More than 200 delegates and 60 exhibitors from the business travel world including TMCs, travel managers and suppliers came together for the event at the Hilton Bankside Hotel from 17-18 September.
Guest speaker MP Gillian Keegan – who has a background in the travel industry – opened the event with a fascinating talk on the current state of Brexit, reassuring the audience that a no-deal Brexit is highly unlikely, and that withdrawal from the European Union will have a minimal impact on the travel sector.
She said the government has “put in place a nine-month deal to minimise travel disruption post-Brexit”, and that all the necessary legislation and regulations such as Right to Fly, European Aviation Safety Agency and road haulage permits have been secured and replicated in UK law.
A poll of delegates showed the majority had not yet witnessed any changes in their organisation that could be attributed to Brexit, though 29 per cent had seen some small changes.
Emerging themes over the two-day event included the need to personalise the business travel experience and develop ‘traveller policies’ as opposed to travel policies, that focus on the person rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach.
Meanwhile, traveller wellbeing has been steadily climbing up the agenda and is increasingly being balanced against cost savings in terms of its positive impact on productivity.
In a session on covering travel managers’ approach to their travellers’ accommodation needs, Black Box Partnership’s Managing Partner Leigh Cowlishaw pointed out “it’s not about the £1 saving… it’s about getting the right location and style of service, and not irking your travellers.
“We need to be more dynamic in our approach, not just looking at the bottom line. For example, they should have the ability to have room service if they want to stay in and work rather than walking out and eating alone.”
Wellness specialist Gavin Percy from Winning Edges Consultancy echoed this sentiment in his talk on making traveller wellbeing central to your business. Addressing the issue of productivity and days lost due to travel fatigue, he said travel managers need to consider factors beyond cost savings.
For example, booking travellers in business class cabins for long flights so that they arrive refreshed and ready to work makes sense for the business when flying in cheaper economy seats might lead to a day lost in recovery time.