The Business Travel Magazine June/July 2024

Page 46


This year's Business Travel People Awards ceremony will take place on the evening of Tuesday September 17 2024 at the De Vere Grand Connaught Rooms, London

People Awards: We reveal the shortlist for this year's awards and more about the presentation ceremony

TMC consolidation: The latest round of sector consolidation and the forces driving it

30 Value proposition: Why TMCs are having to reassert their value, again

38 Alliances: How smaller TMCs are banding together to be seen as viable alternatives to the 'megas'

42 NDC journey: Key takeaways from our Business Travel Lunch Forum on NDC

44 TMC Directory: Our new-look directory spotlights the key players in the TMC space

Opening Shots: The most exciting openings in the world of travel – in pictures

Everyone's Talking About: American Airlines' NDC regret

The Conversation: CT Travel Group's Founder and CEO Mark Kempster 12 Speaking Out: Jack Ramsey from TripStax wonders where the industry is going wrong with technology


In the spotlight

First things first: a big congratulations to all of the finalists in the 2024 Business Travel People Awards. We had a record number of entries this year so it's a great achievement to get this far. You can see the full shortlist on page 14.

As in previous years, individuals and teams from travel management companies feature strongly in our People Awards shortlist. In fact, they are represented in every single category, except for Buyer of the Year (of course!).

TMCs are a critical cog in the business travel ecosystem and that's why we devote a whole issue of the magazine to this sector.

As always, there's plenty to write about, from major consolidation to the ongoing impact of changing airline distribution strategies on the TMC role. We explore these themes and others in our in-depth features, and bring you a handy guide to some of the key players in our new-look directory.

In our next issue, we'll be turning our attention to our friends in the technology space and will be revealing our 2024 Tech Hotlist, which recognises the latest innovations and innovators shaping business travel.

We'll also be sharing the findings of a reader survey to see how technology is helping you in your travel management roles – or not.

Based on a previous reader survey, there seems to be frustration and disatisfaction in some areas and we'll be delving into this further.

We know you're a very busy bunch, but please spare a few minutes to take part in our survey, which you'll see on our website, newsletters and on social media in the coming weeks. Only by highlighting the issues can we hope to make a difference. Thank you!



Bev Fearis


Gill Upton & Neal Baldwin


April Waterston


Steve Hartridge




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Matt Bonner, Caitlan Francis & Colette Denham


Clare Hunter


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CEO Martin Steady

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TRIBE Riga City Centre


Designed to give guests 'everything they need and nothing they don’t', the 'affordable' TRIBE brand has opened its latest hotel in Riga, the capital of Latvia. Its 81 rooms either have city or courtyard views, rain showers, personal steamers and Kevin Murphy bathroom amenities. Social spaces allow guests and locals to work, rest or play.

Radisson Hotel Casablanca PORT SIDE

In the heart of the vibrant Gauthier district of this Moroccan port city, this hotel has 133 rooms and a rooftop bar and restaurant where guests can enjoy cocktails and ambient tunes from a resident DJ while admiring the panoramic city views. There's also an outdoor pool, a fitness centre, a ballroom and five meeting rooms.

The Jeddah EDITION


Supporting Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, this urban resort was designed in partnership with global design studio Yabu Pushelberg. It has 52 rooms and 11 suites, including two plush Penthouses, plus a rooftop terrace with a pool, spa, gym and a signature restaurant.

Everyone's talking about... American Airlines’ NDC regret



"I urge American to seize this opportunity to not just rethink what they've done wrong, but also double down on what they've done right. Corporate sales philosophies


and flow but technology tends to endure"
If there’s an opportunity now to move the innovation and development forward in a more collaborative and sustainable manner, we should all be happy”
Ian McPartlan, Consulting Manager, Global Business Consulting, American Express Global Business Travel
“It’s clear that American Airlines has taken on board the feedback from the TMC and wider industry community and taken positive action of change”

Riaan van Schoor, CEO Agentivity
Alexandre de Carvalho, Senior Director of Analytics, Paramount
Paul Tilstone, Founder temoji
Jeff Klee, CEO at AmTrav



Explore more than 200 destinations across the U.S. with Delta and Virgin Atlantic.



Delta and Virgin Atlantic travellers can enjoy easy access to the Big Apple with up to 12 daily flights from London-Heathrow, London-Gatwick, Edinburgh and Manchester to New York-JFK. With Digital ID, Delta’s time-saving airport technology now available at JFK, customers have a quicker way to move through the airport.


Customers can chose between three daily Delta and Virgin Atlantic nonstop flights from London-Heathrow to Boston, and daily Delta service from Edinburgh. Delta One® customers can enjoy access to a new Delta Sky Club® on Boston’s Concourse E, offering views across the city’s skyline and historic harbour.

Delta added a third daily flight from London-Heathrow to Atlanta and restarted daily seasonal service from Edinburgh this May. Travellers can select one of four product experiences on all Delta flights out of London-Heathrow and Edinburgh, including Delta One, Delta Premium Select, Delta Comfort+ ® and Main Cabin.

CEO and Founder CT Travel Group MARK KEMPSTER

As CT Travel Group celebrates 35 years in business, we chat with its Founder and CEO about the early days and what’s coming next

Like many business travel professionals, Mark Kempster started his career selling holidays. It was either that or working in a wood yard.

“I wasn’t academic, so school wasn’t for me,” he says. “I’m actually dyslexic, but in the 1970s that wasn’t a ‘thing’, so I left with just a few qualifications and was working full time in the local McDonald’s, which I loved. After a few happy years there I decided to move on, so I went to the job centre and there were two jobs going – one in a wood yard and another at Pickfords Travel. I got the Pickfords one.”

Kempster then did a stint with Statesman Travel in London, getting a taste of the corporate travel side, before – at the tender age of 19 – deciding to open his own high street travel agency in his home town of Royal Tunbridge Wells. Called Country Trails Travel, it specialised in climbing, trekking and adventure holidays – his passion.

“I found I was good at organising, getting people together and arranging journeys. I wanted to send people to adventurous places – climbing Kilimanjaro or trekking the Inca Trail – but they would also come in for their summer holidays to the Canaries or skiing in the Alps, for example. At the same time, local businesspeople who booked their holidays with us were asking if we could book their business trips, and some of them were successful and opened in London, and asked us to arrange all of their travel, for a few hundred employees.”

Having naturally diversified into business and groups travel, the agency changed its name to CT Travel Group and took on additional office space. It was the mid1990s, in the days of GDSs, ticketing printers and 9% airline commissions.

“It was a different era. I love going back to those days. Owning a business back then was more simple. We had more freedom, less rules and red tape,” says Kempster.

“In my heart I’m an entrepreneur and I like to start things and help people go on journeys. I love advising, conceiving ideas and investing in new ventures.” Alongside CT Travel, Kempster also has interests in several other non-travel businesses.

More than three decades have passed but some of the customers from those early days are still clients today. Likewise, faithful employees have stayed with CT Travel for 20 years and more.

One of these is Kempster’s brother Tom, who joined in 1999 and became co-owner and Technical Director. A few years later, David Bevan joined and in 2012 was

We can adapt quickly and work closely with our clients to meet their needs. We are not machines, like some of the larger TMCs, where there is less flexibility”

promoted to Financial Director and is now a co-owner. Clare Collins joined the business in 2004 as a consultant in the group’s department and is now Managing Director Corporate Travel and also a co-owner of CT Travel Group.

Kempster remains a full-time CEO and is passionate about staying at the forefront of the travel landscape.

Thanks to organic growth and a handful of acquisitions, including Medway Travel in 2012 and Pettitts Travel in 2019, CT Travel is now a company with a 76-strong workforce and a turnover of £43 million and growing.

While the bulk of the business is corporate travel, the TMC also has a Trade Missions department and a dedicated Groups, Conferences and Incentives division (MICE) organising everything from large-scale conferences to lavish incentive trips.

Like many in the industry, the Covid pandemic was a challenging time but the company has returned to pre-pandemic trading levels and is “going from strength to strength” thanks to an influx of both new clients and new hires.

With new offices in Pall Mall (a short walk from where Kempster now lives), CT Travel also has a wholly-owned office in Delhi supporting its Indian leisure tours and is further supported by key partners across the world.

Kempster believes there is still strong demand for a TMC that is both service-led but has its own proprietary technology.

“We're agile and can offer a traditional, offline, high-touch solution, which clients still want for a big chunk of their travel, backed up with good technology for online solutions, reporting and accounting."

While corporate travel remains the core, its groups business is flourishing. “There’s still a big demand for conferences and incentives, but with the new ways of working we’re now also seeing more regional meetings, where our clients are looking to bring their teams together,” he explains. Under Kempster's guidance, CT Travel Group is now embarking on a new era and is confident of further growth.

“There’s been a massive amount of consolidation and more to come and that plays to our advantage," he says. "We're independent and owner run and led, and the number of those types of TMC is shrinking. We appeal to clients who want to forge long-term relationships and deal directly with the decision makers.

“We can adapt quickly and work closely with our clients to meet their needs. We are not machines, like some of the larger TMCs, where there is less flexibility.”

Kempster believes there is still a need for well managed travel. “I feel excited and positive about the journey ahead."

in brief...

What’s your view on NDC?

I feel the motives for NDC were born out of commercial and technological differences between airlines and GDSs. We’re more than 10 years down the line and possibly a little bit further forward, but definitely not to a degree where it's working. It’s made the life of the client and TMC more complicated, not better. I believe that if TMCs had been included in the early discussions we could have agreed a new commercial model and we wouldn’t be in a situation where the TMC workflow is broken. Right now it’s painful, but I hope that in three to five years it’s all sorted out.

In the 35 years of your business, what are you most proud of?

So, it’s a bit of a cliché, but I’m proudest of our people. I think it’s a testament to us that we have so many long-serving members of staff who have been nurtured and developed as the business has grown. Also, I’m extremely proud that – with the exception of Covid – we have made a profit every year since we were founded. I’ve always maintained that we should keep as much money in the business as possible and that meant we had enough to make it through the pandemic with no borrowing or CBILS.

And what’s your greatest personal achievement?

I think my biggest physical achievement was climbing The Matterhorn. It’s a 24-hour climb and physically challenging and when you get to the top (4,468m) it’s less than a metre wide. It was in 2008 and since then I've climbed lots of other mountains, but that was my most well known climb. I’ve always loved climbing. On family holidays my Dad encouraged us to go walking and then when I was at school, one of my teachers was a keen climber and I would go climbing with him. I still love being in the mountains and later this year I’ll be going back to Nepal to trek in the Annapurna mountain ranges. Mountaineering takes a lot of strength and agility and now I’m more likely to go trekking – or play golf!

Mark Kempster founded CT Travel Group in his home town of Tunbridge Wells in 1988. The group comprises CT Business Travel, CT Groups, Conferences and Incentives, CT Trade Missions and Pettitts Travel. Kempster is CEO of the company, which still has an office in Tunbridge Wells and now also has offices in Pall Mall, London.


With so many travel buyers dissatisfied with their technology and access to data, Jack Ramsey, CEO TripStax, wonders where the industry is going wrong

The Business Travel Magazine’s 'Future Role of the Travel Manager’ survey revealed that a whopping 50% of travel buyers said 'better technology' would make their job less challenging. It was also crazy to see in another recent survey, conducted by ITM, that more than 80% of travel buyers said their corporate booking tool was not fit for purpose.

People’s perception of technology these days is interesting. I feel the term 'technology' is used as a blanket expression for anything that involves an IT developer writing some sort of computer code. But what does ‘code’ actually do? If we break it down to brass tax, code refers to rules that are applied to inputs and outputs of data.

If technology is simply the transposition of data via user interfaces that provides meaningful,

actionable opportunities, where is our industry going wrong? Is the problem the technology or is it the data ‘inputs’ and the fact that tech companies are having to focus huge efforts on data acquisition and cleansing?

