BTN's annual answer book for business travel managers.
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Meetings & Events emerged in August as the integration of BCD Meetings
& Incentives and BCD Travel Groups. Since then, president Scott Graf has
acquired two companies and launched more than a dozen partner markets, and he told
BTN editor-in-chief Elizabeth West the
company is poised to do more.
BTN: BCD M&E is
growing very quickly. Why the rush?
Graf: We are
listening to our customers, and, whether they are working with [strategic
meetings management] or not, they all want to do more with fewer suppliers.
They're looking for multinational and global companies that give them scope,
but they also want local delivery and really strong relationships at the local
level with stakeholders. We have a strong global presence, but we needed to be
stronger in key markets, particularly Europe and Latin America. We picked up 11
markets in Europe and four in Latin America, and it complemented where we
already had strength in the United States, Mexico and Asia/Pacific.
BTN: You have a
partner strategy in these markets. Tell me about the vetting process and how
you ensure these partners can deliver the right product for BCD M&E
we're in 40 markets. We own 23 of those; the rest are partner markets. Some
partners we may view as long term or they might be ultimately an acquisition
target for us, so we're picky. We're not looking for a [destination
marketing company] that's trying to get into the event or meeting space.
We look at companies that specialize in either local market
or local-plus-outbound meeting and event planning. If, for example, we're working
with a company in Vietnam, we want them to be very strong in Vietnam but also must
understand how they work with the other 10 key markets in Asia/Pacific. We go
through a vigorous onboarding process. Most [of our in-market partners] take on
our brand and all the resources we have from a technology perspective or
anything from sourcing to planning to mobile [applications].
could be the same partner as our sister company, BCD Travel. Those [partners]
have been vetted, so we go through [just] an extra step for meeting and event
services. In other cases, it will be a very different choice based on what's
best for our customers.
As BCD M&E, we're in Year 2 of a very strategic three-year plan. We're going to continue to invest in talent and technologies but more importantly in acquisitions that address customer needs."
BTN: New regulations
for European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations members require
even more transparency and reporting of transfer of value, including meetings
costs, to healthcare providers. Has this environment influenced your strategy
and partner uptake in the region?
Graf: It has.
Life science and pharmaceutical is our strongest sector. Expanding our presence
in Europe helps all of our large global customers. … But we've taken a lot of
steps toward compliance training in that market because we saw [these
regulations] as an opportunity. [EU companies] have been handling [regulatory
compliance] on their own, and outsourcing has been slower than in the North
American market. The more regulations that come forth in Europe—and I believe
they'll continue to come—customers in that market will start to [see this area]
as a great opportunity to outsource a non-core service to someone like BCD
M&E. We're trained, we've got the tools, we're ready.
BTN: Your recent
acquisitions, Universal Meeting Management and Plan 365, play in the pharma space,
Meeting Management was really working well in the pharma sector for HCP
specifics, managing the healthcare professionals. That acquisition gives us
proprietary technology to specifically address how we handle HCPs. Plan 365
sets up go-to-market strategies and the speaker bureau for life sciences. It
will enhance the ways we help pharma companies go to market when launching new
BTN: Has the regulatory environment—in Europe or anywhere—put a
damper on meetings volume for the pharma sector? What's your outlook?
not seen a decrease in volume at all. When companies need to have meetings,
they need to have meetings. It's our job for that customer to help them
navigate those waters as simply as possible. In some cases, we're seeing more
meetings, especially around product launches because they want to get them to
market as fast as possible. [The regulatory environment does require] more
expertise and rigor than ever before around being compliant. That has to be
handled in some form or fashion, and we believe companies will continue to
outsource that step.
BTN: Regarding the meetings market in general, 2015 was a
banner year for business. Do you see the same for 2016?
Graf: We have
a very positive outlook for 2016 and into 2017. As BCD M&E, we're in Year 2
of a strategic three-year plan. We're going to continue to invest in talent and
technologies but more importantly in acquisitions that address customer needs.
That could be for geographic location or new or enhanced product lines.
obviously do all kinds of meetings and events and incentives, product launches
and strategic programs. We do a lot around sports hospitality and
entertainment, as well. In the next two years, we will look to further enhance
those verticals in our portfolio.
We're investing more on the
sales and marketing side to let people know how good we are at what we do. We've
often had this kind of understated elegance and relied on other people to tell
each other how good we are. We've done well with that, but we're at a point
where we can aggressively pursue new markets and new product lines.
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