The Business Travel Show: 20 years and counting

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Two decades on from its first event, the Business Travel Show (BTS) is demonstrating that the Internet’s effect on the industry hasn’t been as damaging as first feared. Back when the show started in 1994 at Wembley Arena, arrangements were booked via a business travel agent at a time when there was no easy solution at the click of a mouse. In those more tranquil times, the show aimed to provide a valuable face-to-face opportunity for global travel brands and to create new business with hundreds of hard to identify bookers and buyers from small and mid-sized businesses. Exhibitors sought to enhance relationships with UK-based buyers from multinationals who manage larger travel budgets. Indeed, BTS was the first B2B show for Centaur Exhibitions, with The Homebuilding & Renovating Show as the inaugural Centaur exhibition. Now 20 years on, the Internet has fundamentally altered the landscape. Technology has made it easier for booking and price transparency and pricing models have also evolved. But the event has developed in line with these changes and still aims to be a platform where travel buyers come to buy, assess, learn and network. “The premise of the show hasn’t changed. The issues have changed. Everyone said the Internet would be the death of travel management companies and travel agencies,” said BTS event director David Chapple. “Travel management companies evolved themselves and changed their business models, instead of being a booking facilitator.” The 2014 show will be held at Earls Court 2 on 4-5 February and is anticipating 6,200 visitors. In 2013, it had 6,158 visitors (ABC audited). The exhibition is set to move to Olympia London’s Grand Hall in 2015. In the last two decades, as well as Wembley, the show has been at the Business Design Centre and Olympia’s National Hall.The show is expecting around 240 exhibitors, up from 203 in 2013. It had a show area of 2,100sqm in 2013, which is expected to increase to 2,700sqm in 2014. Last year, The Business Travel Show introduced the Hosted Buyer programme to the show. This year the Hospitality Technology Europe show will co-locate with the event. “Our show appeals to travel management companies and anyone who provides a service for travellers,” said Chapple. “This could be transportation or anyone that enables companies to manage their travel expenditure.” He sees visitors to the show as people with responsibility for booking, buying or managing company travel. Chapple estimates the show could save firms 20 per cent on their travel. New features This year’s show will have three new feature areas: A responsible travel management zone, which focuses on the increasing importance of Corporate Social Responsibility and duty of care The International Hotel Village - featuring leading global hotels but also leading hotels within their own territories The Guild of Travel Management Companies Pavilion for members. These will sit alongside the Institute of Travel & Meetings Village, the Pavilion for Serviced Apartment Providers, The Business Travel Technology Showcase and the Airline Pavilion. The show will also expand the pre-show hosted buyer conference from 100 to 150 places, with a bid to bring in more and more buyers from across Europe. Earlier this year, the BTS advisory board appointed eight senior European travel buyers, bringing the total number of buyers on the committee to 13. “We will have a range of information available including VAT reclaim, travel insurance, carbon management, even airport lounges,” said Chapple. The show also looks to emphasise the differences between its offering and the sprawling World Travel Market (WTM) held at Excel London. “WTM is a leisure-based trade show. The audience is travel operators within the leisure sector,” said Chapple. “At BTS, we are looking to capitalise on the ‘Bleisure effect’, where business travellers look to stay on for a few days after their business trip.” This subtle refining of the business travel model is just one of the ways that BTS hopes to remain ahead of the market. This was first published in the January issue of EN. Any comments? Email exhibitionnews@mashmedia.net
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