Mystery Buyer: Time to make some noise

All parts of the corporate travel community need to get together and speak with one voice

Consensus and agreement may be hopelessly out of fashion these days. But it’s also still probably true that there’s far more that unites us than divides us.

No matter how entrenched views may be on some contentious subjects, there’s always plenty of common ground where working together has significant potential benefits for everybody – and this should be true in the business travel industry as well.

In many ways we already work together. The GBTA, ACTE and ITM work tirelessly in the interests of travel managers; IATA and regional groupings, such as A4A (Airlines for America) and its European equivalent A4E, represent the interests of the airline sector; the BTA (formerly known as GTMC) is the mouthpiece of travel management companies, and so on.

The big question is whether these seemingly disparate bodies collaborate in any meaningful way to represent the interests of the much wider business travel community.

The emphasis is on the word “wider”. Travel managers and buyers, and their employers, TMCs, airlines and airports, accommodation providers, tech and corporate card companies, train operators and ground transportation firms – all, and more, are part of the corporate travel community in one way or another.

As such, we have a common ground, common interest, common aims and objectives. However, it’s not clear that we have a common voice when it comes to attempting to influence our political so-called masters.

Let’s have an industry equivalent of a cross-party debate

The bigger issues
There are commercial sensitivities but they can, and arguably should, easily be sidelined. Airline bosses talk to one another, find common ground and lobby accordingly. There can be little doubt that the likes of Travelodge, Premier Inn and others discuss issues, such as business rates, the minimum wage, and so on.

Nobody is going to be giving away trade secrets, but there are plenty of infinitely bigger issues that impact all of us. Cybercrime, climate change, rising oil prices and trade sanctions affect us. Here in Europe, air traffic control strikes have a negative effect on corporates and their business travellers, TMCs and even hotels – they are not “just” an issue for airlines.

As an industry, we are not going to patch up relations between presidents Trump and Xi, we cannot influence OPEC, or stem the resurgence of right-wing nationalism in central Europe. However, as an industry, we probably know people who could be persuaded, at least, to try.

At the UK level, the national economy benefits enormously from what we all do, whether it’s booking business trips, flying aircraft or driving taxis. We need to break out of our self-interested silos and take a much more holistic approach to advocacy.

Let’s have an industry equivalent of a cross-party debate, involving all links in the corporate travel supply chain, and resolve to use our combined clout to make a real difference.

Speaking with one voice on issues of mutual concern and interest makes it harder for those in authority to ignore the industry. Working together is the best way to get results for everybody – it’s time to make some noise.

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