As preparation for Brexit, we need to champion and strengthen our engagement with the Commonwealth
As I embark on my new role as CEO of the GTMC, I am buoyed by the positive, proactive attitude of the business travel sector, despite inevitably challenging times. The industry is navigating its way through a host of debates, including NDC, HS2, Heathrow’s expansion and credit card fee legislation to name but a few. How each of these will develop is hard to predict, but in all debates I am keen to continue the sterling work of my predecessor Paul Wait in championing the sector in all industry issues. I would like to take this opportunity to thank him for his efforts over the past four years.
Looking forward, one issue that demands immediate attention was highlighted at the GTMC overseas conference at the beginning of the summer. Tim Hewish of the RCS (Royal Commonwealth Society) provided valuable insight into how businesses and government can realise opportunities that lie beyond our neighbours in the EU.
With this in mind, this column is a pledge to continue to champion economic growth through longer-haul business travel by reinforcing the importance of engagement with the Commonwealth.
As part of its public affairs campaigns, the GTMC is working hard to call for travel to be more accessible, including an extensive review of visa policies currently in place for key Commonwealth nations. The RCS has highlighted the potential benefit that lies in enhancing trade and engagement with India through the introduction of two-year visitor visas for Indian nationals. These were made available to Chinese nationals in 2016, and there have been positive increases in trade with China, especially for SMEs.
Likewise, easing visa restrictions for South Africans would be a huge plus. Business travellers need to be able to engage more freely within the Commonwealth to realise wider opportunities for growth.
As trade agreements become less clear because of Brexit, changing the visa policies for Commonwealth nations will send a positive message that the UK is open for business. Looking further afield than the EU is a serious consideration and TMCs need red tape removed to make it easier.
I will be placing a strong focus on positive initiatives to support trade with the Commonwealth, and the GTMC will continue to champion the voice of the business traveller.