Buying Business Travel is the official media partner to the 2015 Business Travel Show and online editor Tom Newcome interviewed George Blues, travel manager at Scotch whisky makers Edrington Group and also one of the show's advisory board members.
You have returned this year to continue your role on the BT Show advisory board, why is the board important and why did you decide to come back?
I feel the advisory board is important in order to ensure the Business Travel Show, and especially the associated conference programme, remains an important, relevant event in travel managers’ diaries. I returned to the board as I thoroughly enjoyed our discussions, idea sharing and exchanges with like-minded individuals sharing the same day-to-day challenges. Also, visiting the show, witnessing its success, and knowing you had input into the programme is quite rewarding.
What are the top issues facing travel managers at the moment?
Managing the fiscal demands of the business against individual traveller expectations never goes away. Corporate manslaughter and bribery legislation are issues being raised more and more frequently, and can be a real headache.
Technology is extremely beneficial but must fit with corporate requirements rather than the other way round. New, younger travellers see many processes as outdated or even obsolete. Balancing, and indeed implementing, some of this fresh thinking, against those of seasoned travellers can be an interesting discussion.
Predictions of any disruptive products/people/services etc. in the managed travel sector for 2015?
British Airways. Firstly, terminal moves at Heathrow – why? – I thought terminal changes for connections from Scotland (and the north of England) were to be a thing of the past when the bright new dawn of Terminal 5 arrived. And, secondly, the return of its monopoly on some UK domestic trunk routes.
Probable continuation and increase in industrial action at specific airlines and countries, which have destroyed traveller confidence in the product and connections at airports/stations affected. The additional cost and administration of trying to reclaim it afterwards leads many to avoid them, even if it means a higher initial fare.
NDC – a great unknown, but is sure to be controversial.
What do you expect to be the main concerns of travel managers in 2015?
Ensuring travellers remain as safe and secure as possible in an increasingly dangerous world.
Managing travel within budgets, which can be set months in advance and are, more often than not, based upon out of date fares/rates.
Airline alliances/mergers/codeshares – in my experience these do not offer corporates the benefits claimed as they do not appear to work as closely behind the scenes as you would expect.
What topic, session or speaker are you most looking forward to hearing at the show?
There are actually quite a few sessions and masterclasses I am looking forward to attending – technology, pricing and compliance based mainly. The Forecasting Forum at midday on Wednesday is always an interesting session and I’m keen to attend Let’s Talk Policy Compliance and The Secrets of Airline and Hotel Pricing.
The Business Travel Show is Europe’s largest exhibition and conference for buyers and managers of business travel – 25-26 February 2015 Grand Hall Olympia London