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