Corporate travel spending must be taken out of the hands of chief financial officers if the UK economy is to grow, says the head of the Guild of Management Companies.
GTMC chief executive Paul Wait told the business travel association's conference in Barcelona at the weekend: "If you don't travel for business, you are not going to do any business.
"If you don't travel, your business is going to go backwards."
Wait said: "Some people seem obsessed with video conferencing. There is nothing wrong with it, but it is just an expensive conference call.
"Do you think conference calls can replace travel to emerging markets?"
He reported a corporate customer saying 'We are into travel avoidance' and asked: "Why are we talking about cost control and travel avoidance?"
Wait noted a recent survey of chief financial officers had suggested a shift from a focus on cost control and cash flow but said: "I'm not convinced.
"We have chief financial officers who are the gatekeepers of investors and look at business travel as a cost rather than an investment."
He argued: "We need to move business travel out of the corporate finance division and put it into revenue generation - take it out of the hands of chief financial officers."
Wait said: "Company travel policies should measure revenue production and not just what companies are saving."
He called on the sector to "unite to promote business travel as a driver of economic growth and as an investment not a cost".
Wait added: "It's a massive challenge and there is a lot to be done. The biggest challenge is changing mindsets."
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