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Global Business Travel market grows while UK stays in holding pattern

Over 70 of the leading figures in the business travel industry met for the inaugural Business Travel Market Knowledge Forum sponsored by Barclaycard, last week at the Soho Hotel, London.
The event was the first of a series of Knowledge Forums from the show, and was produced in partnership with Kingley Events. The forum was facilitated by Michael East, MD, Eastcastle Management Group, and included an exceptional line up of thought provoking and engaging speakers.

Tahiyya Murine, Senior Research Manager at Euromonitor International kicked off the event with a positive update on the current status of the global business travel market. Trends showed a stable industry, holding lots of potential and a global growth of 12% to $176 billion. She also reported large growth in the Asia Pacific market – a recurring theme of the day – that is now looking to be the main rival to Western Europe in this market.

Further trends pointed to significant growth in the Chinese outbound market and with India set to hold the biggest business arrivals volume by 2017. Other future considerations the presentation looked towards was the rise of Turkey as a market; the growing rise in corporate cruises; the future of low cost carriers and the role of technology.

The following session consisted of an interview between Michael East and Bob Schumacher, Managing Director Sales, UK & Ireland, United Airlines. The two discussed a number of topics from the growing trend of joint venture agreements to the global outlook of the business travel industry through the eyes of the airlines.

Schumacher underlined the correlation between business growth and the GDP performance of the destinations they operate in. However the UK market remains a stagnant one in a 'holding pattern', whilst still reporting fewer passenger numbers. He also underlined the major issue of excess of supply within the global market place, quoting the industry size as $710 billion but with just a $12 billion profit margin.

Michael then continued the conference with a question and answer session with Gareth Warnock, Head of Worldwide Sales UK for Hilton Worldwide. Warnock spoke about the increasing desire for branded products from consumers, as well as the growing incidence of travellers crossing from premium brands to more basic products, and vice versa. Equally he underlined the high volume of business going into the hotel outside of TMCs - some 60% of total corporate business.

David Radcliffe, Chief Executive, Hogg Robinson Group, provided the key attraction of the day with another engaging interview. David looked at the world of business travel through the eyes of one of the biggest TMC's in the world. He also addressed the changing global market; focusing on key factors in trading such as corporations determined to save costs, either by not travelling, using video conferencing, or consolidating expenditure. He reported that although these trends have not changed, there is still a small sign that this may well shift going forward.

The morning concluded with a panel discussion featuring; Jonathan Haseler, Head of Large Corporate Sales, Barclaycard Payment Acceptance; Nikki Sutton, UK and Ireland Travel Manager for Reed Elsevier; Mike Stephens, Sales Director of Click Travel and Ruth Spratt, Head of Sales, easyJet UK.

The panel covered a wide range of subjects including, how much more cost reduction the industry can expect or take; the importance of health and safety of travellers from a corporate responsibility point of view; the use of corporate credit cards and how they can be used responsibly and fluidly within the travel industry; travel avoidance; the next evolution for low cost carriers; travel management 2.0 and the maverick traveller and whether business travel is actually enjoyable anymore.

The Business Travel Market Knowledge Forum will be the first of many educational forums from the show that takes place 6-7th November 13 at ExCeL London, UK.

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