Do We Need Another Industry Association?

Surely we have enough associations? Do we really need another one? I think the answer is probably no ... if those we have provide greater focus on the re-engineering and industry strategies that are developing as I write. But they don't. [more]

Corporate travel industry evolution is predominately run by it's suppliers who then create a further strategic reaction across the rest of the supply chain. It has always been so and sadly decisions are made not by the sellers who attend industry conference but executive well removed from them.

In fact, I would say the travel supplier strategist liaise as little with their own salesmen as they do with their customers. In addition the airlines have another vehicle (IATA) who are even more removed from the corporate buyer and justify their existence by introducing policy changes that pay for themselves and earn airlines more money. The money comes from tinkering with the rules that were created by airlines for the airlines and are mainly unknown to the other end of the supply chain. Amongst them are things that impact corporates' cash flow, data, fares and rules.

So what is my point? What I am saying is that the whole industry needs to have input and understand travel evolution, and I do not think this is getting any kind of priority by the existing associations. I think there is still too much smoke and mirrors and too little hard information.

Do not get me wrong. GBTA, ACTE, et al all provide a useful and valuable service, but how deep do they delve into the shadowy world of industry development? I think the trouble is that they have to be all things to all men. If you rely on supplier income from advertising and sponsorship for your very existence, can you really afford to challenge your benefactors? Can you really have those suppliers represented at the very core of your own executive grouping? Although I admire these associations greatly for the excellent job they do in their field, I do not think the answer lies with them.

So what else is there? I never thought (in my old life) I would say this, but the nearest thing we have is Kevin Mitchell's Business Travel Coalition. For some reason, as a TMC, I found them rather galling but now that I have looked closer I realise a developed model could possibly do the job. It represents a key group of large corporations with little or no outside influencers. The problem is that it is not big enough and needs to be more global. It also needs (in my opinion) more subtlety when dealing with international suppliers.

I guess the organisation I am hoping for is a group of key global corporate customers who are strong enough to win serious attention and prepared to invest both brains and power into understanding and contributing to the market they spend so much money in. Could it possibly happen? I hope so. Otherwise we can continue to evolve the way we currently do, which is that suppliers such as Lufthansa and American come up with their own strategies and savvy corporations invest in finding an antidote.

You may think I have a point or you might not. May I suggest you take a look at the conference agendas of the major association players and see how little time has been given to the key issues relating to distribution, regulation and other industry developments?

This post was republished with permission from the blog of former managing director of HRG UK Mike Platt.