WHEN I WAS A KID, growing up in the 70s and 80s, there was already talk of business travel eventually being replaced by some kind of new-fangled videophone set-up. My fear was I'd never go on exciting trips like my dad and his colleagues - it would all be done electronically. I was worried the grownup me would be stuck in a dreary office, meeting people via some futuristic piece of tech - a device combining those clattering telex machines and the flickering holograms in star wars. I'd never fly on concorde!
Well, I was right about Concorde (though wrong about the reasons) and quite prescient about the Star Wars/telex combo - internet-linked technology has lived up surprisingly well to George Lucas's 70s fantasies. But I was obviously wrong about the demise of business travel.
Throughout this issue you'll find evidence to the contrary: despite much doom-mongering by politicians and economists, there are forecasts of moderate rises in business travel demand this year - hand-in-hand with price rises.
But in many instances those price increases have as much to do with fuel and tax hikes as with booming businesses. So fare rises and more travel may be degrees of good(ish) news for suppliers and agencies, but a double-whammy for buyers. An over-riding theme in this issue is squeezing every last drop of value out of travel and meetings spend - and that includes virtual meetings.
On reflection, George Lucas and I weren't too wide of the mark - virtual conferencing is becoming ever more prevalent and sophisticated. It continues to advance in terms of product and distribution - see Sabre's deal with Polycom to launch a global reservation system for booking virtual facilities. With fuel prices and travel taxes on the march, every boss with an eye on the bottom line is going to be watching developments closely for savings opportunities. And the financial incentive to go virtual is increasing as carbon trading develops.
But as ever, we want to know what your experience is, so I'll be updating you soon about a (brief but thorough) reader survey to ensure BBT, as the leading UK publication for corporate travel buyers, is providing you with precisely the content you need - and some rather nice prizes to tempt you to take part. In the meantime, whatever's on your mind, drop me a line at [email protected] or via the bbt readers' group on linkedin.com here's to a successful and prosperous 2012 - keep in touch.
Paul Revel, editor