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VIRTUAL MEETING SPECIALIST RAISES ¤4M FOR UK LAUNCH


If travel managers are being urged to rethink the way em- ployees hold internal meetings, could there be a resurgence in virtual conferencing? One company, Virtway,


seems to think so. The Spanish start-up offers a platform that provides “online 3D virtual experiences” for events, such as meetings, conferences and training sessions, and in July raised €4 million in funding to launch in the UK, marking its first expansion outside of Spain. It already works with AstraZeneca, Accenture, Everis and Manpower. In Virtway’s virtual envi- ronments, users can talk to


each other in real time. It is accessible on desktop, mobile and tablets, and the company claims organisers can create events that “go beyond the limits of the real world” while reducing the carbon footprint. Events cost between £1,000


and £10,000, depending on size, with a maximum of 500 participants. “This investment will be a


great boost to what we hope will be a successful expansion in the UK following increased demand from English-speak- ing countries,” said Jose Antonio Tejedor, founder and chief executive. “It’s a really exciting time for Virtway.”


ONE OF THE FEARS WITH A


TRAVEL BAN IS PEOPLE SAVE UP ALL THEIR TRAVEL AND DO IT THE FOLLOWING MONTH


customer success teams, meaning they have less time to focus on selling and stabilising the balance sheet”. Equally, while some argue any ban must be applicable at all levels of an organisation without exception for the senior leadership team, for Richard Tams, consultant at Tailwind Advisory, many bans necessarily incorporate some element of discretion. “There is always a need to travel so there needs to be a robust process for circumventing any travel ban,” he says. “It can be extremely damaging otherwise. My experience is that the message is absolute essential travel only, but in theory there are ways round it.”


buyingbusinesstravel.com


That was the experience of a travel manager at an analytics firm when a change in chief executive and ownership saw a travel ban lasting six weeks. “Anyone customer-facing was exempt,” he remembers, though “they had to have a business case to travel that would put the business at risk if they did not meet with them.”


BALANCING ACT Where experts do agree is that to be effective, initiation of restrictions must come from the top, rather than communicated via the travel team. Companies must ensure they flag up alternative tools ahead of a ban. Getting staff onboard, experts also agree, is perhaps the biggest challenge. “Blanket travel bans will inevitably create frustration among teams who are always working to that all-important revenue target,” points out Landers. “Restricting travel will impede their ability to get work done and be successful, no doubt adding to their stress levels.” In fact, when Deutsche Bank implemented a wide- reaching travel ban on its staff in late 2018, in an effort to slash unnecessary expenses, one employee shared his discontent via an anonymous blog. They wrote: “On one hand, management say they believe in generating revenue and they want folks to be out pitching business. On the other, they don’t want us to travel. It simply cannot work.” Engaging staff is a priority, agrees a senior travel


buyer. And, significantly, while the traditional drivers of slashing budgets is unlikely to cut it, concerns around the environment and wellbeing might be more persuasive. “Maybe we can stop, take a step back and think about what technology we could use and let people get their life back as well,” she says. “It’s duty-of-care and sustainability all rolled into one. That’s how businesses should look at it.”


2019 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 95


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