26 FEBRUARY 2018
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Complete with camera, Business Travel Show veteran John Burke once again attended the annual exhibition of services and products for those booking corporate travel.
The latest Business Travel Show last week was bigger than ever, attracting ten more exhibitors than last year to London’s Olympia. It has expanded into the West Hall, pushing up to the gallery the 118 exhibitors, such as Amadeus and Sabre, at Travel Technology Europe.
The ground floor’s total of 270 companies, which ranged from three divisions of American Express to Zipcar, were divided into 34 sometimes overlapping categories necessarily dominated by the 45 travel management companies and business travel agents. Clarity and Carlson Wagonlit were among those additionally categorised as providers of meeting services.
Also in a dual role was Diners Club, the inventor of charge cards in 1950, which announced the latest programme to streamline expense claims. FCM Travel Solutions launched Seeqa to provide travellers with “unparalleled” travel options, while Egencia’s novelty was post-ticketing online air exchange.
At least 42 products were unveiled, including Vibe by Crystal and Lightning Lite by Corporate Travel Management. There was even a newcomer, Fello, following the merger of Sandy Row and World Club, which wants a new approach to arranging travel. This seems to bear out a survey which found that 90% of buyers wanted more initiative, while only 30% regarded their level of service as consistent. The findings were released by Traveldoo, one of 17 booking systems that also included Travelport and Wizme.
Statistically, travel management or consultancy were outnumbered by ground transportation that encompassed 50 exhibitors, ranging from railways to rent-a-car and from coaches to chauffeured fleets. Among them were Blackstone, Heathrow Express, Uber for Business and Kings Ferry Connections.
It was aviation, however, that had a far greater presence than at any of London’s other travel events. A dozen of these exhibitors were either airports like London City or linked services such as private lounges. Air charter was represented by Ethiopian Airlines and Air Astana.
Star Alliance’s large stand incorporated many of its 51-member airlines, including South African Airways, which is due to introduce the A330-300 on the London route, and Air Canada, offering virtual flights on its Dreamliner.
Separate stands included those of easyJet, which has launched flights from Belfast to Venice, and Rwandair that will fly to Kigali from London-Gatwick in May. Flybe was at Olympia as well as Philippine Airlines, celebrating its four-star certification from Skytrax, and China Airlines, whose flights to Taipei from Gatwick will shortly increase to five a week. British Airways was among 65 new exhibitors – five more than last year, a list that also included a Dutch firm, EU Claim, specialising in compensation for flight delays.
More newcomers were in the accommodation sector, which included 44 hotels or chains such as Premier Inn, which is purchasing a dozen sites in Germany. That country’s Steigenberger group was also present. Jacqui Peerse of InterContinental Hotels said her group would open 1,500 hotels worldwide within five years. There were also 25 lessors of serviced apartments such as City ID in Amsterdam and Brussels Business Flats, which expects no downturn from Brexit, a view voiced by Wings Travel at the show. The subject did come up during the total of 60 lectures, debates and workshops whose content largely concentrated on pricing, programmes and policy.
The sessions were well attended, and there were the habitual comments from the floor about exhaustion from ever-changing technology. Airbnb featured in one of several talks about booking seats, but there were reporting restrictions on one entitled Get Paid to Fly. Carolyn Pearson of Maiden Voyage was among several speakers discussing duty of care and the danger to lone or female travellers.
Seven security or medical companies exhibited at Olympia, accentuating the awareness of risk that permeated the show; it had both surveillance and sniffer-dogs. Wings is adding consular support and evacuation of clients to its services, while Drum Cussac displayed a new security app called CloseCircle for families.
What is lacking, however, is a device for navigating a show that was packed with an estimated 7,500 professionals. Robert Sarrow, a buyer from Caribbee in London, said: “It is busier than last year”, while Ulrich Teitz of Deutsche Bahn noted: “Either there are more buyers or else the right aisle is a better location than my pitch on the left in 2017.”
Show organiser Rochelle Jayawardena of Centaur Live told me she aimed for even more exhibitors to celebrate the 25th event next year.
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