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The Association of Corporate Travel Executives announced new programs to certify industry consultants, recognize innovative ideas from rising stars under age 33, launch a global business travel index and facilitate venture capital investment in both concepts and immersion learning about travel management practices in 18 markets.
Announced during its 20th annual Global Education Conference in Berlin, ACTE said Paris would host its next fall conference in late October. The spring conference is to be held in New York City 10-12 April when Business Travel Market will produce the first InterACTE to deliver pre-arranged meetings between buyers and suppliers instead of the tradeshow component of TransACTE. As part of the partnership announced earlier, ACTE is to produce the educational content for BTM's 22-23 June event in London.
Consultants Corner, to launch in the first quarter, is designed to help buyers identify consultants with the expertise desired and help consultants market their capabilities. ACTE plans to test applicant knowledge before awarding a seal of approval, according to ACTE executive director Ron DiLeo. Applicants also will be asked to complete an "ethical questionnaire." To help those just establishing a practice, ACTE said it plans to provide presentation templates, suggested fee models or ways to present their fees, and a link on the ACTE Web site to showcase their credentials and certifications.
"The certification will give us the means to make recommendations," DiLeo added. ACTE receives at least a "half dozen calls a week" from people asking for recommendations. DiLeo said he recognizes that the certification might not be of interest to all of the industry's veteran consultants, but could help those just getting started.
ACTE president Chris Crowley said: "We must be transparent and extremely open in the way we assess. We will publish guidelines and standards. ACTE's approach is to do three things: standardization, provide a route to market to both client and consultant, and provide visibility to the marketplace that we feel has a very long-term benefit in an increasingly outsourced business."
BCD Travel has a "database of 500 consultants in 20 markets occupying the TMC space alone," Crowley said. Consultants "have very different methodologies, fee structures, approaches to the customer in the way they present themselves. It's confusing to the client. We also know from experience that the larger global consultancy companies are very actively looking to subcontract work, and they need to get to this expertise."
In establishing the talent pool, ACTE hopes that one of the large consulting firms might decide to establish a practice in travel management, DiLeo added.
The ACTE index is designed to track the travel forecasts of 200 ACTE members--buyers and suppliers--against five of the major financial indexes. "Let's take what they say their travel will be doing and marry it with economic indicators in financial markets to see if we can spot trends. We'll see if we can create a predictive index that may by region give you an advance indicator of what's going on with the economy," DiLeo said.
The index is slated to debut in December and be released the first week of each month.
"My gut says we'll be able to draw correlations six months in and real correlations after 12 months," DiLeo said.
"The industry lacks this," Crowley added. "We have a lot of numbers, but very little trending numbers and no context."
One of the standard index questions will be about use of travel substitutions, noted ACTE board member Lutz Stammnitz, Siemens AG mobility services global category vice president within the company's Corporate Sully Chain Management unit. "It's one of the indicators that we're trying to control. This is one of the innovative parts" of the index, he added.
The Angel Investor Network is expected to debut in the second quarter, after ACTE finalizes a technology provider, DiLeo said. "There's no shortage of angel investor forums, but there are none in travel," DiLeo said. ACTE's forum will be online. "We want to create a virtual science-fair type of environment" where entrepreneurs can pitch ideas that investors can search, view or discuss with the idea owner in an online chat area. ACTE also plans to showcase the ideas and forum in the new InterACTE section of its live events.
To recognize innovative people and ideas, ACTE also plans to introduce a "3 Under 33" award program this fall. The "contemporary rising-star award will recognize three innovative thinkers in each of ACTE's regions of Asia-Pacific, Europe and North America," DiLeo said. From the nine honorees, ACTE said it would select three for global recognition. Led by past ACTE presidents, a panel of judges has been tasked with identifying contenders for the honors.
DiLeo also expanded on the "Around the World in 80 Hours"educational program in development in 18 countries and markets. ACTE plans to develop a business travel curriculum that focuses on each of the 18 markets for three days or a total of 80 hours of classroom training. Existing travel managers or university students could take the courses, all of which are to be university accredited and offered two semesters each year for those interested in a degree program. The program is to launch in the fall semester 2011 in Singapore, he added. ACTE currently is developing the curriculum and trying to line up universities interested in offering the program.
The Berlin conference attracted 800 registered attendees, of which 301 were corporate buyers, DiLeo said. Factored by company, ACTE said buyers represented 49 percent of the attendees.
Despite warnings issued by both U.S. and British governments 1 October about travel to Europe due to concerns about a Mumbai-style attack, ACTE said they had no cancellations due to the security warnings. Instead of cancellations, DiLeo noted that more people than expected registered onsite.
While conference registrations are on the rise, DiLeo said member registrations are flat. The emerging trends have prompted ACTE executives to think about what to include in memberships and how to price various elements typically included in memberships.
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