What education and training opportunities are available for travel buyers in 2016? Here's our guide to what's on offer
The number of opportunities for buyers to hone their travel management and procurement skills has been growing in recent years.
This reflects a perception in the industry that the pace of change in several key areas – such as distribution, technology, risk management and the potential of data capabilities – has quickened.
Also, employers are increasingly looking to improve employee engagement and retention by investing in skills development, according to Chris Pouney of consultancy Nina & Pinta. But he also points out “a fundamental difference between industry education and training – and both are required”.
Education is about keeping abreast of industry developments and peer networking, while training is a more formal form of professional development that should carry independent accreditation, he says.
Both are high on the agenda for the major business travel associations, which have extensive programmes that feature a combination of conferences, workshops, seminars, online training and formal certificated courses for buyers.
Here is a guide to some of the main opportunities available during 2016.
Buying Business Travel
The BBT Forums, which are now held in both London and Dublin, have become highly popular events for buyers in the busy business travel calendar.
The concept of the forums, which are supported by the Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE), is to allow senior travel buyers to come together to discuss common challenges and strategies to improve the running of their travel programmes.
Numbers are limited to around 80 participants at each forum, with buyers making up around 50 per cent of all attendees. Buying Business Travel editor Paul Revel says that extensive buyer feedback from each event helps shape content for subsequent forums.
“We don’t have formal presentations and no-one uses Power Point,” he says. “It’s all about open dialogue – because we have ‘Chatham House Rules’, it allows buyers to be more candid about the issues and challenges they face, as well as talking about successful solutions they’ve implemented within their organisations.”
One buyer, who has attended several forums, says: “You don’t have someone lecturing from a podium – it’s about the opportunity for everyone to share and contribute to the whole conversation.”
BBT also partners with key educational events throughout the year, including many of those listed in this feature, plus other events such as the Serviced Apartment Summit on July 12-13 in London.
New for 2016 will be a collaboration between corporate hotel booking specialist HRS, BBT and ITM – a hotel forum launching in June that will feature expert speakers, seminars and debates on optimising your accommodation programme.
Business Travel Show
The annual Business Travel Show (BTS) is a well established fixture on the calendar. This year it takes place at Olympia Grand in London, on February 24-25. Last year saw a 15 per cent increase in attendance, with 7,400 visitors.
The show will feature an extensive three-day programme, including the annual pre-show half-day conference for hosted buyers on February 23, at the Novotel London West hotel in Hammersmith. Show organisers are expecting around 400 buyers to take part in the hosted programme this year.
Buying Business Travel is the official UK media partner of the BTS.
The Institute of Travel and Meetings (ITM) has formed a new education committee to ensure its training programme is “relevant, new and valuable for our members”.
Plans for 2016 include five workshops for buyers throughout the year, looking at popular subjects, such as sourcing for travel management companies (TMCs) and travel technology. These sessions will also include new content on data and presentation skills, as well as global consolidation of travel programmes.
It is also introducing five ITM Summits to give members the chance to discuss and debate key issues such as distribution, compliance and risk management. For suppliers, ITM is adding 12 half-day training courses, which are designed to help them get a “better understanding” of what travel buyers want and need.
ITM’s biggest event this year is the annual conference, which will be held at Celtic Manor resort in Wales on May 3-5. The event will also mark ITM’s 60th anniversary.
CEO Simone Buckley says: “Having explored what the megatrends are and what they might mean to the industry, we will delve deeper to identify challenges and opportunities for the travel procurement and management community.
“We will have some exciting plenary and breakout sessions, with a focus on the collaboration and sharing of expertise from across the supply chain.”
Other ITM plans include the launch of buyer-only benchmarking groups to allow members to “share best practice in a private environment”.
“We are taking more of our events out to the regions, with a conference in Dublin in November for the Irish market, summits in Scotland and Manchester, and benchmarking groups around the UK,” adds Buckley. “We plan to make our events even more interactive and have new and fresh ideas in terms of delivery for 2016.”
