ACTE holds Toronto Education Forum 2019

TORONTO—Corporate travel buyers, managers and others gathered in Toronto on September 9 for the Association of Corporate Travel Executive’s (ACTE) Toronto Education Forum for tips and industry insights into the world of corporate travel management.

Leigh Bochicchio, ACTE’s executive director, speaking during the ACTE Toronto Education forum.

Attendees showed up to the event at the Radisson Admiral Hotel Toronto-Harbourfront for the one-day event, which featured a broad spectrum of speakers on topics including the outlook on Canadian accommodations, quality metrics in corporate travel and the overall economic outlook.

Leigh Bochicchio, ACTE’s executive director, kicked off the event with a discussion of the organization’s direction. Much of ACTE’s role, Bochicchio said, was curating and sourcing content, providing innovative learning opportunities while also providing a platform for open debate, informed discussion and meaningful connections.

Bochicchio, who began the role of executive director last June, also discussed ACTE’s ongoing study focusing on quality management in business travel. The concept of “experience” is more widely recognized in business, she said. In corporate travel, that is translating to the business traveller, she said.

The study includes five phases, with the first phase now complete. Phase two will define what the metrics are. Anusha Chatterjee, research manager with ACTE Global, took the stage to give more detail about the survey. Overall, the project saw 301 respondents from across the globe.

It’s impossible to manage what you can’t measure, Chatterjee said, and four in five respondents noted that they want to see a standardized system of measurement. ACTE also spoke with experts on the topic, she noted. For example, corporate travel industry commentator Scott Gillespie noting that the term ‘quality’ implies there’s a standard to meet.

Anusha Chatterjee, research manager with ACTE Global.

“As an industry we don’t know what this standard is,” Gillespie noted. “Instead, the travel industry is absolutely focused on savings, which is not the only measure of success.”

The project will now look at what areas need improvement, what the obstacles are and to try and understand why the industry isn’t there yet, Chatterjee said.

ACTE will produce a white paper in October based on findings from the second phase of the project, Chatterjee said.

Return on investment
Another presentation, called The ROI Equation and led by IBM’s Scott Dawson, focused on how to leverage data, traveller sentiment and transparency for a more successful buyer-supplier partnership.
The buyer’s T&E priorities are evolving, he said, noting areas like traveller experience and satisfaction, health and well-being, the sharing economy and comprehensive reporting as some emerging examples.
Dawson pointed out that it’s valuable to understand how travel policies and practices impact business outcomes. ROI is more about the success of a trip rather than its cost and every project should have strategic imperatives surrounding it.

IBM’s Scott Dawson.

“Data is absolutely important,” he said, encouraging the audience to provide buyers with as much data as possible.

Transparency is also important, he added, and the more transparent those relationships are the better.

Hotel supply and demand
Sara Law, regional director, franchise operations, Americas, Radisson Hotel Group, gave the audience a glimpse of the CBRE’s update on the hotel industry supply and demand per market and how it’s affecting business travel.

Hotel occupancy reached 66 per cent nationally in 2018, setting a new Canadian record, Law said. As well, downtown Toronto’s office vacancy rate has been the lowest in North America since Q2 2016 and currently sits at 2.7 per cent. Vancouver and Ottawa were also strong performers with 3.8 per cent and 7.4 per cent (respectively) as of Q4 2018.

CBRE’s prime industrial rent study found that Vancouver’s hub leads the world in rental rate growth. At the same time, the overall industrial availability rate fell to 2.3 per cent in 2018, fueled by strong demand for warehouse and distribution space. As well, commercial real estate investment reached a third consecutive annual record in 2018 at $49.3 billion, which is 68 per cent above the 10-year average. Travel forecasts remain positive for every region of the country, Law added.

It’s the economy
Another session featured Sal Guatieri, director, senior economist, Bank of Montreal, capital markets, who gave an update on Canadian, US and global economic factors. So far, Gautieri told the audience, Canada has avoided recession and will likely continue to do so. But the trade war between the US and China has worsened, which threatens both the economy and corporate travel.

“Let’s hope they can make progress,” said Gautieri of trade talks. “We’re not overly optimistic.”
Meanwhile, the US is contemplating tariffs on non-US auto imports, which would open a new trade war front. At the same time, the new NAFTA deal awaits ratification. Until that happens, the issue remains a small negative for the Canadian economy. “As long as it gets ratified it’s relatively good news for business and the economy,” Gautieri said.

Hiring coming to a standstill in the US would likely tip the country into recession and drag Canada down at the same time, he noted. Meanwhile, the global economy has downshifted to an almost 3 per cent growth rate from 4 per cent last year. China is growing 6.2 per cent despite the trade war, while India’s economy has downshifted. Germany appears close to recession while the UK economy remains at risk due to Brexit.

“The external backdrop for Canada has certainly weakened considerably,” Gautieri said.
Pretty much all of Canada’s provinces have slowed economically, he noted, with the exception of Newfoundland and Labrador due to its energy sector. However, the country is operating at full employment so wages should rise slightly faster than they are now.