Wednesday, 15 December 2010


The sun may have set on the Cancun Green Summit, but the green debate remains very much alive in the business travel industry. As the proof of the pudding is in the eating, as they say, the Business Travel & Meetings Show is also doing its bit for keeping green on the agenda by confirming sustainability expert Niclas Svenningsen to speak at our conference in February.

Niclas is head of Sustainable United Nations (SUN) at the United Nations Environment Programme and he‘ll be contributing to the opening industry round table at midday on Tuesday 8 February. The round table’s called ‘Cost-Cutting VS Carbon Cutting - assessing the practical and economic considerations for making greener travel choices.’ During and following the recession the pressure to cut costs and stay in business certainly seemed to (naturally) take precedent over being green and doing the right thing for many organisations. It will be interesting to hear from Niclas – and his fellow panellists consultant Jon Green and Environmental Journalist of the Year, Jenny Southan from Business Traveller – whether this has now passed and money is once again being channelled into being environmentally friendly.

They will assess how cost cutting is effecting traveller behaviour and the utilisation of less traditional transport options; what the industry can do to make less expensive forms of business transport greener; the potential for a European framework for ensuring greener transport options; and whether the recent cost-cutting climate has prevented travel managers from making green travel choices.   

I genuinely think this will be a timely, interesting and popular session at BTMS and I will certainly be taking a seat for it. If you fancy joining me (and do forgive me the blatant plug) simply register

Posted by David Chapple, event director of Business Travel & Meetings Show

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Are you a SME? Are you losing £50,000 a year buying travel badly?

Picture this, you have to travel to Denver on business in four weeks and you’ve never travelled there before. You don’t know which carriers fly there, where to stay or even what part of town the meeting is in. What do you do? Call your travel agent and get them to sort everything; or put the kettle on and spend the morning searching online? After all, you book the family holidays just fine, right – how hard can it be?

I’m guessing the latter, but whether this is you or not, the truth is it happens. And it happens too often in SMEs where business travel is, understandably, an after-thought. By adopting such an unstructured and chaotic approach to buying business travel, travellers are almost certainly wasting the company unnecessary time. And time, of course, means money. Let’s assume the guy travelling to Denver, for example, earns £60,000. That morning’s searching just cost £128. Now let’s say there are 20 travellers in the office making 20 trips a year, all booking independently. That’s the equivalent of over £51,000 of billable hours wasted.

So what’s the alternative for SMEs operating in a price-driven environment? They may not have the buying power to negotiate discounts, but they can certainly buy smarter, save the company time and effort, and enjoy increased benefits and rewards from suppliers. For more tips, read on:

1          Get your house in order. Appoint a member of your management support team to take responsibility for buying business travel and work with them to introduce a company-wide travel policy to control spending and reporting.  

2          Avoid online leisure travel agents. They eat up time and charge hidden fees. If you know what you want to book, go direct – you’ll get better service and equally good prices. Otherwise...

3          ... ask the experts. If the majority of your business travel is domestic, use rail and hotel booking agents. They will save you time, and HBAs don’t even charge. They also have access to a much wider choice of accommodation to suit all budgets. If you buy flights, use a local business travel agent like Advantage Business Travel or Uniglobe to deal with the more complex itineraries. For a small fee, they will save you hours.

3         Book ahead. Planning ahead can help you buy quality services for less.  Fly mid- week or out of season, purchase a multi-city ticket rather than a round trip fare, bundle your flights and accommodation, buy a restricted ticket and stick to your plan rather than fork out for a fully flexible fare! And for rail travel – never buy tickets at the station, it will cost you 30-40 per cent more.

5         Be brand loyal. Price is always king, but if you can be loyal it pays. By signing up for programmes that reward companies AND travellers, you can use kickbacks – such as free upgrades – to get more for your money. Most major airlines and hotel groups operate reward schemes and the good news is that, thanks to the recession, they are on the rise.

6         Look at the complete picture. Booking the cheapest but not the nearest hotel room, for example, may end up costing you more when you factor in extras such as cab fares, parking fees, airport transfers, internet charges and the time and hassle it takes to get to your meeting.
7         Seeing is believing: If you’d like to see how much money you could be saving by  using specialist business travel supplier and implementing a travel policy check out the travel savings calculator in the Visitor Zone of and see if that can persuade you to stop doing it yourself!

Posted by David Chapple, event director BTMS

Monday, 29 November 2010

Don't assume you can only afford cattle class

Like everything in this world, business travel is a tale of two halves. On one side of the story is the business traveller. And on the other, the business travel buyer. Both are driven by very different needs. Can there ever be a happy ending?

Despite being more conscious than ever of his own travel costs following two years struggling through a recession, the business traveller still wants a little luxury. The business travel buyer on the other hand is driven by cost and thinks he can’t afford to buy luxury. His budgets were battered during the recession and are showing only faint signs of a stronger pulse as we enter 2011.

So how do buyers keep standards up and travellers happy when there is so much pressure to make budgets stretch further? How do they buy luxury at affordable prices?

Interestingly, the answer to maximising your budget doesn’t always lie in getting the cheapest price. In fact, there isn’t just one answer at all, which is why I’d like to suggest four.

Number one – always ask for more. Never assume you can only have what you can afford and never underestimate how far travel suppliers are prepared to bend to win business.

