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RETROSPECTIVE


WORDS AMON COHEN


As BBT turns 100 issues old, let’s take a look back through the archives


ISSUES OF THE DAY


M 68 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER


ANY HAPPY RETURNS, BUYING BUSINESS TRAVEL! Sixteen years and 100 editions since first hitting the desks of “company travel buyers, arrangers and agents” (today the remit proclaimed on the front cover is “company travel & meetings


buyers”), BBT has long proved an institution in UK corporate travel and beyond. Yet BBT’s success was anything but guaranteed at birth. Looking back through those early issues, the most startling insight is just what a spectacularly bad moment the publishers chose to launch a business travel magazine. Few business people were boarding any aircraft early in 2003. Still reeling from the September 11 attacks some 18 months earlier, the first issue rolled off the presses as American tanks were also rolling – across Iraq – to launch the second Gulf war. By dreadful coincidence, travel in Asia had halted almost completely owing to the viral and virulent respiratory disease SARS. BBT reported that Singapore Air- lines had suspended 350 flights per week and was handing out health kits to passengers, including surgical masks and a thermometer.


As is often the case, others’ pain was travel managers’ gain. Issue 1 revealed short-haul economy fares had plunged 30 per cent (not only because of plummeting demand but also a surge in low-cost carrier capacity). Average room rate in London was a nostalgic-sounding £90 per night. BBT’s debut ran to 52 pages. Compare that with the May/ June 2019 edition: exactly 100 pages more, plus a 30-page


2019


card supplement. That BBT survived this inauspicious start is a consider- able achievement. Others didn’t. The news section of issue 1, to take just one example, covered the launch of an airline called Now, which very quickly became Then.


If you want to understand both the differences and similarities between the early days of BBT and the present,


look at that first issue’s cover shot (pictured above). The model is a stereotypical business traveller of the time: a white male wearing a suit and tie sitting in an airport. Although there is still some way to go, I would like to think our industry is at least a little more diverse today. Next to note is that our traveller is holding a mobile phone. Travel management, indeed our entire lives, has become even more phone-centric since then. But the cover shot proves mobile phones figured from the beginning, and indeed technology dominated the content of BBT then as it does today: the very first feature in issue 1 considered trends in online booking. However, the technology leading the way in those early issues looks touchingly prehistoric now. Consider our cover star again. His phone has a funny knobbly aerial. Inside, the articles panted enthusiastically about long-superseded innovations, including personal digital assistants, ISDN


buyingbusinesstravel.com


#100


SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2019


FOR COMPANY TRAVE L & MEE TINGS BUYE RS BUYINGBUSINE S S TR AVEL .COM


Reflections and predictions as BBT celebrates its 100th edition


OFF LIMITS Why travel bans are a growing trend, and how best to implement one


001 BBT Covers SEPT OCT 100 19 .indd 1


JUDGEMENT DAY The clock is ticking to get your entries in for the Business Travel Awards 2020


DIGITAL DETOX How bringing back the human touch to travel management can pay off


21/08/2019 15:32


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