Tuesday, 6 December 2011


In this month's Executive Secretary (the essential training resource for senior and aspiring administrative professionals) we contributed a feature on how to create a managed travel programme. 

Below is a taster. To subscribe to the magazine and read the full article, please visit the website 

"Many buyers of business travel fall into it by accident and, recently, this has included an increasing number of executive secretaries who have found themselves suddenly responsible for this complex purchasing function. If you are one of many new to buying business travel and don’t quite know where to start, this guide will explain what a business travel programme should look like and how to shape one from scratch, highlighting the essentials of travel buying as well as common pitfalls.

A managed travel programme is when a business takes a strategic approach to managing travel, as it would with any other controllable expense, and this benefits you with cost savings, transparency, compliance, process improvements and traveller safety and security.

The five phases

Buying and managing travel can be broken down into five key phases:

1.      Discovery
2.      Engagement
3.      Purchasing
4.      Implementation
5.      Monitoring


The discovery phase involves a full review of your current solution to identify what is in place, what works well, and where improvements can be made. It should focus on identifying spend/volume, incumbent suppliers, contractual commitments and stakeholders. A key output should be a benefits analysis, which should be used to obtain executive buy-in.There are seven steps to work through.

It’s time to engage with the necessary functions and people within your business that are involved/interested in, or have responsibility for, travel. Doing this early on makes it easier to achieve their buy in. Including stakeholders in a working party, which has a hand in making decisions, will help cross functional implementation in Phase 4.


This is when you identify potential suppliers, share your requirements and determine the costs you will pay and the service you will receive.

It is important to maximise savings opportunities and this can be achieved by purchasing commodity type elements, e.g., negotiated discounts on core routes within your air programme, or a group/chain discount within your hotel programme. Also consider loyalty programmes, which can add value for your travellers, such as room and flight upgrades, free Wi-Fi and lounge access.


Once you have identified the best suppliers to book and manage your travel, or the best commodity providers, you need to launch this to the business. Your implementation plan must be formed using the skills and resources of the supplier’s implementation manager, you and your stakeholders. Realistic timelines for implementation need to be set with your suppliers and agreed with your internal stakeholders.

Supplier visibility is also very important. This can be readily achieved by holding on site supplier road shows or by taking key bookers to the supplier’s offices. The insight gained and relationship building this achieves is invaluable.


And, finally, one your programme is in place, you need to monitor it."

This guide was written by the Institute of Travel & Meetings and edited by David Chapple for Executive Secretary. David is event director of the Business Travel Show and a director of the Institute of Travel & Meetings (ITM). The Business Travel Show runs 7-8 February 2012 at Earls Court in London. More than 5,000 visitors (10% of which attend from outside the UK) can meet 200+ business travel suppliers and travel management companies, and enjoy a high quality, free to attend conference track designed specifically for PAs and executive secretaries.

The ITM is a not for profit organisation that supports the travel industry. It offers valuable support to buyers of travel and meetings and is currently offering free membership.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

All Hail the Serviced Apartment Revolution

An accommodation revolution has been taking place across London for thousands of business and leisure travellers. Gone are the days when traditional hotels reigned supreme, to make way for a powerful new adversary within the corporate accommodation market. Serviced apartments provide business travellers with the opportunity to relax at leisure, prepare for meetings, and feel at home whilst staying in one of the world’s busiest cities. It is this feeling of freedom that has been fundamental to the success of the serviced apartment industry.

London has experienced the biggest change in recent years thanks to the swift growth of the serviced apartment sector. From an initially slow start London is now the dominant European leader in terms of both volume and revenue. The UK accounted for 11.3% of the total revenue produced within this sector by all 27 EU countries in 2009. This figure comes as no surprise when you realise that the combined serviced apartment stock within London pre Olympics is estimated at one hundred thousand units. Even with this high figure average occupancy growth has increased year on year by 6% since 2008 demonstrating increasing demand from both leisure and business travellers.

A number of London’s leading providers, including us - Think Apartments, have also further adapted the serviced apartment model into apart-hotels. Apart–hotels feature additional services such as professional 24 hour reception, lounge/ coffee area, additional housekeeping and, as being trialled at the Thinks Earls Court, an innovative blue key concierge service. By running an apart- hotel model providers are breaching the services gap between hotels and apartments and encouraging new thinking and new business from the market.

