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The world where meetings and travel collide

David Chapple portfolio director of the Business Travel Show

In recent years, the convergence between meetings and travel has been somewhat of a hot topic with reports that an increasing proportion of business travel buyers are now responsible for meetings spend and vice versa.
Since 2010, the Business Travel Show has surveyed business travel buyers to monitor, among other things, this specific trend. In 2010, the number of travel buyers also responsible for group travel and meetings was roughly 50/50. Last year, however, this number shot up to 63 per cent.

  16/7 15/16 14/15 13/14 12/13 11/12 10/11
Yes 63 58 57 52 55 40 51
No 37 42 43 48 45 60 49

We have also monitored how many of those buyers looking after group travel and meetings have adopted a structured approach. In 2011, it was just 30 per cent. Last year, this figure had doubled to 60 per cent.

  16/7 15/16 14/15 13/14 12/13 11/12
Yes 60 39 34 27 39 30
No 27 36 41 45 37 41
Planning to within 12 months 13 25 24 28 27 22

After monitoring how the two industries have overlapped for more than five years, I can see that there are two areas where the convergence is most apparent. The first is at the strategic procurement level (i.e. where large multinational organisations are spending a lot of money and big savings are to be had). The second is the booking of spaces for regular small meetings (where only the tiniest of margins exist and minimum savings can be made).

Strategic procurement in the meetings industry – also known as strategic meetings management – is mostly the domain of large multinational organisations that have the buying power to procure meetings services in the way they procure business travel. These organisations often have procurement managers that deal with meetings and travel whereas in other, smaller companies, it’s not necessarily seen as a procurement function.    

These category specialists are responsible for agreeing the terms of contract with two or three suppliers in every category – from AV, production and creative, to venues, delegates and, of course, travel. They also look after their organisation’s large meetings. Their purpose is not to coordinate the creative elements of travel and meetings (which is best left to the event managers) but rather to consolidate the procurement of these functions and their suppliers. Do this well and considerable costs can be cut.

The other area where there is crossover between travel and meetings is in the procurement of high volumes of small meeting spaces by an organisation for, for example, sales meetings, training sessions, board meetings. In recent years, this function has increasingly become the responsibility of business travel managers who can draw on their experience and knowledge of consolidating large volumes of travel to transfer these procurement skills to the meetings category. Procurement managers are driving this consolidation of meetings spend because it gives them increased buying power, which leads to cost savings.

In my opinion, the convergence between travel and meetings is very definitely a reality – and our buyer survey certainly supports this – but it’s a reality that is limited to certain job functions and it’s the business travel managers who are taking on meetings management but not vice versa so it will be interesting to revisit the trend again in another 12 months to see if this rise was a blip or if it is, indeed, a trend.

David Chapple is portfolio director of the Business Travel Show, Europe’s largest specialised exhibition and conference bringing together over 7,500 European travel and meetings professionals. It takes place 22-23 February at Olympia London.

Meetings and travel buyers can register for a free visitor pass at

178 travel buyers took part in the seventh Business Travel Show annual survey in November 2016. 61 per cent of respondents worked in the UK, 37 per cent in continental Europe.

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