The ACTE Column: Adapt and grow

The business travel industry must adapt to volatile social and economic trends in order to survive

AUSTERITY MEASURES may be unpopular, but debt levels amassed throughout the international financial crisis must be reduced for a return to global financial stability. The Eurozone is in crisis, with Ireland, Greece, Portugal and Spain suffering burgeoning debt.

President Obama's declining popularity in the US and lack of progress to reduce debt has resulted in Standard & Poor's downgrading the US's credit rating to AA+, and France may soon follow. It may be largely symbolic but, we should remember, it's not just their problem.

China is the US's number one creditor. While we might not expect the Chinese yuan to overtake the US dollar as the global business currency any time soon, global power is shifting towards the East and Middle East.

With a growing world population, fuel and food price increases, inflation, low interest rates and so many living on rising personal debt, we have stark reminders that it is not sustainable to live beyond our needs or means.

By the time this edition goes to print we may have more insight into the motivation behind the riots which gripped London and other UK cities in August. The catalyst may have been the police shooting of a suspected criminal in Tottenham, although some suggest unemployment, racial tension, frustration and boredom may be factors. Shockingly, many who rampaged through the streets, opportunistically looting their neighbourhood businesses, said it was simply because they could.

The immediacy of social media helped communicate where to gather in number for some 'late night shopping'. Facebook and YouTube were ahead of the network news channels, beaming images and enabling the public to gorge on events as they unfolded.

Yet while social media fuelled the speed of information sharing between criminals and voyeurs, so it also helped galvanise communities to gather together to protect their homes and to clean up their streets.

There is no doubt that we live in volatile times - from volcanic ash to floods, terrorism, riots, economic challenges and new industry trends - but our industry is resilient and adapts the way it does business. Corporate travel purchasers downgraded airline and hotel categories to ride the worst of the recession. The ACTE Index will be launched at the global conference in Paris, October 2-4, as a barometer of the global economy, comprising a set of metrics which contributing members have provided monthly for a year.

While individual travel-specific data will not be shared, the index will offer relevant statistics to establish predictive global economic key performance indicators and behavioural trends. Tying travel data to other regional economic indicators, will help corporate travel buyers predict, plan and budget for changes in general market conditions.

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