If you think you can only afford the 3* option, push for a 4* solution for the same price. If you have a 4* budget, then negotiate for free add-ons. For example, when booking accommodation, ask for room upgrades from standard to executive, complimentary breakfast, Wi-Fi connections, access to business lounge services and spa treatments. 

And when buying flights, instead of fighting aimlessly for seat discounts, why not try negotiating for a free upgrade? You can always stretch your pounds further by pushing for complimentary lounge access, kerbside check-in, chauffeur pick up, extra baggage allowance or travel insurance.

And don’t limit your negotiating skills to just flights and accommodation, either, many of these tricks can also be applied when booking ground transportation or conference and meeting facilities.

Number two – consider different purchasing options. To get the best price and the best deal, you may want to consider purchasing alternatives such as reverse auctions (perfect for hotel deals), consortia buying (the best option for car rental), spot buying and hedging (both better suited to airline bookings).

Number three – ask the experts. During a recession, the knee-jerk reaction from business can often be to consolidate suppliers or keep things in-house to keep costs to a minimum. But when it comes to buying travel and meetings, this can lead to a false economy. Expert suppliers, such as travel management companies, hotel booking agents and event management companies, can - through a combination of their expertise and buying power – cut your costs, get you a better deal and save you time and effort.

Number four – visit BTMS. Well, I would say that, wouldn’t I? But it’s true. At BTMS, buyers can meet the biggest gathering of world leading travel brands in Europe, access a first-class free-to-attend educational programme and connect with more than 5,200 of Europe’s most powerful travel and meetings professionals to kick-start new relationships from right across the UK and Europe – all under one roof.

Posted by David Chapple, event director, Business Travel & Meetings Show

Thursday, 18 November 2010

The time is ripe for traditional travel buyers to learn from the meetings pros

The meetings market is not known as the final frontier in the travel industry for nothing and I’ve long held the belief that the time is ripe for travel and procurement buyers who now look after meetings to step up their game. 

Despite being viewed as the rebellious teenager for many years, meetings management is becoming more mainstream and a survey recently carried out by the show has confirmed that traditional travel and procurement buyers are beginning to understand the benefits of introducing meetings policy, strategy, evaluation and technology into their everyday processes.

The survey of 204 procurement, meetings and business travel managers revealed:
·         69% of meetings budgets have either remained static or declined in the last year
·         23% have increased, and only slightly
·         38% of companies are still without a meetings policy
·         80% of companies do not use technology to manage their meeting spend
·         65% are not involved in measuring meetings ROI
·         42% are using more travel alternatives, such as video conferencing, than they did a year ago
·         25% are managing more UK and short haul destination meetings
·         71% of those organising pre-meeting events, such as golf and spa days, are arranging fewer of them

On the flip side, this is also a great opportunity for suppliers who also need to step up the plate and realise there’s a whole new audience they should be doing business with.

Posted by David Chapple, event director, Business Travel & Meetings Show 

Wednesday, 10 November 2010


Business travel is not just the bastion of the procurement department; personnel and HR also need to take note as frequent travel is a little known and under-investigated stress trigger.

Of course any HR manager worth his/her salt, will be only too aware that stress – and distress – among employees causes impaired economic performance. Across the EU, nearly 25 per cent of workers are affected and stress is responsible for 50-60 per cent of all lost days. It’s also rated the second most common work-related health problem and estimated to cost the EU €20 billion annually. It’s also on the increase.

More progressive HR departments and procurement professionals involved in travel understand this and no longer base buying decisions solely on price. They create policies that suit the traveller and not just their budget. They are mindful of their corporate social responsibility and duty of care towards employees. They may miss out on short term savings, but they will also avoid making much bigger long-term financial losses.

It’s time that a more responsible and strategic view of the issues involved in business travel was taken by all, and all HR departments appreciated and understood their CSR and duty of care obligations.

If you’re interested in reading more on this topic, you can visit to read the entire feature.

Posted by David Chapple, event director, Business Travel & Meetings SHow

Sources: ‘The Institute of Travel and Meetings, ICARUS report’, Frequent Traveller Wellbeing; Inicio 2010. For more information,

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

The French air strike may as well be another ash cloud to today’s business traveller

I’ve just read on Travel Mole ( that Ryanair has been forced to cancel 250 flights today and British Airways passengers are being warned to expect delays and disruptions due to the air traffic control strike in France. Flybe has also cancelled a handful of services to Paris and half the flights to and from Paris Orly airport and one in three at Charles de Gaulle will no longer take to the air.

This strike is the fourth in just a month by French workers and has lead to Ryanair calling on the EU Commission to remove the 'right to strike' from air traffic controllers. But whether you support the strikers or not, and whether you think everyone deserves the right to strike or not, my thought for that day is please spare a thought for the people who are – now, anyway – left on the ground: the business travellers.

Whether it’s an ash cloud, a strike or a terrorist threat, it’s always the travellers who get caught in the middle and end up being the most inconvenienced. But the real question is how – or even can – this inconvenience be avoided or at the very least minimised? And the answer is, yes. One of the big lessons we learned following the ash cloud was companies with travel policies or with travel management companies were best able to track, manage and help their travellers to reach their final destination. 
David Chapple, event director