Or perhaps we're not informing buyers about what’s available to them outside of the legacy channels? I see savvy travel buyers trying to dramatically alter the way they consume content and offer services to their travellers, but it feels like they must either have deep pockets or be mavericks who go against the industry norm to drive improvement.

This quandary gets me super excited because it presents a huge opportunity for those of us who are striving to change the technological landscape for the benefit of buyers and their suppliers.

believe technology should be the enabler for all buyers to excel in their jobs, on behalf of their companies and their travellers.

The TBTM survey also revealed that 35% of buyers said 'more data' would make their jobs easier. In my mind this challenge is not about a lack of data. There is an overwhelming amount of data. The challenge revolves around how the industry is failing to give buyers access to a single point of truth, which consolidates all data into a meaningful and actionable framework.

The first set of data created in business travel is the product that is for sale by the supplier: a seat on a flight, a room in a hotel, a ride in a car, and so on. Once that product is selected by a node in the industry, numerous pieces of information are added to that original data set to enable it to flow around the haphazard B2B travel ecosystem – a process that certainly doesn’t lend itself to accurate and consistent data inputs.

At TripStax we don't believe every travel buyer needs huge tech budget or to be a pioneer who fights against the industry. We

So, if the precision of the data inputs improves, surely the opportunities created by the outputs can be monumental? Imagine if every input along that original data set’s journey was so obscenely accurate that those who write the code behind the scenes were given the freedom to rely on that input, and change the consistency and reliability of the output. If our industry was obsessive about the accuracy of data inputs, would the muchneeded technology evolution begin?

Currently TripStax’s primary customer base is TMCs, but the longer we see so many buyers calling out ‘technology’ and ‘data’ access as a hinderance to their workloads, the more inclined we are to start supporting buyers directly and kick-start that evolution. We are certainly interested to hear from buyers on the specific technology challenges they face.

Jack Ramsey is CEO of TripStax, which launched to market two years ago with a stack of cloud-based modules, powered by the TripStax Core, a data-processing engine. He was previously with ATPI and Travelport.



We chat with Virgin Atlantic about its newly-formed team dedicated to SMEs and new business, and what else it is doing specifically for these sectors

Tell us about the new team

The New Business team was recruited earlier this year to focus on SME sales and new business, specifically focusing on the business travel segment. Jo Kernohan, Mark Ramsey and Matthew Bingham make up our new team, headed up by Senior Manager Amy Stirling who, in July, celebrates her 14th anniversary at Virgin Atlantic! Jo has recently re-joined Virgin Atlantic after a 20-year sales career with us, Matthew brings 25 years of experience in

business development and new business sales, and Mark has eight years of account management and sales experience.

What is the role of the new team?

The team will be focused on reconnecting and engaging with our corporate loyalty (Bluebiz) clients, along with nurturing new business leads. It will also work closely with our TMC account management teams to support our partners in the SME space.

Why has the team been formed?

This team is part of our drive to grow both our corporate and trade account management teams by around 50%, cementing our unwavering commitment to our partners across the industry. Having sector-specific dedicated account managers means we can bring specialist experience to the SME sector. During and immediately after the pandemic we weren’t able to focus on SME and new business. We know this is where our TMC partners have placed a focus for this year and beyond so we’ve listened to feedback and acted.

How important are SMEs to Virgin Atlantic?

SMEs are a huge part of our plan for 2024 and we know we need to focus on and engage with these travellers and businesses. For the first time ever, we exhibited at the SME XPO and we are dedicated to making sure that we are the airline of choice for this community.

What else are you doing to revamp this sector?

We’re focussed on working with our eJV partners (Delta, KLM and Air France) to provide a seamless business traveller experience. We’re working to ensure we have the right content for SME travellers, along with products and services in line with our corporate loyalty programmes. We also really value feedback – and act on it – and would love to hear from travellers themselves!

SMEs are a huge part of our plan for 2024 and we know we need to focus on and engage with these travellers and businesses”


The finalists for the 2024 Business Travel People Awards have been revealed and now the judges have the tough job of choosing the winners

udging is now entering the second phase for the 2024 Business Travel People Awards.

The panel of independent industry experts will take a closer look at the submissions for the 19 categories to select the final winners.

Finalists in the Rising Star and Shining Star categories will also be interviewed by the judges to help them make their decision.

Winners will be presented at a glittering evening ceremony at the Grand Connaught Rooms, London, on Tuesday September 17.

The awards, now in their 13th year, celebrate individuals and teams whose professionalism and business excellence make them stand out from their peers.

On the night, there will also be an additional award – the Chair's Award –chosen by the Chair of the Judging Panel, Leigh Cowlishaw, Joint Managing Partner of Black Box Partnerships.

The ceremony will start with a networking drinks reception, followed by a three-course dinner in the Grand Hall, during which the winners will be announced. Afterwards there will be time for more networking.

Virgin Atlantic is Platinum sponsor and will be providing some of the entertainment at the ceremony.

Direct ATPI is Silver sponsor and will once again sponsor the pre-dinner drinks reception on the night of the awards. It will also be offsetting the travel to and from the event for all guests.

They represent a range of individual and team roles across all sectors. This year the awards had their highest ever number of entries and standards were high.

New categories for 2024 include Mentor the Year, Consultant of the Year, Sales and Business Development Individual of the Year and Sales and Business Development Team of the Year.

“Winners will be presented at a glittering evening ceremony at the Grand Connaught Rooms, London, on Tuesday September 17”

Sirius Talent Solutions, JetBlue, Nomadic, Travel Risk Academy, Clarity, Best Workplaces in Travel and Blacklane have signed up as Bronze sponsors.

Tickets are now on sale, with Early Bird tickets available until June 17 for £225 per person. The price then rises to £250 per person or £2,225 for a table of nine. Go to


• Global Sales Team - Agency & Corporate, Virgin Atlantic

• Account Management Team (Travel), Clarity

• Partnerships Team, ATPI

• Account Team, JetBlue


• Paul Bullough, Key Travel

• Nicola Meredith, Inntel

• Lindy Dowling, Virgin Atlantic

• Sarah Higginson, Clarity


• Meeting and Events Team, Brighter Events

• M&E Venue Search Team, BCD

• Events Team, TAG


• Finance & Accounting Team, Global Travel Collection (GTC)

• Business Travel Team, Inntel

• The Marine Team, Clarity

• Corporate Travel Support Team, Travel Counsellors

• Marketing Team, Foxhills Club & Resort


• Sam Bamford, HTS (Hotel & Travel Solutions)



• Business Development Team, headed by Kilianne Clegg, Inntel

• Corporate Travel Business Development Team, Travel Counsellors for Business

• Sales Team, Roomzzz


• Laura Bell and Kabiru Onikoyi, EMEA Global Resource Team, 3Sixty

• Chelsey Power and Simone Coles, Wellbeing Team, BCD


• Jo Layton, CAP Worldwide

• Tracey Wilson, Blue Cube Travel


• Scott Wylie, TripStax

• Tiffany Casson, Inntel

• Jon Hilton, Virgin Atlantic

• Neil Wainwright-Farrar, Clarity


• Nathalie Burger, Key Travel

• Sarah Benarey, eco.mio

• Robin Spierings, SkyTeam

• Flight 100 Team, Virgin Atlantic

• Roberta Parr, Brighter Events

• Eloisa Urrutia, American Express GBT Meetings & Events

• Chris Truss, Reed & Mackay


• MISynergy team, HTS (Hotel and Travel Solutions)

• Project Falcon Team, Clarity

• Product team, Spotnana

• Jen Fackelman, Nomadic


• Chris Lawn, Clarity

• Frazer Gander, De Vere Group

• Amanda Killick, ATPI

• Kim Cavilla, veSpace


• Ana James

• Sarah-Jayne Holley


• Sian Sayward, Inntel

• Neil Wainwright-Farrar, Clarity


• Alexandra Barbour, Blacklane

• Marissa O’Brien, Key Travel

• Jake Lawley, Clarity

• Beatriz Schwarz, 3Sixty

• Victoria Curley, Roomzzz


• Sofia Oragano, Synergy Global Housing

• Camilla Tuzemen, ATPI

• Nico Nicholas, Trees4Travel/Zeero

• Maja Gedosev, JetBlue


• Ronan Prat, Key Travel

• Donna Fitzgerald, Clarity

• Jayne Riddick, Blue Cube Travel

• Sarah Walton, Good Travel Management

• Maris Kuklis, JetBlue

• Tony Edge, Focus Travel Partnership

• Adam Braun, Clarasight


• Jayne Riddick, Blue Cube Travel

• Chelsea Gill, Good Travel Management


• Financial Processing, Key Travel

• Marine, Clarity

• The ATPI Commercial Team, ATPI

• Supplier Relations Team, TAG


Meet the ATPI travel transformation team, creating travel programmes fit for the future

n the ever-evolving landscape of business travel, Travel Management Companies (TMCs) have more responsibility than ever to support travel managers effectively. TMCs must be one step ahead, offering more innovative and personalised solutions that go beyond traditional travel booking and invoicing.

At ATPI, we support our clients to elevate and consolidate comprehensive travel programmes through expert guidance and solutions. We take our customers on a journey from simply ‘managing’ a travel programme to transforming it for the future.

As an award-winning, agile and accountable TMC with over 100 years of experience, we have subject matter experts that are wholly accountable in their remits. So, who are we?


Adam Knights, Regional Managing Director UK, Europe & Middle East

“I’ve been part of the ATPI team delivering tailored services to travel managers for the past 24 years. Today I lead a dedicated team of experts who are committed to providing the very best solutions across each market we operate in. We are at the forefront of the industry for new pricing capabilities (NDC) and are committed to offering access to the best possible content, pricing, technology and service for our clients.

Every day I strive to give my team the best tools and strategy to achieve tangible results. Our client retention rates, NPS scores, and accolades are proof that we deliver. With

global influence and local presence, we align with our clients’ needs to bring meaningful results.”


Katie Skitterall, Group Commercial Director

“Listening to customer requirements and shaping solutions to elevate travel programmes is at the very core of what my team does. Being knowledgeable, agile and solutions-focused allows us to excel in the service we provide to travel buyers and do what other TMCs can’t… or won’t.

To make a meaningful impact, it’s essential to listen and ask the right questions. By leveraging customer insights, my team shape tailored solutions to fit our customers' goals whether they are driven by price, service, flexibility, sustainability, or a hierarchy between. We like to think of ourselves as the independent speedboat of the TMC world, one that is fast, nimble, and gets the job done. If we don’t have the solution already in place, we combine or develop a strategy that will.”


Sam Davies, Head of UK Corporate Partnerships

relationships and partnerships across the board. Partnerships begin with clients, but they don’t stop there. From ATPI experts in their fields to supplier partners, airlines, hotels, payment providers, me and my team bring together the best knowledge and expertise in the industry for clients. The only way that we can transform a programme is by bringing in subject matter experts who are accountable and deliver in these key areas."


“Providing travel managers with the technology they need to best serve their teams is always my mission objective. But innovation is far more than just improving technology, it’s doing something that nobody has ever done before, and that’s how you transform. Last year we consolidated the booking process for customers by integrating into Microsoft Teams. This year we’ve developed a solution for crew travel in all sectors and markets. We consistently invest in technology to support our clients’ needs, as well as offer integration via APIs to pre-existing systems.

“I am the conductor of a beautiful orchestra for our client partners. I’ve been with the business for almost 10 years and with my team of Global Partnership Managers we cultivate

ATPI has a long history of being one step ahead and defining new ways of working, and this ingrained innovation is woven into the fabric of our business. We are transparent with our views and recommendations and just because we can do something, it doesn’t mean it’s always the best solution for the customer. Can we roll one tool out globally? Sure, we can…but is that the right thing to do?

Probably not. As I always say, one tool will not work for a global market, you need a best in market approach and if that means offering different tech in each location, that’s what we’ll do! The key for global consistency and adoption is a single point of entry which drives the user to the best possible tech for their market.”


