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July/August 2017
For Business, Corporate Travel & Meeting Buyers & Arrangers

Gilt by association: why join a professional body?

Professional bodies claim to offer their members a variety of gains, from networking and educational opportunities to enhanced salaries and career prospects. So how and why does joining an association benefit travel buyers? Alex Blyth investigates

ACTE – Asociation of Corporate Travel Executives 

“The industry constantly innovates and develops – if we work in isolation, disconnected from what is happening within the industry, quite simply, it will leave us behind,” asserts Caroline Allen,

ACTE’s regional director for the EMEA region. “Participating in industry education, as a speaker or delegate, is about investing in the future of the corporate travel industry, both for companies and for individuals.”

She adds: “ACTE’s sole mission is to help the wheels of the industry turn – nothing more, nothing less. It was established by the industry, for the industry to provide a neutral platform for corporate travel buyers and suppliers to come together to identify and debate industry challenges, and work with each other to find equitable, working solutions. The association attracts industry leaders, so there’s a high calibre of thought leadership. Networking is of the highest level and it’s a simple fact that all around the world, people learn, create connections and business gets done at ACTE events.”

Senior executives:  Suzanne Neufang (president); Ron DiLeo (executive director until December)

Location: Head office in Alexandria, US, but regional staff focus on local markets.

Date founded:  1988

30,000 members and constituents

Cost of joining: €345

Exclusive access to valuable research tools, timely publications, networking opportunities, event registration discounts and professional development. 

Irina Kuznetsova is a vice-president in the finance department at Russian bank VTB. She joined ACTE in 2007, after visiting the Business Travel Market where she met Caroline Allen and soon found herself helping to organise the first Moscow ACTE forum.

“There are many reasons why I joined ACTE,” she says. “Firstly I wanted to learn something new and to meet travel specialists. Russia is an emerging market where there are many companies which don’t have a travel policy, and where employees are booking and buying tickets online with no cost analysis and no corporate contracts. There is much for us to learn.”

She has now been to four Moscow ACTE Forums and believes great progress has been made in developing travel management skills in Russia. However, she doesn't ascribe her career development specifically to ACTE. “When I started my activity as ACTE country chairman I was already the Russian infrastructure and procurement leader in my company,” she says. “I was, though, promoted to a regional role covering 28 countries, and I think the knowledge and high-level contacts I got through ACTE helped me become established much more rapidly in that role.”

She concludes: “If you want to improve your organisation’s travel programme, add to your own knowledge, obtain skills and influence decisions or even become a decision-maker, I would advise you to join ACTE.”

ITM - the Institute of Travel & Meetings

“Now, more than ever, ITM is an association that is being relied on by thousands of professionals in this sector to help them connect with each other, share best practice and improve the work they do,” says CEO Simone Buckley. “An association is where you go for unbiased information, education and connections that can all help you in your work. Associations provide resources and knowledge beyond your own organisation. An association connects people who share a common goal or interest and facilitates improvements for individuals and, therefore, their organisations. ITM is the only UK association dedicated to achieving this for those people who work in the business travel industry.”

Senior executives: Simone Buckley (chief executive officer); Nicola Lomas (chairman)

Location: Head office is in Amersham, but the ITM also has regional committees in Edinburgh, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, London and Ireland.

Date founded: 1956

Number of members: 2,014

Cost of joining: £249 for a year


•          Free entry to events, including the annual ITM Conference, quarterly forums, workshops, buyer-only focus groups, ITM/CIPS masterclasses, regional meetings and social networking events.

•          Access to ITM’s member directory and an online facility, called Exchange, which allows members to contact each other.

•          Access to ITM Resources which includes How-To Toolkits, research papers and reports.

•          Free membership to GBTA Europe.

•          A £50 discount on CIPS membership.

Sarah Makings, European category manager, procurement, at KPMG, has been a member of ITM for around ten years and is extremely positive about the experience. She says: “The networking opportunities and educational sessions ITM provides have enabled me to build really strong relationships, and increase my knowledge and expertise in the travel industry. Then, when I became an ITM board director in 2009, it gave me a lot of opportunities to build my confidence and improve my public speaking skills.”

GBTA Europe

Paul Tilstone is chief global development officer and European managing director for GBTA Europe. He says: “I believe travel buyers should join GBTA Europe because, in an increasingly global society, we all need to have a network to help us understand and connect with the fast developments our market creates around the world.”

He adds: “That network should be GBTA because we are owned by the members, who all work together to further their careers, their businesses and the industry to raise the profession of travel management. Ultimately we are buyer-led. We have the heart of the consumer at our core and it drives everything we do.”

Senior executives: Paul Tilstone (chief global development officer and European managing director); Torbjorn Erling (European chairman); Mike McCormick (US chief operating officer); Jim McMullan (president and CEO)

Location: Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, France, UK and Ireland.

