Organised by the WIN Global Travel Network, the two-day event was attended by suppliers and TMCs responsible, between them, for an estimated $20billion in annual business travel spend.
“We’re often threatened and frequently challenged in a constantly changing landscape,” said WIN CEO Neil Armorgie in his opening remarks, as he urged TMCs to “stand up and fight their corner”.
Festive Road’s Ian Jones urged TMCs to differentiate themselves from the competition in order to thrive.
“People use a TMC because they’re told too, not because they choose to,” he said. “Business travellers are led by loyalty and experience but the business is price-led. It’s a precarious business model.”
Jones also discussed the eight types of TMC his organisation has identified, including high-touch ‘creme de la creme’ agencies such as Eton Travel and Reed & Mackay and those ‘holding on to the past’ who don’t have “the will, the skill or the bill to move forwards”.
Procurement specialist William Pegg advised TMCs to carefully consider what business they pitch for.
“If the first you hear about a tender is the invitation then the likelihood of you winning it is slim,” he said. “Be careful what you go for and don’t be a space filler.”
He also challenged TMCs to calculate how much it actually costs them to go through a tender, to build rapport with potential clients and to ask questions of the organisation during the tender process.
“Very few say ‘let’s have a chat’ when they receive the tender. It doesn’t happen enough and it’s a great way to build rapport,” he said.
Pegg also advised TMCs to follow the precise format asked of them to enable the business to make clear comparisons, but also to go the extra mile.
“If they ask for an apple give them an apple but give them a banana too to show them a different future,” he said. “What they want isn’t necessarily what they need.”
Meanwhile John Gray of Rockport Analytics revealed $1.4 trillion was spent on business travel in 2018 but warned the rate of growth was slowing.
It is forecast to slow to 3.1% in 2019, following growth of 5.7% in 2018 and 5.8% in 2017.
“This year is projected to be the weakest year for global growth since the recession,” said Gray.
He added that although the manufacturing sector is the largest area of business travel spend, it is also the most susceptible to the impact of escalating trade wars.
Gray also warned that a no-deal Brexit would be “extremely negative” for business travel.