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GTMC London conference

Regulation was the topic of the day at the Guild of Travel Management Companies’ London conference. Sara Turner reports

HELD AT THE ST PANCRAS Renaissance Hotel in London, keynote speakers at the Guild of Travel Management Companies’ (GTMC) conference included politicians, transport providers and senior figures from the world of managed travel – from both the buyer and agency sides. Subjects covered included why aviation is suffering an image crisis, and how the GTMC plans to change that with its lobbying efforts, plus discussions around the eternal bugbear of taxes.

Aviation must market itself better if it is to have any hope of a brighter future, Transport Select Committee member and MP for Spelthorne, Kwasi Kwarteng, told delegates. The Tory minister accused the industry of being “complacent” and said: “The case for aviation has to be made again.”

Kwarteng said his interest in aviation stemmed from his Spelthorne seat, which is directly affected by the fortunes of Heathrow, as a large proportion of his constituents work there. He said: “To many of us in the House of Commons it is obvious that aviation improves the economic prosperity of a country,” but said that not all ministers agree. “The aviation industry has failed to make the argument that aviation is good for the economy," he added. He praised the work of the GTMC in creating a unified industry voice, but said more had to be done.

Expanding on the conference’s legislation theme, keynote speaker Chris Gibson, HRG’s head of taxation, spoke in an exclusive interview with Buying Business Travel’s sister brand He said travel buyers should beware of ignoring value-added tax (VAT).

“The downside is too great. VAT for travel is complex because business travel itself can be complex, and specialised tax advisors can be expensive.”

Gibson said HM Revenue & Customs had introduced measures to “close the tax gap”, including a risk rating of companies, meaning closer scrutiny for some. He also warned corporate buyers to talk to their TMCs about the Tour Operators Margin Scheme (TOMS) – the buyers whose TMCs operated within TOMS could find that UK VAT was not recoverable, with significant impact on costs and budgets.

Read the full interview at