Date founded: January 2010

Number of members: 2,500 in Europe and 5,500 globally

Cost of joining: €320 per person


•          Over 700 free resources, including global hotel RFP, strategic KPI toolkit and risk management maturity model.

•          GTP (Global Travel Professional) certification, a globally recognised qualification.

•          Training at three levels, delivered as part of the Masters programme from Wharton Business School.

•          Regional conferences (GBTA Europe is in Budapest on September 19-21).

•          Online networking through specialised Hub.

•          Advocacy representation with European Commission.

As the executive director for global sourcing, travel and events at UBS, Priska Schmidli is responsible for sourcing all travel commodities, including flights, hotel rooms, car rentals, and corporate card spending for the entire company. She works closely with regional travel teams but has overall global responsibility. “I joined GBTA Europe for the networking possibilities, both virtually through the GBTA Hub and in person at conferences and events,” she says. “I have found the strategic benchmark group to be very useful and I have already been to two GBTA European conferences. These are great events with high-level speakers sharing fresh ideas.”

She adds: “Ultimately the association gives me a chance to discuss travel purchasing with my peers, and to hear how others are dealing with sourcing issues and how they manage suppliers. It is an excellent platform through which I can reach out to a network of fellow buyers. This doesn’t just happen during conferences and events, but takes place all year round.” 

CIPS -  Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply

The Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply is not specifically a travel body like the other organisations featured here, but does offer benefits to those in procurement. “I would advise travel managers to join both the ITM and CIPS,” says Trudy Salandiak, CIPS spokesperson. “It will allow them to take advantage of two highly-targeted masterclasses and they'll be able to enjoy each organisation’s additional benefits, such as access to CIPS online knowledge hub, legal services, regional office space and branch events.”

Senior executives: David Noble (chief executive)

Location: Head office in UK, and offices in Middle East, China, Africa and Australia.

Date founded: 1932

Number of members: 88,000 globally

Cost of joining: Certificate membership is £147 a year for new members 


•          Discounted membership of ITM.

•          A selection of one-day masterclasses covering both professional procurement techniques and travel-specific category expertise in the areas of airline, hotel, travel technology and travel service provision.

CIPS is keen to build its membership among travel buyers, and in June this year announced a partnership with ITM. CIPS chief executive David Noble says: “Partnership working is essential in today’s business world and we are offering the best of two institutes. Getting good networking opportunities, quality knowledge and insight-sharing can help you make the step up from being good enough in your job, and for your organisation, to striving for excellence. We’re here to help both travel buyers and procurement professionals to do just that.”

The buyer: Carel Aucamp is global sourcing manager at Agrega, a joint venture between Anheuser-Busch InBev and British American Tobacco. Agrega purchases all commodities, including travel, for both companies across in 180 countries. Aucamp joined ACTE when he was still based in his native South Africa in 2008. “I joined ACTE for three reasons,” he says. “It is a truly international association with a footprint in Europe, Africa, Asia, South America and North America; it offers well-researched and objective educational content; and finally, it aspires to improve the industry by constructively challenging the status quo.”

He says ACTE has provided him with a global network of market experts, travel champions and creative thinkers who he frequently calls upon to help improve his work. Aucamp concludes: “The sooner you get involved the faster you will reap benefit. ACTE is like a trampoline – the more you give, the higher you go.”

The buyer: One senior travel buyer, who heads up the global travel programme for a leading UK company, did not want to be named, but was willing to offer his views on the different travel industry associations. He has been a member of ACTE but has left it and is now only a member of the ITM.

“ACTE is strong in the US and in parts of Europe, which is useful for companies like us with a global programme, but it’s a bit thin on the ground in France and Germany,” he says. “Also its content isn’t as strong as the ITM’s. The ITM has new leadership coming up with some good ideas like getting out into the regions. I know people in Manchester and Birmingham who find it very useful to have the ITM locally.

“All these organisations have their strengths and weaknesses,” he concludes. “It varies over time and you should join the one that best fits your needs at any given time. To work out what’s right for you I would recommend getting along to a few of their events and seeing where you get best value.”

The supplier: Adam Knights is group sales and marketing director at ATPI. He says: “For suppliers, membership of an organisation like the ITM is an appealing option. Compared to an exhibition, the level of quality buyers attending the annual conference and quarterly forums is far greater in a more concentrated environment.”

He continues: “Buyers tell me this allows them to pick the wheat from chaff, and for those who don’t have other travel colleagues to share ideas with, the events that come with a membership allow them to meet with fellow buyers to discuss the challenges of the marketplace.”

He adds: “Looking beyond these mainstream activities, many of these organisations are getting better at developing niche offerings to specialist markets. A prime example of this is GBTA’s Oil and Gas Forum. We do a lot of work in that sector so we have found the group to be extremely useful in putting us in contact with the right people.”

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