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The African Business Travel Association (ABTA) in collaboration with the Association of Corporate Travel Executives hosted a Travel Management Forum in Lagos, Nigeria on 20 May 2014 at the Four Points By Sheraton Hotel.

The forum gave Nigerian travel professionals the opportunity to come together with their clients and other key industry stakeholders to discuss and debate business travel trends, challenges and opportunities.

The theme of the forum: ‘The Tri-Partheid Relationship – attaining maximum value from preferred partnerships’ highlighted the importance of good relationships between TMCs, suppliers and clients and the vital role that each played in ensuring a vibrant business travel industry. More than 69 travel industry professionals from across Nigeria attended the event and ABTA also signed up eight new members while in Lagos.

Delegates heard about the importance of consolidating suppliers. Daniel Lordis, GM of Carlson Wagonlit Travel Nigeria – who was part of a panel discussion on reducing business travel costs for companies – informed delegates that utilising several TMCs and ‘back up’ TMCs did not do their corporate travel programmes or budgets any favours. He urged them to consider committing and being loyal to preferred TMCs and suppliers, as this would yield far greater returns while also cutting down on travel costs.

TMCs were given insights into the importance of better managing their clients’ data requirements as by not doing so, they could lose potential business. They were also informed on ways to source this data and convert it into meaningful information for their clients.

Monique Swart, ABTA’s founder said companies in Nigeria were starting to understand that without meaningful data, effectively managing a travel policy, monitoring compliance and identifying cost saving opportunities was impossible. “It is in this area where TMCs can add massive value to their clients by providing this data in a meaningful way, which assists them with many of their key objectives,” she said.

In the session on “Improving the professionalism of the Nigerian Business Travel Industry”, delegates heard how they could improve their corporate image to make themselves more desirable to companies expanding into the region. Chris Pouney, MD of Severnside Consulting UK and ex-CitiGroup Global Lead for Travel, gave delegates insights into the key factors that large multi-national and global corporations consider when looking to appoint travel agent and TMCs partners in developing regions.

This was followed by a round table discussion about the challenges many TMCs face when dealing with clients to whom they’ve granted credit, and those who make late payments. Many of the TMCs in attendance said that they wished they had brought their buyers to the event and that it would have been worth it for this discussion alone.

The next ABTA Travel Management Forum takes place in Accra, Ghana on 3 July 2014 and will be followed by Kenya’s first ABTA Travel Management Forum event, which takes place in Nairobi on 17 July 2014.