John Nixon, Global Director of Customer Experience

“Transformation is all about driving efficiencies, making improvements, and analysing the data. Ultimately, a great customer experience relies on solving pressure points to provide a better service.

a responsible travel programme that supports your ESG goals.

We ensure visibility of CO2e throughout the booking lifecycle, from travel options to post trip reporting, helping to educate our customers and ultimately drive traveller engagement and behaviour changes. These are key steps to supporting reduction targets.

I oversee the end-to-end customer experience and this data ensures our services are as efficient as possible. We consistently monitor all metrics, and our NPS scores are a testament to how highly our customers value our unwavering commitment to meeting their needs. We guide internal teams and customers through all areas of the implementation with our Implementation Hub. Then once onboarded, we delight our customers with unmatched service levels; on average our calls are answered within 19 seconds and emails responded to within 1hr 11 minutes.

To ensure customers receive the best service in market, we’ve implemented a universal service and configuration matrix, giving full transparency into realistic service capabilities, globally. We utilise technology in the multi communication arena, such as Chat and WhatsApp, together with other emerging technical solutions to drive productivity, efficiency, and speed of delivery.”


Pippa Ganderton, ATPI Halo Product Director

“Navigating sustainability within the travel industry is a huge challenge, but one that brings fantastic opportunities. Small changes can have a positive impact, and we can offer insight and suggestions that help your business develop

ATPI Halo, our CO2 measurement, reduction, and compensation service, provides clients with further choices for travel CO2e reduction and offsetting. Thanks to partnerships we have built with Neste, the world’s leading provider of Sustainable Aviation Fuel, as well as leading carbon offset project providers, we drive measurable impact for clients, whilst aiding their sustainability journey."


Amanda Killick, UK Head of HR & Talent

“We are a peoplefirst business, and my role is to ensure that is applied in everything we do. ATPI’s people are some of the absolute best in the industry, and the fantastic work our people do for clients is a testament to the culture we have created and nurtured across the team and globe.

From training and development, to coaching and mentoring, we ensure we have the best talent and resources available internally, allowing us to provide a premium service to our clients.”

BTA COMMENT The heart of the matter

For anyone who has ever had a conversation with me, the following statement will not come as a surprise: I truly believe that TMCs, or travel management companies, lie at the heart of the business ecosystem. They help with the business landscape, bolster change with great efficiency, responding to dynamic, ever-evolving trends that merge the boundaries between nations, industries and disciplines.

TMCs employ outstanding people and provide cutting-edge technology to deliver unmatched value.

At the BTA, we are immensely proud to represent TMCs that not only facilitate seamless travel experiences but also empower businesses to thrive.

Business travel is a people business. In the modern world, TMCs understand the need to prioritise sustainability and to foster a human touch through dedicated consultants.

Whether it is advanced booking systems or AI-driven analytics, TMCs balance technological


innovation with the right level of human touch to ensure meticulous management and support. Give them the centre stage, and TMCs will do what they do best – create travel programmes to navigate complex global operations

I have seen TMCs act as trusted partners, using their expertise to streamline processes and optimise costs.

It would be a disservice to claim that TMCs only aid travel logistics. In my experience, TMCs drive actual growth – and offer strategic insights and datasets that lead to informed decisionmaking.

These data points can help companies discover trends and even open doors for partnerships.

Business travel must always strive to go beyond mere expansion, beyond simply exploring destinations and transporting people. TMCs understand this need.

I firmly believe that they turn business travel into a holistic endeavour and ultimately accelerate the overall economic growth.

Virgin Atlantic starts new Vegas route

VIRGIN ATLANTIC has begun a new service from Manchester to Las Vegas, complementing the airline’s existing daily flights to Las Vegas from London Heathrow.

The new seasonal summer service operates three times a week on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. It will be operated on one of Virgin Atlantic’s newest aircraft, the Airbus A350-1000, with a choice of three cabins – Economy, Premium or Upper Class.

The launch makes Manchester Airport the only English airport outside of the UK capital to offer direct flights to America's west coast.

The service will run alongside Virgin Atlantic services from Manchester to New York, Orlando, Atlanta and Barbados.

Return flights in Economy class start from £856 per person.


THE NEEDLE hasn’t moved much over the past six months when it comes to NDC implementation and readiness, according to the latest survey by the GBTA.

Results of the association’s April sentiment check found a deviation of only a few percentage points compared with results from the GBTA’s October 2023 poll.

The latest survey found just over half (51%) of buyers say they have not started to implement NDC,

versus 50% in the previous poll.

It also found 71% of respondents, the same percentage in October, acknowledge a need for more information and education about NDC. A significant portion (45%) are still unsure if their TMC is fully prepared, compared to 46% in the previous poll.

Nearly half (42% compared to 45% the last poll) of travel buyers feel airlines are rushing NDC implementation.


ITM COMMENT Prime partnerships

If you work, or have ever worked for a TMC, you will know that TMCs have been the pivot for all elements of the business travel ecosystem for many decades. You will also be aware of the extraordinary demands placed upon TMCs by clients and suppliers and you will be a resilient, multi-skilled operator who has my instant respect.

A good TMC optimises its clients' programme, manages and simplifies complexity, connects them to the partners, suppliers and tech they need, all while looking to complement the culture of each client organisation.

The recent acceleration in airline distribution evolution is just one example of the ever-changing landscape that TMCs must adapt to.

split vote indicates that many TMCs either need to ramp up their efforts to address this topic or do more to demonstrate their efforts and intentions.

But does this situation raise questions about the nature of the future relationship between TMC and client? Not necessarily.

We asked buyers if TMCs will continue to be their critical primary partner in the next five years and 70% said that they would be.

Now, if I was really smart, I would have asked this question five and 10 years ago so we could see the trend? What do you think the answer would have been back then? Higher?

33% of a travel buyer's time spent managing suppliers

According to a poll of members of the Institute of Travel Managers, unveiled in a session at this year's Empower Conference in Brighton, travel managers spend 33% of their time managing suppliers and TMCs.

Some of the changes we're seeing involve the re-imagining of the tech platforms that TMCs have built their businesses and capabilities upon.

In ITM’s recent ‘pulse check’ survey, 56% of buyers felt that TMCs were adapting to changes in airline distribution. Such a

Just 10% of buyers this time said that the TMC would not be their critical primary partner in five years’ time. Which begs the question, who would be this prime partner? Sounds like a heck of opportunity.

But I would bet against some smart TMCs shape-shifting again and finding new ways to solve the challenges that keep our amazing industry so dynamic, challenging and (mostly) fun!

Advantage reports 'exceptional growth'

ADVANTAGE Travel Partnership, the consortium of business and leisure travel agents, is reporting “exceptional growth” despite external macro pressures.

At its 2024 conference in Cancun, Mexico, Advantage said members now generate more than £15.6 billion in global sales annually – £7.6 billion coming from its UK membership.

The consortium's newly-appointed Managing Director Global Business Travel, Andrea Caulfield-Smith, outlined the group’s visions for global business travel, including “driving insight through data to deliver enhanced efficiency and value member and partner programmes” and “horizon scanning for changes that matter”.

Around 300 people attended the conference, which was combined with its annual ITMC conference for US partners.


>> HILTON is debuting its premium economy brand, Spark by Hilton, in Europe with the opening of Spark by Hilton London Romford >> ARRANGEMY, the travel management company, has joined the Business Travel Association (BTA) >> THE ADVANTAGE TRAVEL PARTNRSHIP and Hickory Global Partners are joining together to create a combined accommodation programme in 2025 >> GOOD TRAVEL MANAGEMENT has relaunched its Groups and Events Division, alongside a strategic partnership with Trinity Event Solutions >> CWT has launched a Special Assistance service that provides an accessible experience for travellers with visible and non-visible disabilities >> EXPENSIFY is releasing unlimited virtual cards with the Expensify Visa Commercial Card >> REED & MACKAY has partnered with M&E specialist Qondor >>


EUROSTAR will make its fares more flexible as part of a shake-up of its classes later this year.

From November, the rail operator’s travel classes – currently Standard, Standard Premier and Business Premier – will be renamed as Eurostar Standard, Eurostar Plus and Eurostar Premier.

In Eurostar Standard passengers can purchase light refreshments and drinks. Eurostar Plus offers extra comfortable seating, more workspace and a light meal and on-board drinks service. Eurostar

Premier offers extra flexibility, all-day boarding guarantee, exclusive lounge access, a premium food experience and a dedicated priority lane.

Eurostar Standard and Eurostar Plus passengers can exchange their ticket without any fee until one hour before departure and ask for a refund until seven days before departure. Refunds will cost 25€/£25 per person, per leg.

Customers in Eurostar Premier can exchange or refund their tickets without any fee up to two days after their departure time.


THE VAST MAJORITY (85%) of business travel professionals say they love (32%) or like (53%) working in the industry, according to the latest sentiment poll by the GBTA. But the survey also found suppliers (37%) are more likely to say they love working in industry compared to buyers (28%).

The poll surveyed more than 800 travel buyers, suppliers and other professionals across 41 countries.

higher wages earned by women in business travel

Females working in the business travel sector earned 4.31% more than their male equivalents last year, according to the latest figures from recruitment specialist C&M. This is in contrast to 2022 when the average male earned 2.03% more than their female equivalents. 4.31%


Back again

British Airways is reinstating services from London Heathrow to Jeddah after a five-year hiatus. The route will restart on November 4, serving the Saudi Arabian city on a year-round basis from Heathrow.

Transatlantic hop

Aer Lingus will start flights from Dublin to Las Vegas later this year.

Commencing on October 25, travellers can enjoy return flights three times a week, on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, until April 29 2025.

Summer route

JetBlue has expanded its transatlantic network with a new non-stop service between Edinburgh and New York. The JFK service will run through to September 30 2024.

Code breaker

Icelandair and Emirates have signed a codeshare agreement that will allow customers to seamlessly travel across the two airlines’ networks.

Olympic gold

Air France is to introduce an ‘exclusive’ new airport experience for its La Première passengers at Paris-Charles de Gaulle. It will launch in July, just before the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games in the city.

Loyalty scheme

Members of the Finnair Plus and British Airways Executive Club loyalty schemes are now able to link accounts allowing the transfer of Avios.


Diary of a CTO

IT'S BEEN A YEAR since my first column was published and I wasn’t even sure if my family would read it. It’s meant a lot to me to share my thoughts, so thank you to everyone who has made it through at least one of them.

Now back to tech. I know people love grumbling when it goes wrong, but when it works, we all love it. We love IT! (see what I did there?)

One aspect of business travel long overdue a makeover is the tedious process of passing through an airport Passengers must repeatedly show their boarding card and passport and submit their bags to lengthy searches.

I suppose everyone feels they run into trouble during this sequence of events, but it seems to happen to me an awful lot. Looking more shifty than a Marbella timeshare salesman probably doesn’t help!

Recently, I had to put my carry-on bag through a scanner no fewer than five times. I keep a couple of dozen cables, adapters and other unavoidable tools of my trade in my bag, and the machine simply couldn’t cope.

This continued on my next trip with an extended bout of ‘Computer Says No’ to my attempts to check in at Heathrow airport. Eventually, after various supervisors, and then supervisors’ supervisors, were called in, I was issued with my boarding card.

To say sorry, Etihad upgraded me from business class to first.

“We normally only offer these upgrades to passengers who are smartly attired,” the check-in assistant said to me – on the basis of which I should rightly have been downgraded to economy, or better still the baggage hold.

There is a fantastic breakthrough just

down the road at Dubai airport. If you agree to have your photo taken at check-in, you can breeze into the Emirates lounge, through immigration and the boarding gate without needing to show your passport, boarding card or the insides of your pockets.

It’s all done using cameras and biometric facial recognition technology

Some people might consider it a bit Big Brother-y but e-gates to enter the UK use facial recognition too. The only difference is you have to show your passport as well, whereas in Dubai you don’t.

