BA to dole out biz-class seats as part of meetings initiative
British Airways used the National Business Travel Association convention as the forum to announce phase two of its Face-to-Face program, which supports the concept that in-person meetings help keep an economy humming.
The carrier, with industry partners, will provide 100 Business Opportunity Grants to small U.S. companies (fewer than 500 employees) that have a valid need for international travel to grow their businesses.
The grants will provide 10 roundtrip business-class tickets wherever BA flies plus a hotel allowance at Courtyard by Marriott properties. There also is an allowance for cargo.
Simon Talling-Smith, BA´s executive vice president for the Americas, said the grant applicants must be able to articulate a business case for winning one of the grants.
If this program is successful in the U.S., BA may roll it out elsewhere, Talling-Smith said.
He also called on other travel companies to join in the effort to "kick start" business growth in similar ways. He said the extra inventory is available and would be well used in this manner.
In phase one of Face-to-Face, BA selected nearly 1,000 of 6,000 applicants for one free roundtrip to a BA destination to help boost business.
While "putting our money where our mouth is," as Talling-Smith put it, BA also released results of research it commissioned from the Harvard Business Review.
Angelia Herrin, research editor and executive director of business development for Harvard Business Review Group, said the group’s survey of 2,300 senior decision-makers revealed an overwhelming testament to the value of in-person meetings, even though the majority of respondents have mandated cuts in travel spending during the recession.
Ninety-five percent of respondents said one-on-one meetings are essential to building long-term relationships and stronger relationships, and 89% said in-person meetings were essential to closing the deal.
Herrin said the respondents, readers of Harvard Business Review, were asked what they did in person that they could not do otherwise. They said meetings allow participants to read body language.
Executives also said they needed to see counterparts in their work environment so they could see "who really makes decisions." They wanted to see counterparts’ economic environments, too.
Respondents also said that if there has been a face-to-face agreement on a deal, it is easier to get things done afterward, Herrin said. If there had been no such meeting, an agreement requires "a lot of follow up."