Corporate travel - hiding in plain sight

John Wagner Claudia Unger Uploaded

Author Claudia Unger says it's time corporate travel, and by extension the serviced apartment sector, had a higher profile.

After studying tourism management, I landed a meetings sales job in London. Part of the office was devoted to 'corporate travel' - they were the posh guys. And I just couldn't understand why I had never heard anything about corporate travel at university.

This was some years back now, but I'm still flabbergasted at the little information we have available on the industry. It's almost as if academics are ignoring a big part of tourism because they don't know about it. But looking at the figures, almost  a third of tourism receipts globally are driven by business travel.  So why isn't it taught more broadly at universities and hotel schools?

Let's leave this question for a moment and look at serviced apartments. Once I found my own feet in corporate travel and hotel sourcing, I found out about serviced apartments as well. But it always felt like (and still sometimes feels like) this is a sector that's keeping very much to itself. The topic rarely comes up at industry events, and if, it's in conjunction with the sharing economy hype.

So how can we ensure serviced apartments and short term rentals aren't side-lined? The ITM (institute of travel and meetings) succeeded at their conference beginning of May to give coveted stage time to some of the players in the field. And that's a great start. We need transparency of what's on offer in the industry; and buyers need the comfort to know there are safe, serviced, negotiable and legal options available to them when travellers try to book undesired channels.

In my opinion, serviced apartments are a great choice, because they can comply with duty of care responsibilities, keep data secure, know what travellers need and give it to them and are able to integrate into existing travel programmes (and online booking tools).

Going back to the above question of why corporate travel isn't on university agendas: there's hardly any material to teach from. Academics, and people outside the industry in general, don't see the vast complexities that drive our business. They think it's simple to book a plane or train ticket and a hotel. And it is, but we know there's so much more to it. Because there's not only a hotel to book, there's a decision to make whether it's a 5-star or a 1-star, an independent or chain, a hostel, a serviced apartment, a sharing economy provider option or staying with friends. And that's not even looking at the question of who's going to pick up the bill and decide on the location.

It's time for serviced apartments to shine more brightly within the corporate travel sphere. And it's time for corporate travel to come out of hiding under the tourism umbrella. And I hope I can do something to support this trend.

Claudia Unger is a speaker at the forthcoming Short Term Rentalz conference, co-located with Serviced Apartment Summit 2016 and has a passion for corporate travel management and education. This lead her to publish the book Corporate Travel: Hiding in Plain Sight. She is also a well-regarded speaker and offers training and consulting services. Before this, Claudia lead the research & intelligence team at BCD Travel and Advito.


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