The Olympics will be a trying time for all accommodation providers within central London. The city will be absorbing one million extra visitors during the three weeks of the games. This will be an exceptional opportunity to demonstrate the attributes that are growing the serviced apartment industry and engaging travellers and agents alike.

Posted by James Sykes-Hagen, Business Development Manager, Think Apartments.

Think Apartments is exhibiting at the Business Travel Show, 7-8 February 2012. To register for a buyer pass, please visit www.businesstravelshow.com

Wednesday, 5 October 2011


This is my fourth week as Hosted Buyer Manager for the Business Travel Show. The show’s new hosted buyer programme was only announced recently and already we’re getting our teeth stuck in and working hard behind the scenes to bring it all together.

Our target is to host 1,200 buyers from all over Europe to the show in February; a massive increase on the numbers we looked after in 2011. The programme will create an additional 6,000 pre-arranged meetings between buyers and exhibitors. The Business Travel Show is the biggest corporate travel event in Europe, which means our hosted buyer programme will introduce big budget buyers to the most comprehensive range of suppliers under one roof, and introduce our suppliers to a whole raft of buyers who are visiting the show for the first time.

It’s a massive investment in the show; not only for 2012 but more importantly for the long term and this long term view is what makes it so exciting to work on. With a project of this magnitude, no one’s saying it won’t be a challenge, but I’ll be bringing all my experience from working on the programme at EIBTM for Reed to the table, so I’m ready to take it head on.

Hosted buyers accepted on the programme will receive complimentary travel and accommodation during the show, networking opportunities, access to the best quality free-to-attend conference in the market place, with a choice of workshops, master classes and seminars and, importantly, the opportunity to use the hosted buyer diary to book pre-arranged meetings with exhibitors of their choice. These pre-arranged meetings increase the return on investment for the buyers but also for the exhibitors, who will know in advance of the show that they have a diary of meetings with great quality buyers.

The online diary facility will allow buyers to easily view their itineraries for the Business Travel Show, including their pre-booked meetings and also their travel arrangements, networking and social functions and all the education and conference sessions they’re planning to attend.

The Business Travel Show is on 7th and 8th February in Earls Court, London. If you’re exhibiting at the Business Travel Show then expect to hear from me any day now. If you’re reading this and you’d like to apply for the Hosted Buyer Programme, I’d be delighted to answer any questions or queries you might have. Simply drop me an email at graham.angus@centaur.co.uk

Posted by Graham Angus, Hosted Buyer Manager of the Business Travel Show 

Thursday, 8 September 2011


Forgive the gratuitous self-plugging, but today is a very exciting day for the Business Travel Show team. We announced that, for the 2012 show next February, we will be hosting the world’s largest fully hosted buyer programme for the corporate travel market.

1,200 of Europe’s highest quality corporate travel buyers will visit the show in 2012. All of them with annual budgets in excess of £3m and many of them first time visitors. With the prospect of these buyers committing to at least 6,000 pre-booked meetings, this news is even more exciting for our 180 exhibitors. 

Over the last two or three years, we have invested time and money into refining the Business Travel Show to make sure that only the highest quality audience attends and that our exhibitors enjoy an increasing ROI each year. Two years ago we launched the Executive Buyer Programme and it was a big success, attracting over 500 buyers. This year, the launch of the Hosted Buyer Programme will build significantly on this success.

In return for committing to – and attending – pre-booked meetings on each of the show’s two days, the Business Travel Show will provide the 1,200 strictly pre-qualified buyers with:

  •             Free flights and accommodation
  •             Fast track entry
  •             Access to the First Class Lounge with complimentary refreshments and               lunch
  •             Support from the Hosted Buyer Team before, during and after the show
  •             Specialist, cutting edge technology, which allows buyers to book                           meetings with exhibitors that are best matched to their needs and                       create a personalised diary
Buyers who choose to extend their trip and land in town early will also be invited to the prestigious European Travel Buyer Awards, which take place on Monday 6 February.

