Travel teams of Siberia are in play again: travel managers and providers from Novosibirsk and Tyumen have met on the sidelines of ABT-ACTE Russia Educational sessions

ABT-ACTE Russia has held one more educational event in western Siberia. A regional conference devoted to modern travel management, business trip management and event arrangement was held on May 26 in Tyumen. And two days later a seminar in the form of a business breakfast was held in Novosibirsk, and its participants discussed the problem of budget optimization.

Partners of the regional conference held in Mercure Tyumen Center hotel were business travel agency FСm Travel Solutions, hotel operator Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Mercure hotel chain, Etihad Airways and business trip organizer Bureau Pelican. Event participants were HR specialists, workflow managers, accountants, senior managers and general directors of such companies as Gazprom Geologorazvedka, Sberbank, Lukoil Engineering, Tyumen Oil Scientific Centre, TyumenNIIgiprogas, Yugor Project Institute and others.

During the first session the participants discussed stages and risks of the tender process, document flow issues and accounting for business trips, as well as cost optimization.

The speech of Olga Belusenko, executive director of FСm Travel Solutions, was devoted to tenders for TMC services within the framework of business travel costs reduction. Ms Belusenko also gave a number of recommendations that were worked out by Fcm Travel Solutions for accommodation programs.

According to the expert, in order to optimize employee accommodation costs during business trips, it is necessary to compare four rates at a time — the rack rate, the rate of the customer’s program, that of TMC`s program and consolidator’s rate. At the same time customers should take into account that booking conditions of a consolidator will always be less advantageous than those of direct agreements with hotels. «One of the best solutions is to work with a TMC that has a local hotel program and to create/update your own program of preferred hotels», Ms Belusenko notes. Besides, the speaker spoke about additional saving opportunities: determination of the share of financing costs in your rates, regular audit and the right choice of a provider.

General director of Bureau Pelican Anna Vasilenko spoke about the features of two- and tree-lateral agreements with providers. As for holding tenders, the expert stressed that choosing a TMC based on the lowest service fee criterion often leads to disappointment. Service prices of such an agency turn out to be higher afterwards — so there is no real economy to speak about.

«The share of the service fee in the total cost structure (airline tickets, hotel accommodation) amounts to 3-5%, as a rule. But if you take a balanced approach to the choice of airline and hotel rates, and use tree-lateral agreements with providers among other things — the amount of economy may reach 15%, and even 20%!», Ms Vasilenko supposes.

During the panel discussion devoted to the cooperation of corporate buyers and airline and hotel representatives, the most interesting issue was web and group rates and the problem of pricing in general. «It was extremely important for us, TMC representatives, to give corporate buyers answers straight from the source. I am sure that up-to-date information that event participants received will let them feel more confident in various practical situations. For example, after the latest ABT-ACTE Russia educational event, one of our customers together with us revised the travel policy that was adopted in the company at the moment, and its updated version is now used successfully. We hope that the participants of May session, inspired by new ideas, will be able to make their work more efficient, and their employees` business trips — comfortable and budget-friendly», Ms Vasilenko stressed.

The second session for corporate buyers, TMC representatives and MICE agencies was devoted to corporate tours and meetings. The participants discussed the ways to arrange a conference, a business breakfast or an educational seminar to improve the image of the company.

In her speech «Corporate travel and events: aims and means» partnership director of ABT-ACTE Russia Irina Mikhalkova dwelled on the components of a successful event: venue, format, choice of a reliable provider and feedback analysis.

Olga Petrushina from ANCO «Modern Communications Agency» and Julia Kargapolova from International Research Centre «My Territory» spoke about raising staff efficiency and building the staff team with the help of corporate leisure programs. Ms Kargapolova named three main imperatives adopted in her company:

- develop yourself: set yourself specific tasks, determine formats;

- build your network: organize partner support, involve people into your work, receive feedback;

- build your team: take a responsible approach to staff growth (in particular, to work with personal and group targets), development of ambitious plans.

«We are changing the world — you only need to take an effort to get things moving», Ms Kargapolova concluded.

Participants of the discussion during the second session were also hotel representatives — Central Guest House, Mercure Tyumen Center, Eurasia, Starwood Hotels & Resorts and others. Ms Mikhalkova noted that service providers were honest and plain-speaking in discussing the issues of tariffs, discounts, and extra services with the audience, as well as the possible breach of agreement on the minimal available price on the website of the agency. «Hoteliers were unanimous about the fact that the booking price available for the ultimate customer at any web resource should not be lower than the open price that the hotel can give directly», she stressed.

Head of public and media relations department of TyumenNIIgiprogas Stanislav Belov shared his experience in arranging business trips to China. The expert pointed out the most frequent language problem of such trips, because far not all people in The Heavenly Empire speak English. So the expert recommended getting ready for the business trip beforehand: compile a thesaurus, find two interpreters if there are more than 7 persons in the group, translate the documents you need into Chinese, study traditions of the receiving country. «For example, in China a personal card is handed in with two hands as a sign of respect, and it is common to give presents at the end of the meeting», the expert said.