“Some people might consider it a bit Big Brother-y but e-gates to enter the UK use facial recognition too”

Meanwhile, the poor old European Union is still struggling to introduce its Entry/Exit Scheme for visitors from outside the EU, where you will have to use a self-service system but then still go through passport control.

EES has already been delayed a couple of times, and it is set to be delayed again until at least November 2024 – all to produce a process that is years behind Dubai.

Perhaps the EU should take the opportunity to bin the tech and start again?


VIRGIN ATLANTIC has confirmed plans to resume flights from Heathrow to Tel Aviv from September 5 2024.

Flights will operate daily on board Airbus A330 aircraft, offering Heathrow connections to 14 US destinations on 33 daily flights, operated by Virgin Atlantic and its JV partner Delta Air Lines.

Virgin Atlantic has also signed a

new codeshare partnership with EL AL to offer more connections between the UK, US and Israel.

The two airlines will place codes on their respective Heathrow and Tel Aviv flights and will offer reciprocal earn and redemption opportunities, as well as premium customer recognition and tier benefits for members of the Flying Club and Matmid programmes.


Delta takes corporate market share

DELTA AIR LINES has taken corporate travel market share from rival airlines because of their aggressive approach to NDC, according to its global sales chief.

Speaking at the ITM Empower Conference in Brighton in April, Bob Somers, Senior Vice President - Global Sales, said its business travel market share has grown by 14% and this was largely due to corporates switching to Delta from other airlines because of frustrations over NDC strategies.

He said Delta’s corporate market share was the highest it’s been in 25 years on US domestic routes and was also strong on international.

Rival American Airlines has since expressed its regret at the way it handled its NDC strategy, admitting to investors it moved "faster than we should have".


rise in global average room rates, according to HotelHub

Global average room rates grew by 8% between Q1 2023 and Q1 2024, according to the latest data from HotelHub. Rates rose from an average of $164 to $177 per night. In two years average rates have increased by 22% in London, 27% in Paris and 12% in New York.


TRIPSTAX has signed an agreement with The Advantage Travel Partnership, giving TMC members access to its tech modules >> LONDON CITY AIRPORT has named Alison FitzGerald as Chief Executive Officer, replacing Robert Sinclair, who left the airport last year to become CEO of the HS1 rail line between St. Pancras and the Channel Tunnel >> ETIHAD and JetBlue have expanded their codeshare agreement to include loyalty benefits >> CLARASIGHT has integrated with SQUAKE to help organisations more effectively forecast, analyse and plan ways to reduce their business travel carbon footprint >> KATANOX has secured a PSD2 payment institution licence from the Dutch National Bank >> ITG BUSINESS TRAVEL has joined Focus Travel Partnership, the independent travel management consortium for SMEs >>


AS: Managing Director

FROM: Gray Dawes Group

Gray Dawes Group COO, David Bishop, has been appointed MD of the TMC’s Netherlandsbased operation following Gray Dawes' acquisition of VCK Travel in January.

JOINS: AltoVita

AS: Vice President of Client Partnerships FROM: Graebel

AltoVita has recruited Beverly King as its new Vice President of Client Partnerships. King joins from Graebel, a relocation management company.

JOINS: Trees4Travel

AS: Director of Operations Climate Solutions

FROM: Agiito

Dana Moore, formerly Sustainability Lead and Head of Sustainability Solutions at Agiito, has joined Trees4Travel as Director of Operations Climate Solutions.

JOINS: EFR Travel Group AS: Chief Commercial Officer FROM: CTM

Salv Silvera becomes Chief Commercial Officer at EFR Travel Group. He was previously General Manager England and Client Services UK/Europe at CTM.

JOINS: Meon Valley Travel

AS: Head of Corporate Travel Sales

FROM: Norad Travel

Meon Valley Travel has appointed Richard Ware in the newly-created role of Head of Corporate Travel Sales. He was previously with Portman Travel, CTM and Norad Travel.

JOINS: Black Box Partnerships

AS: Associate for Sales and Partnerships FROM: Silverdoor

Alison Willis (Makosz) joins Black Box Partnerships as Associate for Sales and Partnerships. She was formely Senior Client Programme Manager at Silverdoor.

ALSO ON THE MOVE... >> Stig Williams, Head of International Travel and Partnerships Avis Budget Group, is retiring on June 21 to spend more time with his family >> Maria Baty, Managing Director of ALTOUR UK, is leaving the business after seven years, alongside her husband Barry >> Sammi Wratten has been promoted to Head of Events EMEA at Yes (Your Events Solutions) an ALTOUR company. She was previously Account Director >> Rob Joines, previously with HotelHub, has joined SilverDoor as Senior Client Programme Manager. Since losing his job in March, Joines has been working as a running and fitness coach >> Kevin O’Malley, CTM CEO North America, it stepping down at the end of August after 30 years with T&T and then CTM. He will be replaced by CTM COO North America, Anita Salvatore >>



Survival of the FITTEST

Technology and distribution are the driving forces behind the latest round of consolidation in the TMC space, says Gill Upton

There are only two options for TMCs right now – adapt or die. Those that adapt best to their changing environment will have the best chance of surviving and judging by the rash of M&A activity there won’t be many left behind.

It was only a few years ago – in 2018 – that we witnessed the last spate of consolidation, including Hogg Robinson, Giles Travel, Hillgate, Portman and Business Travel Direct. Prior to that it was the early 2000s.

What’s driving the current spate of consolidation are the deep pockets required for capex into new technology. Consolidation can shortcut the R&D route to acquire that necessary technology or it can buy scale if there are synergies with another TMC. The marriage between Hillgate and Reed & Mackay ticked both boxes – technology and value add for buyers with a better global reach.

Arguably, smaller players who don’t own their own technology will be the most vulnerable as they need scale to thrive and stay relevant. They need to sell or grow, either organically or by acquisition.

The latest step change in the market is around technology and distribution to cater for members of the savvier, next generation workforce who want to self-serve.

TMCs realise that NDC will ultimately mean decreasing income from the GDS and automation can help ameliorate those losses and, more importantly, cater to the new customer.

A recent Amadeus survey on business travel technology investment trends in 2024 highlighted that the main objectives were to improve the user experience (65%), innovation (59%), revenue increases (55%) and margin improvement (51%).

The presence of venture capitalists and private equity firms with well-lined wallets will help TMCs do just that. For example, Reed & Mackay wouldn’t have been able to acquire Hillgate and Business Travel Direct without money from private equity firm Inflexion. More recently, Primary Capital saw fit to invest in charity, academic and NGO specialist Diversity.

Clive Wrattan, CEO of the BTA, sees consolidation as “a sign of a healthy industry”.

“What’s encouraging is the TAG investment by private equity money. It’s an industry of opportunity and I guarantee there will be more consolidation as it’s the nature of the business we’re in,” he observes.

Echoing his words is Gary Povey, COO, Wings Global Travel: “Consolidation through mergers and acquisitions have always been around,

Smaller players who don’t own their own technology will be the most vulnerable as they need scale to thrive and stay relevant”

but the recent activity is of a much larger scale. Well-known names have disappeared, which has been sad but also just reality. The amount of investment from Private Equity indicates that the industry has a bright future and is not seen as a risk.”

The big guys

Rumours circulated for a while about American Express GBT’s acquisition of CWT. Industry observers are keen to see what the impact will be of two such mega organisations coming together, something Paul Abbott, CEO of Amex GBT is clear on: “It’s an opportunity to welcome 4,000 customers on to a proven model. That’s our central focus – to strengthen our presence in key industry verticals such as military, government, energy, marine and mining. Those travellers’ needs are more complex so they play into our offering.”

But is big necessarily better? “The CWT acquisition will take performance to another level,” claims Abbott. He is keen to stress that the industry is fragmented and worth £1.4trillion. “We have £45bn of that, so there’s a significant runway for growth,” he adds.

Where that growth comes from is a moot point and Abbott does not rule out further acquisitions, both organic and inorganic, but highlights that the 24% revenue growth over the last year came from organic growth. “We don’t need acquisitions to grow,” he says.

Behind the drive for growth is the changing marketplace. “The supply and customer needs are changing and technology is the driving

force. Customers want global content, the best software and the best services all integrated. It’s exactly what you’re seeing with Navan and Spotnana. Navan started life as a software platform saying it was going to replace the TMC and spent the last three years buying legacy TMCs because it's had to build out the services side of the business."

Abbott is “extremely confident” that Amex will avoid client fall-out. “It’s up to us to show the value. We have a lot of experience in HR and high levels of customer retention.”

Size matters

Pat McDonagh, CEO Clarity, is glad his company has grown over the last decade or so.

“Clarity was an eighth of the size it is today 12 years ago and looking at some of the technological headwinds coming I’m glad we’re the right size today.” Clarity is backed by Saudi Arabian travel business Seera.

“In September 2020 we took the decision to invest in proprietary technology and accelerate out of the pandemic. Investing in tech is a long an expensive road and you can only do that when you’re running a larger organisation.”

Clarity announced its acquisition of Agiito last August. It was a non-core asset of Capita that had been up for sale for six years.

As one of the largest hotel suppliers and operating in similar verticals, Agiito was a natural fit and Clarity now boasts stronger supplier contracting and technology, particularly from Meetings Pro, Agiito's

What's encouraging is the TAG investment by private equity money. It's an industry of opportunity and I guarantee there will be more consolidation as it's the nature of the business we're in”

proprietary meetings online tool which features instant booking capability. “That was massive for us,” says McDonagh.

Clarity’s future is driven by a three-pronged strategy: scale, technological capability and geography in order to extend its footprint, which it will do with OneGlobal.

“To be in the top 10 you need to be of significantly more scale now,” he says.

Like Amex GBT, Clarity is making strenuous efforts to retain Agiito’s clients. ”Such a move brings doubts and fears and nervousness and we know how to handle that. We’re honest about the future. We keep everybody informed and we were quick to ensure that the senior team was put together, with familiar faces, and that reassures clients.

“We stressed that the integration process would be thorough and that clients would get the same or better and client reactions have been positive and they are excited about the new technology.”


Another interesting acquisition comes from former co-founder of Concur Steve Singh, buying Direct Travel, which is busy integrating Spotnana’s technology stack, Center’s expense management solution and Troops meetings and group travel planning platform.

In Direct he will get a tech-driven TMC exploiting AI and integrating the disparate sources of data to create the perfect trip, which has always been a buyer’s holy grail. His vision is of a single platform with centralised data, online booking services, expense management and meetings and group planning capabilities like no other.

Today, TMCs' business is predicated on scale, and disruption is once again challenging TMCs business models and three TMCs are showing the way forward.


Over the past three years, Clarity has been working hard to develop a cutting-edge booking platform, ClarityGo. We checked in with three of the team

As Clarity rolls out its new online booking platform, ClarityGo, we chat with the travel management company's CEO Pat Mcdonagh, Executive Director – Product and Commercial, Sue Chapman, and Carl Law, Executive Director – Technology.

What has been created?

PAT: We’ve created an online booking platform on one hand and an agencyoperating platform on the other, built with speed, content, scalability and capability at its very heart. It’s a one-stopshop for accommodation, flights, rail and car hire, giving relevant results faster than ever.

CARL: ClarityGo really sets us apart in the industry. What makes us unique is that we now offer the full TMC package: experienced people and the latest technology.

How is it different to other booking platforms?

CARL: The main difference between this propriety system and other TMC booking platforms is that we are not only in control of our own destiny, but we we also own our products and the IP.

PAT: It's built with the latest cloud technologies, so is extremely agile from a content perspective. Its database is so extensive, customers can access over 1,000,000 hotels, and searches are unified. SUE: What makes ClarityGo stand out is the

way we have built this from the ground up, using our people’s expertise and client feedback. It’s built with them in mind. Unlike other booking platforms that think about the client afterwards, we’ve taken our clients on the journey with us, ensuring it’s intuitive throughout the booking process, from seamless navigation to ease of use.