Centaur Travel Group, which organises the Business Travel Show, has invested heavily in the corporate travel market for the last 17 years, and the introduction of the Hosted Buyer Programme just shows how committed we are to both the market and to the show in the long term. We plan to be around for at least another 17 years to come, and we plan to make sure the Business Travel Show remains the leading event in this market in Europe.

The Business Travel Show takes place on 7-8 February at Earls Court in London. Visitor registration is open now at www.businesstravelshow.com

Posted by event director David Chapple.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011


Last week’s eighth Ofcom Communications Market Report revealed that 27 per cent of all adults now own a smart phone. 59 per cent of these were bought in the last year. Oh, and we’re addicted to them. In fact, 37 per cent of adult smart phone owners have admitted as much.
In the business travel market, smart phones are beyond useful. TMCs use them to deliver information to travellers (itineraries, for example) as well as pulling data back (travellers can use phones to scan in expense receipts).
However, the smart phone epidemic has also seen an increasing number of business travellers use apps as though they were leisure travellers (which they’re not). And it’s this use of apps ‘out of policy’ that’s now a major cause for concern among corporate travel managers who are being warned that, unless they take back control, their policies are under threat of being compromised. 
My belief is that travel managers shouldn’t ‘ban’ travellers from using smart phones. Instead, they should find technology solutions with similar (or better) mobile applications attached that will keep travellers happy AND compliant. It’s essential that, when choosing these applications, managers opt for a platform-inclusive solution that’s also content rich, stable and fit for purpose.
Travel managers also need to embrace mobile communications as a tool to manage policy compliance in the same way they have harnessed self booking tools, pre-trip authorisation. Reports have indicated that use of mobile strategies can reduce the number of calls made to TMCs, in some cases by as much as 40 per cent, so making a considerable saving for organisations.
Technology has always been a key issue within the business travel industry and a focus for the travel shows at Centaur Travel Group. For 2012, we’re going one step further and launching a Technology Zone at our London and Dusseldorf shows. The zone is being introduced as a platform for technology providers who appeal to both travel and technology buyers, and will be a fantastic place for buyers to discover suppliers with smart phone applications, receive hands on demos, attend education sessions and network with new contacts. The smart money, in my opinion, is on the smart phone. 

Posted by David Chapple, event director, Centaur Travel Group. 

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

An eye to an eye: why face to face meetings will always have a place in business

I’m a social media convert. I confess. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn – you name it, I’m on it. Technology has done an amazing job in transforming the way we communicate; from the introduction of the 135-year-old telephone, to the fax machine, email, texting and, of course, social media. There’s no question technology makes our business lives easier, but is it helping us to do more business?

Well. The ‘simple’ answer is no. But let me try and explain why. There’s been loads of research into face to face versus e-communication over the years. Some companies claim that business meetings are a waste of time – ‘an inefficient use of resources with low ROI’ – and, as such, have switched to the likes of telepresencing and video conferencing, even to plain old email.

Indeed, during the recession, businesses were forced more than ever to consider these relatively low-cost business travel alternatives. And this is fine, for internal meetings, or for external meetings where an established business relationship and level of trust already exists.

But where e-communication isn’t so successful is where business introductions need to take place, deals signed, partnerships forged, parties persuaded, negotiations made and decisions agreed. And this is why e-communication will never replace the need for face to face meetings.  

Face to face meetings allow us to develop transparency and trust in ways that are not always possible with e-communications, and also much more quickly. They allow us to engage in and observe verbal and non-verbal behaviour and to spot and react to the nuances associated with hand gestures, the voice and facial expressions that simply cannot be captured in email. It allows you to understand intuitively the dynamics between group members. Face to face meetings also occur in ‘real time’ as opposed to non-synchronised time. They are not subject to delay or technological problems. And finally, they allow for human contact and they permit humour. We are social creatures, after all, and the importance of these last points cannot be underestimated.

All of this explains why the business travel market is on the up once more, despite an increase in use of travel alternatives during the recession. And also why trade shows like the Business Travel & Meetings Show are still an integral part of an organisation’s new business development and marketing strategies. The last two points in my previous paragraph reflect this particularly well, and perhaps also explain why visitors to the show consistently demand ‘good networking’!

