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GTMC presents review of key trends for business travel in 2014 and looks forward to 2015 General Election at AGM

At its AGM held yesterday, Monday 2 February, Paul Wait, chief executive of the GTMC, presented a review of the key demands from business travellers following a year long programme of research conducted during 2014. The GTMC also highlighted that year on year the sector has seen an increase in sales. The AGM took place at the Marriott Grosvenor Square and announced Graham Ramsey, group chief executive officer of the ATPI Group as new GTMC non-executive chairman to an audience of members, partners and industry professionals.

Commenting on the results of the 2014 research, Paul Wait chief executive of the GTMC said, “Across all of the data we have collated, whether business travellers choose air, rail or road, connectivity, infrastructure  and efficiency are the key factors in determining their mode of transport.”

Greater competition and expansion of Open Access operations were seen by the majority of business travellers as key to the future landscape of the rail network in 2014. Not least will it deliver fairer rail ticket prices, improved facilities and productivity available on board but also connectivity for those regions that currently don’t enjoy access to a mainline rail network. In this context, unsurprisingly, 74 per cent of business travellers surveyed confirmed support for two rail companies competing on the same line.

The GTMC research also revealed key demands from the next generation of business travellers aged under 30 and confirmed their support for HS2. For nearly one in three (28 per cent) of the millennial generation first class is also the only way to travel, compared to just 16 per cent of all those surveyed. Comfort and connectivity are both important and reassuringly for the rail companies they are prepared to pay for this - a third of 18 to 29 year olds indicated support for above-inflation ticket fare increases if it led to reduced demand for rail travel and therefore less overcrowding.  

Nearly three quarters (70 per cent) of 18-29 year old who travel on business for at least 50 miles by rail a minimum of six times per year, want to see the government’s proposed high speed rail link, compared to just over half (56 per cent) of those over 30 years old. Amongst the younger business travel community due consideration has also been paid to the opportunity that HS2 could bring for travel to Europe. More than two thirds (67 per cent) thought that any high speed rail service from the North of England should also connect with mainland Europe.  

When taking to the skies business travellers living outside of the Greater London and South East expressed support for regional airports as well as Heathrow for international business trips. In particular, Manchester airport was identified as the most popular. Heathrow Airport remains the second most used for international business trips by travellers throughout the UK, yet regional airports such as Birmingham (#3), Edinburgh (#4) and Glasgow (#5) are also strongly favoured over London airports Gatwick (#8) and Stansted (#14). For most business travellers outside of London and the South East accessibility to international destinations remains a challenge. As a result many have little choice but to use an alternative international hub. Despite this there is an appetite for UK airports, and when asked if Heathrow Airport had a greater range of destinations then more than a third (34 per cent) said that they would switch from using a non-UK hub to Heathrow.  

Positive news for the sector was the confirmation that sales across air, hotels, rail and car hire have all seen an increase year on year from 2013 – 2014, compared to 2012 – 2013. Car hire saw the biggest increase of 30 per cent, suggesting that it is SMEs who typically demand domestic and short haul travel that are driving growth, compared to long haul and international travel. Encouragingly, hotels and rail travel have both seen an increase in sales of five per cent year on year, and air travel is also up one per cent.  

Paul adds, “As we enter an election year and a period of economic growth we call on the government to recognise the key demands of business travellers and the role of business travel in the ongoing development of an export led recovery.

“For HS2 to truly realise its potential its development needs to be strategic.  It must provide direct links to Heathrow and Europe if the UK economy is to truly reap the benefits of this investment.   “Likewise due diligence must be paid to the continuing issue of airport capacity, not only in London and the South East but in regional airports across the UK. Our research has demonstrated that the demand is there yet with a smaller increase in annual air sales, compared to hotels, rail and car hire it suggests that there is a disconnect between demand and supply . As we review the results of our research it is encouraging to see that there is a healthy demand for business travel. It is now up to government to support this demand so that the UK continues to realise its potential and maintain its competitive advantage in the global economy.” 

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