CARL: In fact, it's been externally assessed for accessibility as we’re one of few TMCs that has put accessibility at the centre of our product methodology.

PAT: It’s also an agent selling platform, so the fact that we've joined the internal and external needs seamlessly together means there’s zero friction, whether a booking starts online by a direct user or offline by a member of our team.

Why have you developed it?

PAT: Being in charge of our own destiny is so important, especially when you consider the ever-changing distribution landscape. You must be in control of the technology, especially with the advancement of NDC and the need for more direct connection and agility in terms of where we source content from. It’s our own technology, so we can react quickly without reliance on third parties.

How will it help your clients?

SUE: Clients can enjoy a user-friendly interface and lightning-fast results that are also tailored to them, all in one place. Searches are more relevant, content

is comprehensive and comparable between suppliers, dashboards and itineraries are personalised. Clients can also track and offset CO2 emissions.

PAT: Because of the sheer range of content, clients have the confidence that they get the best price and value on the day – all with accessibility at its heart.

CARL: We are essentially putting our clients in control, so they can administer their own programmes and personalise the content.

SUE: Clients also have the chance to share real-time feedback based on their experiences so we can help them get the best usability.

Will they still get the support from your call centre/humans?

Sue: Yes, absolutely. We're still a full TMC service, so have operational teams who are


experts in their fields. What we're doing is giving the clients the ability to self-serve but we've also got the chat facility completely powered by humans.

Did you develop it completely in house?

SUE: Yes, we harnessed the experience across our business and with our clients, bringing all of that into our own platform. Before we started writing any code, we did extensive research into the current market challenges, so we fixed issues for clients and our own people. It’s been several years in the making and one of our biggest investments. We've had a dedicated project team assigned to this for the last couple of years who started the discovery and design in May 2021 and development in April 2022. Just like our core values, we've listened and used our experience across the business to develop this marketleading platform.

CARL: We want to continue enhancing the platform, so we're running client forums as we migrate and capture data from the platform. This continual feedback drives our development.

Have you already trialed it and what was the response?

SUE: We trialed it with a core group of clients who came along on the journey with us. This made a huge difference as we got invaluable feedback, which we took on board and it enabled us to make changes. The feedback has been great and we are already seeing increased online adoption levels and customer service satisfaction scores.

PAT: All areas of the business have been blown away by the functionality and speed.

When and how will it be rolled out?

SUE: We began the rollout in Q1 2024, with most clients migrating in the next six months.

Because of the sheer range of content, clients have the confidence that they get the best price and value on the day – all with accessibility at its heart”

PAT: Our highly anticipated industry-wide launch will be at the Business Travel Show Europe (stand J41) on June 19-20 2024, where it will be showcased to media and prospects for the first time.

CARL: This is just the start. We've got some really exciting plans for our future technology, especially integrating ClarityGo with our other market-leading proprietary technology, MeetingsPro, so watch this space.


Travel buyers have long struggled to convince their travellers about the value of using a TMC and it’s getting harder, says Gill Upton

Here we go again: TMCs find themselves having to reassert their value to travellers and the feeling of déjà vu is palpable. The global pandemic was a successful exercise in doing that but two years later a new trigger – access to content - is causing concern.

Blame the huge upheaval of airline distribution technology, changing 40 years of outdated technology for NDC, a retailing model introduced in a non-standard way and at snail’s pace by each airline, GDS and OBT, causing pain points for travel managers.

Fares are visible but not bookable in their OBT because NDC, GDSs and OBTs are not working seamlessly together. The different objectives of the airline and travel buyer don’t help, nor by the airlines playing hardball with each other.

Moreover, it is leisure fares and not business fares that are populating NDC currently. “It’s rare to get business fares in NDC,” says Clive Wratten, CEO at BTA.

Interlining, refunds and changes to itineraries with NDC bookings can be challenging, while readiness in the OBTs is lacking as some TMCs hesitate to release content, so buyers are sticking to traditional channels to maintain duty of care.

“We see disgruntled clients asking why is this content only available from airlines. We try and explain the positives of NDC but for us to book it it’s challenging. Companies are frustrated and it doesn’t feel positive and I feel we’ve gone back 10 years,” says Gary James, Head of Sales at Corporate Traveller.

BCD, which is NDC ready with 12 airlines, sees the friction as an opportunity.

“We find many customers looking to us even further to help them navigate the confusion created by the airlines’ varying strategies and tactics to encourage customers to book via NDC. So, for us, it has a positive impact on our relationships

with corporate clients,” says Thane Jackson, Senior Vice President Global Distribution Strategy & Supplier Partnerships Europe.


In spring of this year a poll at a special ITM Buyer Knowledge Exchange Session noted that more than half of buyers (57%) cited demonstrating the value of a TMC to stakeholders and travellers as the primary challenge right now, followed by a lack of access to fares through their OBT (53%) and managing travellers who are price-checking and booking flights themselves (47%).

“So many travellers believe they’re a travel manager and will try to find a lower fare thinking they’re doing the right thing,” says Michael Hill, Head of Indirect Procurement & Global Travel Services at data consulting and research firm Kantar. Selling the benefits of using a TMC has been the foundation of HiIl’s strategy and some 99% of trips are pre- approved. A policy of lowest logical fare, permitting some degree of flexibility, will trump most attempts at out-of-policy bookings.

Buyers have always grappled with noncompliant travellers but this time it feels different because travellers are younger and want to self-serve, so TMCs and buyers must find technological solutions while stressing the multiple benefits of governance and duty of care.

Kantar’s Hill believes he has struck the right balance, with a generous policy, constant messaging and realtime management reporting. “Our Trip Authoriser gives us an awareness of the

So many travellers believe they're a travel manager and will try to find a lower fare thinking they're doing the right thing”
Some buyers have started to make allowances for limited bookings outside of the programme to accommodate direct cost savings”

cost of any trip beforehand so there are no surprises as the conversation has already taken place.

“I report into the Chief Procurement Officer and I can print a Forward Travel Booking report within an hour. That spend information allows me to map it and make sense of it to the stakeholders. If you have data at your fingertips you can target and present spend and trends to different audiences. We literally know where 94% of our employees are at any given moment as the majority is under BCD.”

Direct measures

Buyers are placing a gatekeeper at every stage of the booking process to deter maverick bookers, and some are going further, explains Kerry Douglas, Head of Programme at ITM.

“For example, authorising certain travellers to book outside of policy parameters based on their booking behaviour. By identifying individuals who only use Airline X for example, potential leakage can be managed more effectively by providing the top number of users with a technology solution to book directly with the airline.”

to be made outside of the programme to accommodate direct cost savings. Travellers are only authorised to book directly with air carriers if they complete a detailed additional form within their expense system, basically everything that would normally be captured when booking via their TMC.”

Another tack is to feed back the booking details to your duty of care provider and TMC to support the most critical aspect of corporate travel – duty of care and risk management.

ITM’s Distribution Taskforce has produced an Airline Retailing Guide with recommendations on how to communicate internally with travellers about the proliferation of lower fares, to stress the importance of supporting company policy. It also shares advice on how to anticipate and avoid conflict with senior management, such as clarifying travel policy and identifying which unbundled service items are permitted by the company.

Fergus appreciates that buyers have to embrace NDC but is nonetheless concerned. “My focus is to make sure I’m not losing out cost-wise,” she says. Her analysis to check for any missed savings via NDC proved fruitless. “There are not any. We have a cheapest on the day policy in any case, and if there is a cheaper fare the booking conditions do not apply,” she adds.

Fergus is reviewing all technology this year in the hope of reducing journey friction so travellers can carry their itineraries on their phone for example.

Like Kantar’s Hill, Fergus sends out annual reminders to use the TMC and reinforces the importance of using one. “Luckily, 90% of my world is with one TMC so that makes it easier,” she says.

Simon Potter, Singapore-based Chief Procurement Officer of Inchcape Shipping Services, sees no need in the short-term to change the messaging to travellers, but will monitor should maverick booking increase, currently at less than 10% across the EMEA region.

▶ ▶

She adds: “Some buyers have started to make allowances for limited bookings

It's an issue vexing buyer Carol Fergus at Fidelity International. “We link security and risk to the travel programme and explain that we are not going to be able to support employees if they book out-of-policy. We make it difficult for them to do it,” she says.

While he absolutely sees the value of the TMC he warns that opinion might change. “If the gap widens between the price from the airline and the price from the TMC,

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that will put pressure on me as the budget holder of travel,” he says. In a current tendering process he has been surprised by the huge disparity in prices that have come back from a 24-hour test exercise to price 50 flights. “These are major players with the same access to fares and this is where NDC is starting to influence fares and that’s undermining the role of the TMC in the long term.”

He is cognizant that TMCs don’t necessarily have the cheapest fares but should be competitive. “It’s then a win-win if they can access the content and justify the value,” says Potter. “I’m looking for a TMC making the best use of the technology and servicing.” Blue Cube has managed that in the UK market for Inchcape.

Tech talk

It is up to TMCs to bring together the best travel technology to add value and create the best content in a single platform. Those corporates who arrange the majority of bookings on their OBT will need more persuasion of the value a TMC brings. Arguably TMCs with proprietary technology at scale should be able to deliver more easily all content seamlessly. On the other side of the fence, buyers must ensure compliance mandation of the policy.

Disruptors such as Navan (NDC ready with 13 airlines) and Spotnana are making light of these industry changes with technological innovation, claiming they are in stark contrast to the legacy travel management systems and reducing cost to customers by avoiding GDS charges for example.

Traditional TMCs are not standing still, testified by a new wave of consolidation with a major focus on technology. ITM’s latest Pulse Check survey flagged up that 72% of buyers believe that TMCs will continue to be the critical primary partner in

If the gap widens between the price from the airline and the price from the TMC, that will put pressure on me as the budget holder of travel”

their programme in the next five years.

However, buyers were also almost evenly split on whether they believe the TMC sector is adapting to changes in the distribution landscape, with 56% agreeing and 44% disagreeing.

Bigger picture

What buyers do all agree on, though, is that they would like open and honest conversations with all the parties involved –TMCs, airlines and OBTs.

“While we know there’s work to do across the entire supply chain in solving all the service requirements to support NDC for corporate customers, we are up front with our customers about what’s ready, the risks, the costs and what’s coming next and further out,” argues Jamie Pherous, Managing Director of CTM.

These industry changes go beyond the travel industry, says Laura Busby, Commercial Director of Good Travel Management. “Other industries have the same issue with a move to self-service and customers wanting to do everything on their phone. I get that and we need to adapt, so it’s an opportunity for us to adapt our service delivery model," she explains.

“We definitely see that with a lot of younger travellers. We have to be the go-between between the travel team and the traveller. It’s harder for TMCs to get it right and we constantly evolve.”


We chat with Adam Knights, Regional Managing Director at ATPI, about the company's NDC readiness and why he believes corporate travel buyers need to get on board

When did ATPI start working on NDC?

The truthful answer is nearly 30 years ago when easyJet launched! We don’t really see the difference between NDC and how we handled easyJet content back then. Personally, I was on the initial NDC panel set up by IATA 10 years ago, along with representatives from Amex GBT and FCM and others. While some TMCs decided to wait for the GDSs to add NDC content – and are still waiting – we decided to develop our own solutions. NDC is simply another form of content and our policy was that if it’s right for our customers, we’ll provide the connections.

Why should travel managers be embracing NDC?

NDC means cheaper content. It’s as simple as that. We recently pulled some price comparisons and our data showed that the savings are 17% on average, so can you afford not to embrace it? If your travellers are seeing cheaper fares on an airline’s website, they will get disillusioned with their travel programme – and with their TMC. It’s up to us as TMCs to make sure our clients get

There is a lot of noise about the issue of servicing NDC bookings but in fact things are improving rapidly and it's not such a problem”

access to the full content so there is less leakage. The problem is that some TMCs aren’t providing NDC content and are claiming it’s because it’s not ready.