ITM is continuing its partnership, which initially started in 2012, with the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS). The two organisations last year produced their first ‘How to...’ guide for those working in travel procurement, Business Travel Category Procurement and Management, which breaks down the five ‘phases’ of creating a managed travel programme.
There are also two levels of formal qualifications available to ITM members: the Fundamentals of Business Travel Management and the Global Travel Professional (GTP) certification, both offered through ITM’s partnership with the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA).
“All of our events are designed as a pathway to lead members to becoming GTP-qualified and are both GTP and CPD (Continuing Professional Development) accredited,” says Buckley.
“CPD points are recognised across most professions and this accreditation helps reinforce our commitment to education and best practice.”
ITM members earn both GTP and CPD points through attending the institute’s training events. “Since we launched CPD in March 2015, ITM has delivered more than 150 CPD hours across our events to members,” says Buckley.
Global Business Travel Association
The GBTA Academy works with ITM to offer the Fundamentals of Business Travel Management as a two-day course, once a year, in the UK.
GBTA also offers a range of other training courses and qualifications, with the highest level being the Global Leadership Professional Programme (GLP), which is run by the US-based Wharton business school and is the equivalent of a masters degree. GBTA offers the Global Travel Professional certification in Europe, which aims to “recognise individuals who demonstrate core competencies essential to the business travel management discipline”.
Continental AG travel buyer Ruediger Bruss completed the GTP course when it was introduced in Europe. He says: “I chose GBTA accreditation as it is the business travel education programme that is widely recognised in this sector globally. The GBTA Academy delivers comprehensive education programmes to suit the beginner through to the industry expert, so you can continue your learning journey for your own professional growth and development.”
GBTA is also planning to launch its Advanced Principles course in Europe this year. The two-day workshop covers subjects such as strategic planning, buyer and suppler relationships, travel programme administration and data analysis.
GBTA says the course was set up “in response to demand from the market” for a more advanced programme following on from the Fundamentals course, and it is designed also to act as preparation for the GLP course.
The association says it has made “significant investments” in its online resource library, GBTA Hub, which has now been made mobile-ready and gives members access to more than 1,500 resources. GBTA has also introduced a new platform for webinars, which will allow it to expand the programme of online training sessions for buyers.
The biggest event of the year is the GBTA Convention, which will take place in Denver, Colorado, on July 16-20. The association’s European conference will be held in Frankfurt for a second consecutive year, on November 14-16.
Association of Corporate Travel Executives
This year, for the first time, ACTE will be holding a joint European conference with aviation specialist CAPA – Centre for Aviation. The event, which combines ACTE’s Global Conference with the CAPA World Aviation Summit, will take place in Amsterdam on October 26-28. It is also supported by Dutch business travel association CORTAS.
ACTE executive director Greeley Koch says of the move: “This is an opportunity to provide our members with unparalleled access to the strategic intelligence, research and data of CAPA, complete with a comprehensive educational programme the global travel community has come to expect from ACTE. It’s all about providing membership value. In one move, ACTE and CAPA are maximising membership exposure to industry insight while shrinking the annual calendar.”
As part of their partnership, ACTE and CAPA will this year also be holding a series of joint events, including forums and travel summits in Australia and New Zealand. In addition to working with BBT on its forums, ACTE holds more than 75 education events in 24 countries.
The association’s major annual US conference will be staged in Dallas from April 17-19. Its next London forum takes place on March 15. In 2015 ACTE held a series of online seminars (known as webinars) on topical subjects, including two sessions on the impact of Lufthansa’s decision to add a €16 fee for all bookings made through global distribution systems (GDSs).
Koch adds: “ACTE tries to improve content or process for our membership every time we meet – whether it’s presenting traveller-centricity, going to full video webinars, experimenting with virtual conferences, introducing zero registration fees for buyer members, carrying our members’ views directly to supplier leadership, or bringing chief executives to our conference.”