DB: Where are you?
KM: In Denver, where I’m attending the annual convention of the Global Business Travel Association. There are around 8,000 attendees, and there’s a whole range of activities — seminars, panel discussions, exhibits, and networking.
DB: What trends are you seeing?
KM: Since the end of the (national) recession, it’s been a buyer’s market in terms of airfares, hotels, and car rentals. But now we’re seeing that demand is starting to take over supply, and prices are going up. There haven’t been a lot of new planes or new hotels in recent years, [but now] hotels are seeing increased occupancy. In addition, as the airlines begin to add more fuel-efficient planes, those costs will be passed on to travelers.
DB: How are corporate travel buyers responding?
KM: Cost savings can be accomplished in a lot of different ways. Many companies are looking for more consistency within their internal travel policies. They’re working with preferred vendors to get better buying power. One example would be to negotiate the best price for a package of services — airfare, hotel, and car rental — to maximize savings.
DB: Are more companies embracing teleconferencing in lieu of travel?
KM: Teleconferencing works best when it’s used between employees of the same company, or with very close suppliers. But there is still a high value placed on meeting with clients, or prospective clients, one-on-one. We’re seeing more companies charter planes to reach more remote destinations, or to avoid the delays at large airports. The other big thing we’re seeing is the proliferation of mobile technology, where executives can quickly switch their travel plans with a smartphone. db —R.J. King