Why do you think some TMCs are hesitant or cautious about turning on NDC content and what makes ATPI different?

The truth is they can’t easily do it. If your whole global operation is set up to use the GDS and your invoices are all automatically linked to the GDS, it’s not easy to change those processes. If you’re a mega TMC and you want to offer the lowest possible transaction fee, this requires the highest levels of efficiency and productivity and there is no doubt that the GDS is the most efficient way to achieve this. But at ATPI, we’ve taken the approach that our customers need full access to content and that we can’t just rely on the GDS.

How is NDC content integrated into ATPI’s services?

In each market we will look at the best solution and will provide NDC content through a number of different channels depending on the carrier. In Germany we provide Lufthansa content through a direct connect, while in the UK we provide British Airways content with Travelfusion and Atriis direct connect. We have our own proprietary invoicing platform (enabling bespoke change depending on market) and all bookings flow through to this, making the process as efficient as a GDS booking. Crucially, we can also capture all the relevant management information and data analysis. Other TMCs

are capturing this data by making passive bookings for NDC bookings on the GDS but we’re not sure how this will play out and whether, in the longer term, there will be a charge for these. In my opinion, it could go either way.

How do you ensure ATPI can service NDC bookings?

So, there is a lot of noise about the issue of servicing NDC bookings but in fact things are improving rapidly and it’s not such a problem. In fact, my teams are telling me there are rarely issues with BA NDC on Travelfusion. Because we decentralised it and rolled NDC out country by country, we were able to test it in each local market before we switch it on at scale across the ATPI network, which reduces any friction. We also have a back-office operation in Mumbai which allows us to support our local centres by doing all the back office processes like reconciliation, refunds and crucially changes to more complex bookings requiring airline portals or call centres. This means we can provide a more cost efficient and competitive frontline service if we need to deal with any additional complexities.

What are the other potential challenges of NDC and how can these be mitigated?

Our commercial team has been very honest with our customers from the start, showing them the savings that will be made by having access to NDC content and explaining that most of the cheapest fares are nonchangeable anyway. Of course, there are also big savings to be made on business class fares – sometimes by as much as £2,000£3,000 – and we tell our clients that if lastminute changes need to be made, we might not be able to make them quite as quickly as through the GDS. However, when you look over the savings that have been made over the whole month, this overrides these rare occasions. We have invited our clients to come on the NDC journey together with us, which means that when problems have arisen, they are really accepting of it.

What’s next? Where do you see the industry in the next five to 10 years regarding NDC?

I personally believe that the Amadeus NDC X solution will eventually dominate but it will vary by market and certain carriers' strategies

around differing content. Where carriers are dominant in a single market – Germany, France and the Nordics, for example – there may well be a continued fragmentation of content. There are some limited examples already of carriers working directly with clients on a “direct connect” deal where the volumes of that client are material enough to the supplier. TMCs have to be open to this opportunity, yet if your strategy is focused on enterprise customers driving your GDS volumes then you are unlikely to promote this to your customer.

More specifically, what’s next for ATPI regarding NDC?

We are talking to a number of strategic customers who currently lack NDC content and a vision for direct connect. However, this will likely be limited to a few enterprise customers, as I expect Amadeus, our GDS provider, to supply the bulk of content needed for most of our customers. As a provider of systems to major airlines and TMCs, I believe Amadeus will lead in delivering the true “retailing” experience that the airline industry originally based the concept of NDC on.

We recently pulled some price comparisons and our data showed that the savings are 17% on average, so can you afford not to embrace NDC?”

• Push your TMC to support you and your priorities. If cost is king, then your TMC should be fighting your corner to get you the best possible prices, keeping the door open for NDC content which may provide cheaper fares.

• Do a cost saving exercise. Consider setting up reports to monitor travel costs and the channels through which tickets are booked to better inform you on your expenses and whether cost savings need to be considered.

• Make a list of what’s important to your travellers and businesses and rank in order – price, flexibility, cancellation, accessibility, sustainability, credentials, having multiple travel options. It could be that price is top priority, or perhaps other criteria are more important to your travel programme than the final cost.

• If you’re still unhappy that travel options aren’t aligning with your business priorities, it might be time to look for a TMC that can provide travel options that better meet your needs.


STRENGTH in numbers

Joining forces, nationally and globally, can help small and medium TMCs position themselves as viable alternatives to the ‘megas’, says Neal Baldwin

There’s nothing better than the warm embrace of pals. Whether you’re after relationship advice, help with a tricky work problem or just in search of a guiding hand, there’s strength to be found amongst friends.

And so it goes in business travel. In a market increasingly dominated by a handful of players, small and mid-market TMCs continue to seek solace by banding together

as members of consortia or alliances. The end game? Using their combined size and clout for greater negotiating heft with suppliers, as well as delivering a more integrated – and potentially global – offering to potential customers thanks to a wealth of shared services and tools.

Of course, the consortia model isn’t new. But for travel managers, the differing ‘styles’ of tie-ups now available have added an extra

layer of complexity when searching for a partner to manage their spend.

In the UK, Advantage Travel Partnership is perhaps the best-known grouping, given its longevity and high profile in the leisure sector. It boasts 409 members across both corporate and holiday markets in the UK and overseas, with 96 ‘pure’ TMC members handling a spend of £7.62bn last year. There’s plenty to shout about when it comes to technology and

In a market increasingly dominated by a handful of players, small and midmarket TMCs continue to seek solace by banding together as members of consortia

business solutions available in the Advantage package too; deals with leading third-party suppliers such as eGlobal Fares, TripStax, Thrust Carbon and Crisis24 ensure agents have a full suite of tools to meet client needs.

“OBTs, duty of care, traveller wellbeing, sustainability and budget control are pretty much top of the agenda for every travel manager and buyer nowadays,” explains Advantage’s new Managing Director Global

Business Travel, Andrea Caulfield-Smith.

“We see Advantage as a one-stop business hub. We have the scale to negotiate on behalf of members so we can offer the tools, tech, rates and fares that simply wouldn’t be available to them individually.”

Home grown

Ironically, the Covid-19 downturn did wonders for one part of the TMC sector

Other mid-sized agencies are taking the 'network' route, which sees like-minded firms partner up to service the big global accounts

– homeworking. Widespread lay-off of experienced corporate travel professionals has caused a boom in ‘one-man band’ outfits, most of whom serve their local SME communities.

While not strictly a consortia, Travel Counsellors has been a major beneficiary. It claims around 600 franchisees do some corporate bookings, while it has 300 ‘pure’ TMCs among its ranks handling accounts with a spend of up to £16m annually. It provides its members with an OBT, MI reporting tool and traveller location system.

“We saw double-digit growth last year and took gross sales in business travel to £250m,” explains Travel Counsellors For Business Director of Corporate Travel Mel Quinn.

“The concierge-style service our agents offer is really valued by SMEs that are growing their operations. They can become part of a travel buyers’ team and often handle bigger accounts by forming ‘micro-TMCs’ with other Travel Counsellors."

The homeworking giant is additionally a member of alliance GlobalStar, predominantly for hotel and air rates and international emergency support.

Equal rights

Elsewhere, attention in the industry is sure to be on the Focus Travel Partnership from

November, when its formal ‘non-compete’ agreement with Advantage finally ends. Focus formed in a split from Advantage five years ago and currently consists of 55 members, and though both groups insist relations remain cordial neither would say how that change in status is likely to play out.

Currently a Focus partner must also be a member of Advantage but after November 2024 this will no longer be mandatory. While Focus and Advantage have a similar set up, incoming Focus Chief Executive Steve Banks, who joined the group this month from Agiito, insists ‘not-for-profit’ Focus is more member-centric and egalitarian.

“We’ve not got a big plan for a recruitment drive, but Advantage members may well come to us in the future,” says Banks. “The beauty of Focus is the relationships we have with suppliers. Ultimately, they all want distribution. Our validation is the longevity in our supplier list; they won’t dance with you unless you fit their needs.”

Focus sets store in these relationships. It runs steering groups for sectors such as rail, air and technology, so member issues and feedback can be regularly shared for the benefit of the whole membership, plus events three times each year that give frontline staff of members (“Definitely not just the bosses!” says Banks) the chance to meet suppliers.

Banks is also clear that members are under no obligation to use any part of the Focus offering once they’ve paid their membership fees. “Our credentials sit in the richness of our supplier base and the quality of our resources. Partners buy in to our brilliant commercial terms but we are agnostic about how they service their clients “Most are servicing SME customers that are buying travel in the UK. Global is a very crowded and difficult market, and being great on ESG, employee retention and traveller wellbeing are pre-requisites for the bigger accounts. We work to have the solutions so smaller TMCs don’t pull out of the tender process because they are frightened by the big boys.”

Going global

It is perhaps no surprise that smaller TMCs see the benefit of consortia. But what of larger firms? In recent years, both Reed & Mackay and Gray Dawes have eschewed the more collegiate approach in favour of acquisitions to build their own global networks.

R&M snapped up rivals in Germany, France, Australia and the US before its sale to TripActions (now Navan) in 2021. The buying has continued since then, with Navan now Europe’s fourth largest TMC. Meanwhile Gray Dawes has made eight significant

purchases, including Express Travel (US) and MP Travel (Australia) in 2023 and VCK Travel in the Netherlands in January, pushing gross sales beyond £500m.

There is a halfway house. Other mid-sized agencies looking to offer a truly global service are taking the ‘network’ route, which sees like-minded firms partner up to service the big accounts.

ATG Travel Worldwide is one such example, with global gross sales topping $6.8bn. The group is rigorous in only having one member in each country to avoid conflicts of interest when bidding on global accounts, while all bookings pass through a central management system.

Sarah Wilson, owner of UK member Ace Travel Management, says the major benefit for her business is ATG’s strong tech offer, which covers everything from pre-trip approval to MI, analytics and traveller tracking.

“We are not dots on a map to ATG,” says Wilson. “There is a very collaborative feel among members and we work to service global accounts together, which means travel managers and travellers get a personalised service in every market. What’s coming with NDC isn’t a concern. Many larger customers have negotiated rates anyway and with ATG our clients can always get the best local rate.”

Meanwhile, newest kid on the block is One Global – formed as a partnership between UK-based Clarity and US firm World Travel in 2022 – and now up to 11 members. Like ATG, members are compelled to use reporting tools and share data, but otherwise have free rein.

“We’ve had a lot of interest from TMCs who want to join One Global,” says Clarity Sales Director Ewan Kassir. “Those that have come on board have been handpicked after plenty of due diligence.

“When you have a mega-deal such as the Amex GBT purchase of CWT, it makes the whole market sit up. But it presents plenty of opportunity because there are so many accounts out there valued at $10m-$50m that don’t want to be handled by a huge giant.

“The thing One Global insists on is strict service level agreements and KPIs for all members. Often the industry has been worried about developments such as AI, but no client engages a TMC for that.

Travel managers want great service.

Delivering consistency across the world is the pillar of success.”


Advantage Travel Partnership

409 members (96 ‘pure’ TMC members)

Head office: London, UK

Key member benefits: Large suite of third-party tools, including NDC booking platform (Air Gateway), carbon reporting and offset (Thrust Carbon), safety and risk management (Crisis24, Securewest, GoPass Global), data automation & MI reporting (Travelogix & Grasp Technologies), data capture and itinerary intelligence (Traxo), mid & back office solutions (Midoco, Procon).

The Advantage Air programme features net fares from 50 airlines, while the Global Accommodation Programme (GAP) by Advantage offers over 30,000 properties and is set to grow next year thanks to a tie-up with US partner Hickory. Members can also access business insurance and training.