Due to Mr Belov`s sense of humour his speech was exciting and easy to understand. «A bright speaker is one of the main keys to success of any event», Irina Mikhalkova expressed her opinion.

At the third session the participants discussed conclusion of corporate agreements with hotels. The panel discussion included such topics as particular features and risks of cooperation in the form of allotment — when a hotel keeps a number of rooms for a company on certain terms without pre-payment. The experts also explained what special rates for corporate customers and inclusion of extra services into corporate programs depended on.

Event participants admitted that the program was highly topical and the conference was very informative. In the opinion of the general director of Spassky hotel Vitaly Samoilik, such discussion platforms are very useful, because the participants get an opportunity to establish new contacts and to find new growth points. «We should specially point out the importance of the opportunity to communicate with agency representatives and to discuss hard issues of „customer sharing“ between the agency and the hotel», Mr Samoilik added.

Stanislav Belov paid attention to the «working format of the meeting». «The best proof of it is the fact that after lunch the number of participants did not change almost at all, while usually this number drops at least twice», Mr Belov noted. «The event resulted in the decision to prepare three-lateral agreements with air carriers and the airline ticket provider (Bureau Pelican) and similar agreements with hotels. I hope, events like that will become a good tradition».

«First of all, I would like to say that the second ABT-ACTE Russia event in Tyumen (the first was held on October 14, 2014 — editor’s note) was, no doubt, a much greater success than the first one. Interestingly, both then and now more questions were asked not during the discussion, but in the breaks», Irina Mikhalkova shared her impressions. «Besides, we have chosen a great venue (with the help of our partners, of course)! The staff of Mercure Tyumen Centre is always ready to help. And what is more important, most conference participants used the opportunity to inspect the hotel — it means that the event was as useful as possible for all the parties involved».

The business breakfast seminar in Novosibirsk was devoted to the travel policy and agreement conclusion between corporate customers and hotels. The event was held in Azimut hotel with the support of Novosibirsk Association of Tourist Organizations (NATO), Azimut Hotels chain, Swissotel Krasnye Holmy, hotel operator Starwood Hotels and Resorts, business travel agencies Unifest Travel and Global Star Travel Management. Participants of the business breakfast were representatives of such companies as Holiday, Siberian Sintepon, Eastern Machines, Gazpromneft, Imperia Private Banking, Danone, as well as Novosibirsk Deputies Council.

Executive director of ABT-ACTE Russia Ekaterina Aleksandrova was the first to take the floor at the seminar, she spoke in detail about particular aspects of travel policy (trip provision) development and introduction. According to the expert, the main aim of this document is to find ways of business process optimization. At the same time the travel policy needs to be updated regularly depending on the company’s needs and the market situation. «The business travel market can be compared to a football field: corporate buyers are on one side of it, and providers are on the other. The players are interacting all the time, and there is always a chance for a dialogue», Ms Aleksandrova noted.

As for optimization tools, the speaker named setting the limits for employee accommodation costs, making the list of preferred hotels, participation in corporate programs of airlines, volume consolidation, early booking, using online booking tools, travel policy optimization and statistical analysis.

Regional director of Unifest Travel Konstantin Lutoshkin spoke about the role of business travel agencies in cost cutting in the company. In his words, when you choose a TMC, you should be guided by the following factors: reputation and reliability of the agency, adoption level of the latest technologies, staff proficiency and operational process stability, availability of reliable and long-term relations with providers. The speaker told the participants about budget saving tools of the company, that include TMCs (let you save 3-5%), three-lateral agreements with providers (5-15%), administrative costs optimization (15-30%), as well as order planning and travel policy (30-50%). Mr Lutoshkin brought the example of early booking that can help you save up to 92% of the ticket cost, if you place your order at proper time.

Lively discussion among business breakfast participants was caused by the speech of Marina Davydova, corporate manager of Swissotel Krasnye Holmy, who spoke about agreement conclusion between corporate buyers and hotels. The speaker dwelled on three possible cooperation tools — RFP (Request for Proposal), a direct agreement, and a three-lateral agreement.

Advantages of the first type are, for example, the possibility of global market assessment, structuredness, efficiency; advantages of the second tool are a guaranteed price, a customized approach and budget planning; of the third — budget planning and optimization, settlement of complex tasks and more flexible payment conditions.

Ms Aleksandrova noted that information on three-lateral agreements aroused great interest of seminar participants, because many companies were used to working with only one scheme — for example, using TMC services. Ms Davydova`s speech helped corporate buyers understand that there were other opportunities in the market.

«There were even more seminar participants than we had expected», Akaterina Aleksandrova summed up. «And they all were very active — asked questions, expressed their opinions. We have felt their feedback».

«A very open format, a friendly atmosphere, good organization. Some topics discussed were not new for us, but nevertheless, there was quite a lot of interesting information, especially on cooperation with TMCs», Anna Gonchar, assistant general director of Eastern Machines shared her impressions.

Ekaterina Larina