The Guild of Travel Management Companies has signalled a shift in strategy on lobbying.
Chief executive Paul Wait unveiled a new relationship with market research agency Audiencenet at the GTMC’s conference last weekend, saying: “We wanted to find a way to give a voice to the business traveller.
“We can join the rest of the crowd and get lost in the noise or we can say something different and that is what the business traveller is saying.”
GTMC lobbyist Gareth Morgan of Cavendish Communications said: “MPs get thousands of emails a week on a plethora of issues. The question is how you stand out.
“MPs are not interested in travel management companies, but they are interested in the guys you move about. Their views will get you in a room with MPs.”
Audiencenet managing director David Lewis presented a study of the views of 1,010 corporate travellers, identified as flying internationally on business from London or the southeast six or more times a year.
The findings support the case for expanding Heathrow and the GTMC will feed these into the Davies Commission on airport capacity in the southeast.
However, it intends to use such research to provide rolling data on business travellers’ views.
When respondents were asked what made for a good journey, “lack of disruption” came top of the unprompted answers, closely followed by “direct flights” and “ease of passage through the airport”.
Asked the single most-important factor, a majority put comfort and service or “convenience of airport” top.
The distance from home to airport was rated the most-important factor by 92%. At the airport, a lack of disruption was rated most important (by
99%), followed by efficient check-in (98%). Just 38% rated shops and duty‑free important.
Asked what most determined their choice of airport, 68% said direct flights. However, one in four said they sometimes flew long-haul via a non-UK hub.
Four out of five rated increased airport capacity in the southeast “very important” or “critical” and more than half (51%) favoured a third runway at Heathrow, against 25% for expanding Gatwick and 17% in favour of a Thames Estuary airport.
However, 34% thought additional Heathrow capacity should be used first to cut disruption to existing flights rather than add new routes – highlighting the frustration at delays.
Morgan said the business traveller’s view is key because the industry can’t present a coherent view.
“Everyone agrees we need more airport capacity,” he said. “But the question is where should capacity be, and the industry voice is coming
from different directions. MPs hear different things and it frustrates them.”
The research threw up other findings that Wait said “we ignore at our peril”: 62% of respondents said they made some or all of their own business travel arrangements; 67% “would prefer” to research and book business flights themselves; and 35% had used a mobile device to research or book business travel.
However, 56% saw business travel as a chance to enjoy leisure travel abroad and 65% were happy to spend their own money on it. Four out of five
said “sustainability” concerns had no impact on their business trips and 45% said their company paid “lip service” to sustainable travel.
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