100+ travel and meeting specialist members (in UK - Clyde Travel Management, Inntel)

Head Office: North Bethesda, Maryland, US

Key member benefits: In-house tech includes Radius PTA pre-trip authorisation, Radius Secure travel risk and duty of care tool and a delay and cancellation compensation tool. The Radius Global Partnership Program offers best available rates across a raft of hotel chains and boutique properties, with extra discounts of up to 10% and guaranteed last room availability

GlobalStar Travel Management

55 members ( in UK - TakeTwo Travel, Omega World Travel, Travel Counsellors) Head office: London, UK

Key member benefits: The group's ‘Star’ suite of tools include ReportStar global reporting tool, SecureStar risk management and traveller tracking, OnlineStar online booking tool, TripStar app and ProfileStar profile management. GlobalStar members also get access to the HotelStar programme for accommodation and FareStar programmes for flights.

Focus Travel Partnership

54 members

Head office: Ashford, Kent, UK

Key member benefits: Focus is lauded for its strong air and rail programmes. Members also get access to accommodation programmes. Tools include Cytric by Amadeus OBT, Focus Farefinder, Focus Pinpoint and TripStax

ATG Travel Worldwide

11 members (in UK - Ace Travel Management)

Head office: Utrecht, The Netherlands

Key member benefits: ATG's strength is its in-house tech. This includes ATG Request self-service travel request application, ATG &Me profile management, ATG Approve pre-trip approval, ATG Extra customer service platform, ATG Vault reporting and analytics.

Lufthansa City Center

480 members (in UK – Good Travel Management)

Head office: Frankfurt, Germany

Key member benefits: Free access to flight consolidator Aerticket, LCC hotel programme featuring 40,000 properties. Deals with Air Gateway and Snowstorm as distribution platforms, SAP Concur for OBT and expense management, Tripstax for Reporting Solution and A3M for duty of care.

Travel Counsellors

2,000 homeworker franchisees based across six countries – UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates. Around 600 of these make corporate bookings; 300 are ‘pure’ TMCs.

Head office: Manchester, UK

Key member benefits: OBT (MyTCOnline), MI and reporting (MyTCInsights) and traveller tracking (MyTCLocate). Travel Counsellors franchisees also have access to Travelport GDS, direct connect NDC with major airlines, including British Airways, and technology, hotel rates and airline fares via the group's GlobalStar membership.


The NDC Journey was the hot topic for our latest Business Travel Lunch Forum, sponsored by Navan

Corporate travel buyers met with industry experts at a Business Travel Lunch Forum in April to discuss the impact of changing airline distribution strategies.

Sponsored by Navan and organised by The Business Travel Magazine, the event saw 12 top buyers come together to speak freely and openly about their NDC experiences, to share their concerns and to help find solutions.

As the transition to ‘modern retailing’ takes place, more corporate travel buyers are taking action to ensure they can get the air travel content their travellers and their organisations need, driven by pressure from their travellers who are finding cheaper fares elsewhere.

In order to get full content, some are developing their own direct channels with airlines, bypassing their TMCs and OBTs. Others are insisting on adding clauses to their TMC and OBT contracts to ensure they get full access.

With many TMCs and OBTs waiting for the GDS to build NDC connections, some buyers expressed frustration about the lack of

progress being made and questioned whether their TMCs are being fully transparent. Some even questioned the future role of the traditional TMC, recognising the value of a TMC in times of disruption but suggesting that on a day-to-day basis they were becoming more redundant with the shift to NDC. The group even discussed the idea of TMCs being treated more like an insurance policy, where organisations pay a fee to guarantee they will be there in a crisis.


Ben Custance, Director, Travel Management at Navan

NDC is here to stay, that much is clear from the discussion. Travel managers are spending more time addressing concerns from travellers, who are able to see better pricing and access to different fare types when booking directly with the airline. Advising travellers to book direct to secure the best price presents

consolidated travel programmes with a couple of key issues: consolidation of data (no central point for global travel data) and duty of care (how do duty of care providers get visibility of where your travellers are?). NDC can also open up many opportunities. For example, some carriers make certain content point-of-sale specific, while NDC allows users from across a global travel programme to access full airline content. The conversations around NDC open up a wider discussion about content sources as a whole across a number of travel types (air, hotel, rail and car hire). Bookers and travellers (and therefore companies) are increasingly used to shopping outside of the TMC/OBT world, and are able to access more competitive pricing and additional benefits.

At the end of the day, the traveller doesn’t and shouldn’t need to care where their travel is being sourced from. They want the very best user experience, one that is simple, fast and offers all the best pricing in one place. Today, many organisations have a forced trade-off: book a more cost-effective travel option outside of the travel programme and lose visibility, or spend more than they need to and maintain compliance and duty of care. When the choice

The narrative of this Lunch Forum confirmed what I'm hearing elsewhere; there's an uptick in buyers taking action to ensure they can get the content their travellers and corporations need”

is save up to 12% on costs or ensure employee safety, forward-thinking organisations are ensuring they future proof their travel programme by having both.

Paul Tilstone, founder, temoji

The narrative of this Lunch Forum confirmed what I'm hearing elsewhere; there’s an uptick in buyers taking action to ensure they are or can get the content their travellers and corporations need. One of the drivers is increasingly discontented travellers who are finding lower fares elsewhere. Some are now including clauses in contracts with TMCs and OBTs, which either guarantee content or provide options to source it elsewhere if it isn’t forthcoming. Others are developing direct distribution options or re-considering the contracted providers and going to market. Whilst service and cost will always feature as a driver of RFPs for TMCs, what I heard was that content is an increasingly important factor in that decision.

There’s a real sense now that NDC could and should bring value in the long run, but that there’s going to be plenty of disruption in the short term. How much benefit and disruption really depends on the culture of the travel programme. ‘Mandate and Comply’ programmes will either need sophisticated, multi-channel aggregation (and therefore re-aligned financial models) or there will be content gaps and extra cost. ‘We Trust You’re a Good Corporate Citizen’ programmes will access content potentially through fragmented multi channels and will therefore need alternative data capture and great communication to manage the times ahead.

Loyalty programmes go hand in hand with the future implications of NDC. They can either be a tool to drive adoption and value, or a detractor from compliance. Either way, this will feature more as an issue to address.


Number of employees: 750 Established: 2015

1000 Mile Travel Group offers tailored travel management services for SME businesses, leveraging a global network of experienced independent travel advisors. It provides personalised and cost-effective solutions, cutting-edge technology, and strategic travel planning to optimise travel budgets and enhance business travel experiences. Services include 24/7 support, access to exclusive deals, and comprehensive business support – making travel easier and more efficient.


Number of employees: 2,300

Established: 1919

ATPI is a global leader in travel management for corporate, marine, energy and sports businesses. We are an empowered, client-focused organisation that is flexible, agile and consultative. We are a different kind of TMC that creates custom in-country solutions to give you global reach and local touch points, alongside a tailored and seamless technology platform. Even when implementing large travel programmes, we deliver a consistent, high quality service.


Number of employees: 12 Established: 1992

ACE /ATG UK excels in providing personalised travel solutions, optimising corporate travel experiences. Partnering with ATG enhances its capabilities, offering global reach, advanced technology and comprehensive support. This collaboration ensures efficient booking, cost savings and seamless travel experiences. Clients benefit from innovative tools, expert advice and a reliable network, streamlining travel management and improving overall customer satisfaction.


Number of employees: 15,000+

Established: 2006

BCD Travel helps companies travel smart and achieve more. We drive programme adoption, cost savings and talent retention through digital experiences that simplify business travel. Our 15,000-plus dedicated team members service clients in more than 170 countries worldwide as we shape a sustainable future for business travel. In 2023, BCD achieved US$20.3 billion in sales.


Number of employees: 19,000 Established: 2014

American Express Global Business Travel (Amex GBT) is a leading software and services company for travel, expense, and meetings and events. We have built the most valuable marketplace in travel, with the most comprehensive and competitive content. With business partners in more than 140 countries, our solutions deliver savings, flexibility and service, from a brand you can trust – Amex GBT.


Number of employees: 50 Established: 2003

Blue Cube is a wholly-owned, independent, award-winning travel management company, based in Kew, London. We provide exclusive, global, business travel management for discerning clients. What stands us out from our competitors is our people. Every member of the Blue Cube operation team have been hand-picked for their exceptional customer service skills and their ability to support the complex needs of all our travellers, particularly top executives.


Number of employees: 88 Established: 1990

arrangeMY offers comprehensive travel management solutions covering services including travel, accommodation, event management and venue sourcing. Our offering extends to training administration, apprentice travel, hospitality and bespoke technology solutions. With a seamless online and offline experience, our solutions are supported by account management, consolidated invoicing and real-time management information, guaranteeing tangible savings.


Number of employees: 878 Established: 2007

Clarity is one of the UK’s leading TMCs with global reach, thanks to its One Global community, and extensive experience delivering successful travel programmes. It works across many sectors including marine, sports, construction, charity, government and academia. Following the acquisition of Portman Travel Group, Clarity and Brighter, its meeting and events division, was formed in 2016. The further acquisition of Agiito in 2023 has created something even more extraordinary.


Number of employees: 76

Established: 1988

CT Business Travel, a trusted independent travel management company, provides bespoke services locally and globally. With a personalised approach, it offers streamlined travel management solutions both on and offline, expert advice, cost-saving strategies and is a member of Globalstar and Focus Travel Partnership. This award-winning TMC specialises in corporate travel, MICE, and trade missions, and continually embraces new technologies.

Number of employees: 3,377

Established: 1994

An award-winning global provider of innovative and cost-effective travel management solutions to the corporate market. With 30 years in business travel, CTM supports the travel needs of a diverse customer portfolio spanning geographies, industries and business size. This breadth of experience and expertise enables customers to leverage extensive knowledge, insights, and tried-and-tested solutions to maximise their programme optimisation strategies.


Number of employees: 280+

Established: 1991 -USA, 2024 - UK

F1RST IN SERVICE UK is a travel experience company that prioritises putting you f1rst! Our independent travel advisors excel at crafting extraordinary and breathtaking adventures. Whether working together with travel managers in enhancing corporate travel programmes or delighting our leisure, corporate, entertainment, and events clients with exceptional service and value; at F1RST IN SERVICE we are passionate about everything we do. We eagerly look forward to your inquiry!


Number of employees: 12 Established: 1999

Focus Travel Partnership is the UK’s leading business travel consortium for the independent and SME sector, representing 53 TMC partners. Focus leverages the latest technology platforms and a comprehensive range of services to enable its TMC partners to future-proof their businesses. With an ethos of a collaborative and innovative organisation, their collective size and buying power allows Focus to negotiate the best possible deals with suppliers across all travel sectors.


Number of employees: 240

Established: 1962

Dawson & Sanderson, founded in 1962, boasts a team of over 200 travel staff and 20 dedicated business travel consultants, many of whom have been with the company for more than 25 years. We pride ourselves on providing the highest level of personal service, complemented by innovative technology, to help our clients reduce costs and increase the efficiency of their travel programmes. We are proud members of the Focus Travel Partnership and the Advantage Travel Partnership. DIALAFLIGHT


Number of employees: 53 Established: 1894

We are your trusted partner in sustainable SME business travel, offering fully-tailored travel management packages carefully designed around the precise needs of your business. Let Good Travel Management simplify your corporate travel with expert specialists who care. Looking after you from door to door, we take care of your team’s travel needs, so you can focus on what matters. Get in touch today to find out how we can help your business travel better!

Number of employees: 130

Established: 1980

Having the industry's most experienced and knowledgeable team of travel professionals, with award-winning technology and management reporting, enables DialAFlight to deliver first-class corporate travel service and some of the most competitive business travel rates in the market. Dedicated business travel managers organise every part of a client’s trip, from securing the best rates to taking care of all the finer details, helping our clients go further.