At the end of the day, social media is fantastic at opening doors and at keeping long-term, healthy relationships trotting along. But if you want to do business, you need to be sociable as well as social, and that means face to face meetings where you can see the whites of each others’ eyes and share a firm handshake.

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

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

True value comes from honesty and transparency

A recent report by Ideaworks and Amadeus of 47 airlines worldwide reported an increase in ancillary revenue of 96 per cent on 2008 to €15 billion. Let me write that again - €15 billion. That’s a lot of money. It’s a good thing for the airlines because ancillary charging is viewed as a financial necessity, especially following the economic downturn. But it worries me what airline passengers may think as their opinions of ancillary charging – or unbundling as it’s also known – have been well documented in recent years.

Why they feel so negatively towards unbundling is interesting because, on the face of it, unbundling is a good thing for passengers too. It allows them to customise their journeys and pay for only the things they want. Be clever, and unmanaged travellers can even save money thanks to unbundling. Sadly, unbundling doesn’t currently have the same appeal for managed business travel as GDS technology doesn’t give buyers access to unbundling options.

So if it’s not price, and it’s not the increase in choice, what is it that passengers find so distasteful? Well, in my opinion, it’s our very natural fear of being taken for fools, of being cheated and ripped off. When unbundling first launched through the budget airlines, it was almost instantly referred to in the media as ‘hidden costs’ or ‘hidden charges’ and the press took it upon themselves to take up the mantle of consumer champion fighting for a cause most of us were unaware even existed.

It’s this word ‘hidden’ that’s key. Hide things from people – or just as bad, make claims that don’t stand up - and you cause a consumer revolution. I’m not talking about just airlines here. This goes for every industry, from hotels and holidays, to entertainment and exhibition organisers. Customers aren’t stupid and it’s suicidal of any business to treat them as such. Be transparent and honest and customers will feel they are being treated fairly, even if the end price, product and service are the same. And happy customers will, of course, reward you with loyalty, fairness and word of mouth recommendations in return.

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

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

BTMS Bucks the Trend

With some shows losing visitors, others being cancelled and organisers closing, the exhibitions industry is a tricky market for many of those currently operating within it. This is no truer than in the travel sector. Luckily, at Centaur Travel Group, we are bucking this trend and have two successful events under our belts in the last four months alone.

The most recent was the Business Travel & Meetings Show, which took place last month in Dusseldorf, Germany, attracting 76 exhibitors and 2019 visitors. A brand new hosted buyer programme delivered 150 key purse-holders to suppliers and we curated 30 top class conference sessions. The event was such a success that more than eight out of every 10 (84 per cent) exhibitors rebooked their stand in situ.

At the Business Travel & Meetings Show in London this February, there was an equally excitable buzz of business in the air. More than 5,000 business travel industry professionals from all over Europe poured into the halls to meet around 200 world-leading suppliers, enjoy unrivalled networking opportunities and access to the best free to attend educational programme for the business travel and meetings markets in Europe.

So what did we do right to allow us to buck the trend? Well, I mentioned luck in my opening paragraph, but actually in this industry luck has a very small part to play. The Business Travel & Meetings Shows have been a success in 2011 thanks to experience and significant investment over a number of years, which have allowed us to keep track of who our customers are, who our customers’ customers are, the state of the market they are operating in, and what they need from us to help them to do business better.

This means we’ve been able to evolve the show over the years – and that means every year - to ensure we continue delivering the buyers who mean business to our suppliers. It also means we can continue to provide market-leading content to help buyers improve their programmes and policies in a way that actually translates into increased efficiency and reduced costs.

What you’ll never find us doing, though, is sitting on our laurels. We’re already working hard to ensure we continue to deliver strong products in 2011 and beyond. Over the summer we’ll be conducting in-depth buyer research, strengthening our partnerships, building our databases, hosting the BT Club in June and launching the 2012 European Travel Buyer Awards in July. And – time to take a deep breath here – I’m excited to say that’s just for starters.

If you think we’re missing something, though, then please tell us – all feedback is gratefully received, whether as a comment on this blog, by email (david.chapple@centaur.co.uk) or over a glass of wine at the BT Club on June 14th. I shall look forward to hearing from you.

by David Chapple, BTMS event director