"Buyers should be working closely with their TMCs to understand Covid challenges and utilise their TMC’s expertise"

Yesterday I was invited to be a panellist on GBTA Europe’s 2nd Town Hall event to talk about how our industry has been impacted by Covid and what is needed for a return to travel. I was joined by James Foice, CEO, The Association of Serviced Apartment Providers and Thomas Reynaert, MD for Airlines for Europe (A4E). It was a really good session and I wanted to share with you some of my insights and thoughts from the event.

GBTA shared some key stats and insights from their community which painted a stark picture of the reality for our industry right now:

  • 63% of Euro GBTA members cite local government restrictions (and the clarification of these) as the greatest barrier to travel
  • Global air traffic is 55% down on the previous year, significantly more down in terms of pax numbers
  • It is estimated that European airlines have around six months left of cash to burn through based on current levels of trading
  • European hotel group bookings are 77% down, serviced apartments are 52% down on 2019 levels.
  • Mergers and acquisitions in the accommodation space highly likely in 2021

Some really powerful stats were shared which gave us food for thought and led us into a discussion around ‘what do we need to do to get corporate travel moving again?’ The overwhelming response was that industry collaboration is absolutely key (across the whole supply chain) and this is something I have been championing personally since March. I think working together is key to us uniting and having a stronger voice. This has been illustrated through some of the lobbying and campaigning work we have done at Advantage, working with organisations such as The BTA, ABTA, GBTA, BAB, BAR UK, SPAA and more.

It was agreed that yesterday’s news about rapid testing at airports (as seen yesterday at LHR for HKG and what appeared to initially be Italy) are baby steps in the right direction but it’s also clear that a globally harmonised testing regime approved by all governments remains a key goal.

The panel agreed that buyers should be working closely with their TMCs to understand Covid challenges and utilise their TMC’s expertise in managing their travel programme into 2021 and I was pleased to share that this is something we know many of our members are doing. Some of our members are taking the opportunity to rethink, review and redevelop their travel programmes to ensure they are meeting the demands of the changing corporate traveller.

It is worth Advantage members noting that the GBTA Hub on the GBTA Europe website has some interesting buyer resources, which is a good tool to use to better understand what the buyers are currently looking for and discussing.

My final thought, there is an opportunity right now for Advantage Business Travel members to be engaging with their whole supply chain; working with their corporates on their managed travel programme; understanding how to support greater traveller compliance; how you can influence this policy as well as how you leverage even greater commercial benefit from your supply chain. As you know Advantage Business Travel can support you in all your commercial needs with an increased portfolio across our airline nett fare programme, accommodation portfolio and third party service providers – available to all Advantage members as part of your subscription.

I will continue engaging with GBTA Europe and other industry collaborators so we can unite and keep communicating and working together as we continue to work through this pandemic and plan for the future.

Julia Lo Bue-Said is CEO of Advantage Travel Partnership.

A recording of the GBTA meeting is to follow so we will share a link with Advantage members once it has been received.

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Julia Lo Bue-Said

CEO of Advantage Travel Partnership

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