Number of employees: 500 Established: 1927

With wholly-owned offices located across the UK, USA, Australia and the Netherlands, we’re there for our clients whenever and wherever they need us. It’s what we call ALWAYS ON business travel – a 24/7 tailored experience, enhanced by our single global booking tool offering unrivalled content at the best fares. As an extension of your own organisation, we deliver our unique High Touch, High Tech, High Content service with an award-winning personal touch.




Number of employees: 35 Established: 2010

We're a hotel booking agent and travel management specialist, providing bespoke solutions and online booking. Our venue sourcing clients value our purpose-built meetings & event management tool, MISynergy. We fulfil travellers’, bookers’ and buyers' needs and our services benefit industries including financial, telecoms, digital, charity, construction, legal, utilities, and more.


Number of employees: 65 Established: 2002

We are in the help business 24/7, 365, the experts right by your side with 50 years of awardwinning service excellence. Meon Valley Travel is a world class travel management and assistance specialist leveraging a global reach from our UK centre of excellence. Through a blend of talent and technological prowess, we provide unrivalled access to a complete travel ecosystem and unmatched personalised service that prioritises return on investment, D&I and ESG governance.


Number of employees: 120 Established: 1984

Inntel is the largest independent meetings, events and travel management company in the UK. For 40 years, our award-winning teams have been delivering a superior service to clients across a range of industries. We have created and continue to develop our very own booking system software, LOGiC, to make our processes slick and our services bespoke. Inntel prides itself in providing its clients with safe, affordable and sustainable solutions for their travel and meetings.


Number of employees: 400 Established: 1972

Since 1972, Omega World Travel has been providing premium travel management solutions to corporate and government sectors globally. Our unwavering commitment to innovation, both in technology and human resources, enables us to optimise, centralise and minimise our clients' travel expenditures. We prioritise great customer service, value, operational efficiency, sustainable travel practices, and the security of travellers in every aspect of our services.


Number of employees: 113

Established: 2013

ISON Travel is a UK-based travel management company that delivers exceptional service, 24 hours a day. We combine unrivalled knowledge with cutting-edge technology to ensure our clients are where they need to be - on time, every time. We serve a wide range of small and medium-size enterprises, multinational corporations and private individuals, across various sectors including marine, energy, manufacturing, elite sporting and media organisations.


Number of employees: 123 Established: 1969

TakeTwo Eton Group is as an independent TMC with wholly-owned operations in UK, Europe, and North America. We provide tailored travel and event management solutions to SMEs, multinationals, and high-networth individuals in diverse industry sectors. These include pharmaceutical, IT, finance, retail, energy, legal, not-forprofit, and consulting. We also provide specialist services for group air and event management, VIPs, entertainment travel, and luxury holidays.


Number of employees: 228

Established: 1980

We’re the world’s largest TMC exclusively specialising in humanitarian, faith and academic travel. Our mission is to reduce the cost, complexity, risk, and carbon-impact of travel for non-profit organisations. We provide expert 24/7 global support, access to the largest portfolio of cost-saving specialist fares (not publicly available), sector specific award-winning technology and advanced risk management and travel de-carbonisation tools.


Number of employees: 300 Established1994

Experience worry-free business travel with Travel Counsellors for Business. Our dedicated experts provide personalised support for all your travel needs. With a commitment to exceptional service, 24/7 assistance and cutting-edge technology, we ensure your travellers' needs are cared for from start to finish. Trust us to keep your business moving. Experience the difference of Travel Counsellors for Business today.


Number of Employees: 11 Established: 2002

An independent travel management company specialising in personalised services for business travel, meetings and events. Members of The Focus Travel Partnership and Advantage Global Network with the buying power to compete with the largest TMCs and offer a global solution.

Specialisms: Automotive, Financial Services, Manufacturing, Defence, Film, Academia, Meetings, Events & Groups. Our aim? To minimise hassle and exceed expectations.


Number of Employees: 1,200 Established: 2015

TravelPerk offers companies a smarter and simpler one-stopshop travel management solution for booking, managing and reporting their business travel. Industry-leading travel inventory and innovative products, like GreenPerk and FlexiPerk, give travellers the flexibility and freedom they want whilst providing the controls companies need. With 24/7 customer support and state-of-the-art technology, we’re reinventing business travel with an end-to-end solution that works.


Number of Employees: 35 Established: 1983

The Traveltrust legacy began in 1983 in California and has grown to several other markets since then. Since our conception, we have consistently provided outstanding service and relentless commitment to all of our highly valued clients. We are fortunate enough to assist some of the world’s leading organisations from a variety of sectors, including finance, consulting, healthcare, law, media and technology. Our reputation has become synonymous with quality and value in the industry. WINGS GLOBAL TRAVEL

Number of Employees: 450 Established: 1992

Wings is a global TMC managing travel programmes for the investment banking, energy, legal and professional services sectors since 1992. Headquartered in London with 20 wholly-owned operations worldwide, Wings is agile and data driven, assuring it is always one step ahead when it comes to traveller safety. Wings embraces the technology crucial to its industry and remains dedicated to high-quality service, relentless attention to detail and responsiveness to clients’ needs.

Reality check

THE HOTEL With 253 rooms, the five-star Reykjavik EDITION Hotel brings modern luxury to Iceland’s capital city in a collaboration between hotelier Ian Schrager and Marriott International. Located in downtown Reykjavik, the hotel is a 45-minute drive from Keflavik airport and a short stroll from the Old Harbor port, Laugavegur Street, and the Harpa Concert and Conference Center.

THE CHECK-IN I was warmly greeted by a valet ready to take my rental car to the secure car park. I was able to check in two hours early and was relaxing in my room within minutes.

THE ROOM Rooms are minimalist but cosy, with concrete, grey oak, faux fur rugs, custom-made furniture and landscape photographs. I stayed on the fifth floor in a Harbor Suite. It had a separate living room and guest toilet, in addition to the bedroom and a generously-sized bathroom, and was airy and spacious. The king-sized bed was extremely comfortable, (the same

mattresses and pillows are used in EDITION hotels across the globe). Le Labo toiletries completed the luxury amenities.

THE BUSINESS Easy access to the neighbouring Harpa Concert and Conference Center is a key part of the Reykjavik EDITION Hotel’s appeal to business travellers. Further features include over 502 square metres of private meeting and events spaces suitable for everything from small, intimate meetings to larger conferences and events. Complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi is accessible throughout the hotel.

THE FACILITIES On the ground floor, the Michelin-recommended Tides restaurant is home to a varied breakfast buffet. For lunch and dinner service, the menu celebrates locally-sourced sea food. A cosy lobby bar is open every day from 11am, while THE ROOF offers panoramic mountain and ocean views.

THE VERDICT Icelandic design and culture is woven into all elements of this hotel, from the sophisticated decor and


friendly service to the locally-sourced restaurant menus. It is an ideal base for stopover meetings between Europe and North America, and its proximity to the Harpa Concert and Conference Center is unmatched.

THE DETAILS A Harbor suite for a weekend in June starts from around 335,000 ISK a night. April Waterston


THE HOTEL Located in Cambridge, a block from the Charles River, the hotel is an easy 15-minute taxi ride from Boston’s Logan International Airport ($23-$35). The 237 guestrooms and suites were recently renovated.

THE CHECK-IN Entry is via a private courtyard with a centrepiece ‘Celeste’, a 25-foot-tall armillary sculpture made of reclaimed metals, steel and gears. I was met with a smile by the doorman and was quickly and efficiently dealt with by the reception team, handed a city map and invited to the daily complimentary hosted evening wine hour (17.00-18.00) offered by all Kimpton hotels.

THE ROOM Everything in my King Deluxe Exterior View room had a ‘purpose’ - and thus the room felt clean and ‘uncluttered’. Floor-to-ceiling windows provided views of a canal and one of the several bridges linking Cambridge with Boston. Decor was in shades of gunflint grey and blues and browns, with wave-pattern blue carpeting inspired by the Charles River.

Features included a king-size bed, a worktable, a small glass table with lounge chair, coffee machine and a retro-looking Tivoli BT AM/FM Clock Radio. Bedside lamps and stand-up lights use energy-efficient LED bulbs and the bathroom has faucets, a shower head and toilet operated by low-flow water systems to help conserve water usage. Toiletries are by luxury brand Atelier Bloem.

THE FACILITIES Bambara Kitchen & Bar features American and Mediterranean-inspired cuisine and has an extensive list of cocktails big on both creativity and glass size. There’s a 24-hour fitness centre, in-room yoga mats and yoga videos and a curated wellness programme. In the summer, kayaks, bikes, stand-up paddle boards, scooters and roller blades are all available for guest use.

THE BUSINESS The hotel has all new meetings and events spaces, completed in March this year, which include a redesigned ballroom and meeting rooms

of all sizes. The hotel’s spacious courtyard can also be used for alfresco gatherings of up to 300 people.


THE VERDICT A thoroughly classy, modern top-end hotel that also pulls off the trick of offering a home-from-home casual warmth. Hotel staff were friendly and informative but never over-familiar.

THE DETAILS King Exterior View rooms $450 a night.

Steve Hartridge


The ‘ulti-mutt’ in luxury

The corporate world is no stranger to premium airlines launching across the Atlantic but the Big Apple’s latest service could be a winner with high-rolling executives who can't bear to leave their 'best friends' behind. The airline is – quite literally – for top dogs only.

Launched at the end of May, Bark Air offers pampered pooches (and their owners) luxurious private jet flights for the ‘bargain’ price of, wait for it, $6,000 one-way.

The price includes Bark Air's dedicated doggy concierge and private airport transfers at both ends. Travellers only need to show up an hour before departure with their documents (passport for human and vaccination record for Rover), to avoid lengthy security screening.

A maximum of 10 pets and companions travel on each

service and dogs are free to mingle. As well as drinks, snacks and ‘just in case’ amenity kits (featuring treats and poop bags), luxuries include calming pheromones, music and warm lavender-scented towels.

Better by design

Some readers reckon

Final Word is just a chance for us to dish out some snark.

Proving otherwise, we’re here to big up the latest addition to the hotel scene in Oxfordshire – namely, the luxurious Blenheim Palace Lodge Retreat in Woodstock.

Two of its units have just had makeovers by 'celebrity' finalists Roisin Quinn and Matt Smith-Wood in the hit BBC show Interior Design Masters, and are ready to rent.

The sustainable site is a great option for business travellers, as long as gurning show presenter Alan Carr isn’t lurking in the bushes!

To start, Bark Air will fly from Westchester County Airport, New York, to Los Angeles' Van Nuys Airport on Thursdays, with returns operating on Friday. New York to London Stansted is scheduled for every other week.

As well as bringing you grim news about the rising cost of car insurance, the cheery folks at Go.Compare have turned their attention to the UK’s struggling airports to discover where the worst average delays were last year. Here goes:

Ping! In comes an email from Cathay Pacific, with a survey revealing half of Brits have up to three hours of idle time on a typical longhaul flight.

It suggests travellers should stay busy – a full seven hours of walking up and down is the equivalent of doing a marathon, for example. Meanwhile, hardcore knitting would produce a complete pair of socks.

Alternatively, we’d recommend dedicating some effort into thinking up creative ways to massage your expenses in Hong Kong.


Your experience in Delta’s premium cabins begins as soon as you enter the airport. Flying in Delta One® and Delta Premium Select you enjoy Sky Priority services, which include accelerated check-in, security and baggage service. Once it’s time to board, you’re among the first invited on the plane.

Welcome to Delta Premium Select, our newest cabin designed to help you arrive in some of the most exciting places relaxed and ready to explore. Look forward to a reimagined, elevated dining experience, thoughtful amenities and spacious seats to make your journey unforgettable. TRAVEL IN STYLE THIS SUMMER AND ENJOY

Expect luxury for the long-haul in Delta One, with attentive service and thought-through details that truly make a difference. Delta One’s 180-degree flat-bed seats feature plush bedding, while chef-curated meals served with fine wines* and premium entertainment help flights fly by.

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