Travel Turnaround Requires Turnaround Strategies For Meetings Managers

There are more signs of a recovery in business and meetings travel, as a new NBTA Foundation survey of 170 North American Travel buyers found that corporate travel budgets grew an average 5.5 percent this year and will grow more than 4 percent in 2011 -- due to higher demand, rising prices and more airline fees.
According to the survey, we seem to have passed a psychological milestone, as 72 percent of respondents agreed that the business travel industry has improved from a year ago. And 63 percent are optimistic for the next year.

Some more encouraging numbers:

- 38 percent anticipate more travelers will hit the road,
- 51 percent foresee more trips.

Yet, as I've discussed in this blog before, all this talk of renewed travel and meetings activity requires another kind of turnaround -- from travel, meetings and purchasing managers. In other words, it's time to re-think strategies that worked during a buyer's market, for example, renegotiating previously established rates with hotels. That's not going to fly next year for most (NBTA's survey says buyers anticipate domestic prices for hotels and airlines combined will increase up to an average 4.5 percent). More than two-thirds of respondents to the poll expect higher pricing in 2011.

So aside from re-examining budgets to ensure you're adequately funded for your meetings and events next year, what other steps can you take to prepare for changing markets? My overall advice: communicate, and do it well. Through town halls, webinars, emails...whatever...give planners and buyers in your organization new ideas on keeping costs down, for example, searching for and negotiating with less-expensive properties and aiming for cost-shaving perks like room upgrades and discounts on coffee and snack breaks and parking and other fees.

Another suggestion: if you're not already maximizing the way you source for hotels, adopt technology that allows you to electronically send out, review and compare RFPs. Check out this StarCite whitepaper on the benefits of e-sourcing.

Now is the time to reinvent your buying strategies to prepare for 2011.

Kevin Iwamoto is vice president of enterprise strategy at StarCite. This post is syndicated from his blog, Strategic Meetings Management.