Business Travel Market (BTM) opened its doors for the second year at London’s ExCeL exhibition centre this morning. The two day event, which is this year host to even more exhibitors, buyers, and visitors was opened by Richard Gooding, ceo of London City Airport who welcomed the delegation of the only pan-European business travel event to East London.
With a customer base comprising 70% business travellers, Gooding spoke with authority on the industry and highlighted that other major airport hubs such as Madrid could soon be a threat to UK trade as a whole and not just the business travel industry if the government doesn’t invest wisely.
Gooding rallied the delegation to join lobby groups to ensure that business travellers voices were heard on subjects such as APD, runways and economic regulation. He said, ‘this industry has a great record of lobbying, and it is essential that our voices keep being heard.’ London City Airport is investing over £7 million and is working with their partners BA, Cityjet, Lufthansa group etc. to ensure that they are ready when the upturn happens and are able to still provide excellent service to all of their customers. The airport has recently had huge success with their LCY - NYC route and looks forward to providing passengers with even more innovative ideas over the next few years.
Debate was thriving in today’s conference sessions which ranged from discussing airlines to hotels, to meetings management and mobile technology.
With companies diving head first into the field of mobile technology, social networking and other online areas, Christa Manning from Amex expressed concern that the big corporates need to ‘catch up and give access’ to their employees so they are able to better connect and develop areas. She said that social networking offers ‘a cheap and fast way to change end user and consumer behaviour’. Speaking in the same session ‘Nextgen Interaction’ Charlie Osmond of Fresh Networks questioned whether ROI should be a consideration for companies when using social networks.
Justin Bovington from River’s Run Red was to the point, telling companies to be cautious - ‘don’t use technology for technology’s sake’, he said. Johnny Thorsen from ConTgo, who are providing the mobile meetings assistant technology at Business Travel Market agreed ‘it’s all about focus’. Addressing the delegates he said: ‘in the next few years, technology will become more important than service… and if your company isn’t already using a mobile travel service, you are already behind the trend.’
‘Is your trip really necessary?’ moderated by Emma Harris from Eurostar raised a number of interesting points that TMC’s and travellers should consider when booking travel for meetings. Nick Cocking from CWT, opened the debate describing how travel over the last five years has become wasteful and people are heavily relying on air travel as a necessity, without thinking of alternative ways of conducting the meeting , i.e. videoconferencing or getting the train. He believes that by ‘changing customer behaviour and removing the stigma that people need to attend meetings in person’ is vital in reducing frivolous travel expenditure.
Geoff Allwright, Airbus commented on the demand aspect of travel management. Many travellers book on limited information and are not given other options from their TMC’s which could further reduce costs. Again, there was a call to change the culture of that status of appearing in meetings face to face. The ash cloud situation really highlighted if all of these meetings are indeed a necessity.
BCD’s Chris Crowley estimated that at least a third of travel spend is without planning, i.e. crisis management, and travel approximately the second largest expense in a company. Does the volume of sales qualify into business, are these travel meetings quantifiable? Cowley said: ‘Especially when the economy is down, how can you quantify the ROI?’
In news from exhibitors at the event today, von Essen hotels announced an opening date for their first London hotel - Hotel Verta in Battersea which will now open on September 12th, as well as the appointment of their new marketing manager Sally Strang.
Accor announced their new Accor Hospitality Business Account whereby British based companies are able to pay for their hotel expenses in over 130 Accor Hotels in the UK with a new charge card. In addition they discussed Eureka meeting rooms – a novel, all-inclusive meeting room set to revolutionise the meeting environment and encourage the free flow of creativity.
FCm Travel Solutions UK used BTM to launch a loyalty programme designed specifically for travel bookers called FCm Advantage - an interactive, web-based programme that provides individual rewards to travel bookers, who often include personal assistants and secretaries.