. Speaking on a panel, Steven Esom, non- executive chairman of Advantage, said climate change was the “biggest issue”: “I was in London when the climate change protests were happening... that’s the next generation of our customers. Who wants to be on the wrong side of that conversation as a brand? In travel, we’re probably not doing enough.”


MEETINGS FOCUS During one session, travel managers shared their views on organising events. One buyer, who works for a UK public sector body, organises events in 97 countries. “Even something like an exam is treated like an event. We do them in one country on a weekly basis, and there can be one or two thousand students each time,” they said. “Or we could have an exhibition with a


cultural focus, for example, in a country with local celebrities or politicians. It needs to be high impact. All that has to be put into our financial system, with duty-of-care, too.” When quizzed on how suppliers were chosen, they replied: “I’m a global travel manager, and for us that means having the same guidelines, principles, pillars… suppliers must be able to show duty-of-care with any event.” Another buyer, from an international technology solutions provider, was asked what they looked for in an agency, and answered: “Price is important, but it is also about trust. You look for an agency with years of experience who can deliver the wow factor.” ■ The next overseas Advantage Travel Partnership conference will take place at The Savoy Palace Hotel, Madeira, 15-18 May 2020


BBC Scotland editor Sarah Smith


buyingbusinesstravel.com


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