Winfried Barczaitis: «The Yearbook is a tool necessary for everyone!»

Independent consultant of the Russian Association of Business Travel, an old-timer of the travel industry with almost 40 years of experience, Winfried Barczaitis was in 2013 one of the authors of «The Yearbook» — the first market report on the state and development trends of the Russian business travel industry prepared by ABT experts.

The expert has told the readers of ABT Newsletter about the most unexpected discoveries the research has led to.

Винфрид Баркцайтис

— You presented a detailed report on the state and development outlook of the Russian business travel industry at the last Moscow ACTE forum. What was this presentation based on?

— It is a profound research carried out by ABT experts — The Yearbook, the first survey of the Russian business travel market. I was also lucky to take part in this work: I already had a chance to participate in projects like that, so I accepted ABT offer without doubt. As far as I can see, it is the only reliable detailed market research — there are no similar market surveys. We started our work at the end of 2012 and spent the whole last year working on this project, as we had to collect and process such a great amount of data! But the main thing is that the Annual report casts light on a rather closed branch of industry, some nuances and aspects of which are not always known even to experts, let alone mainstream audience.

ABT’s plans include carrying out this survey on an annual basis, which will help inform market participants on the general market situation, and the research will gradually give the basis for comparison. We see business travel evolve in Russia, step by step.

For the comparison to be unbiased and reliable, the main sections of the annual report will be permanent, but the amount of information will increase due to the introduction of new sections.

I am strongly convinced that ABT has created a tool which is necessary for everyone who is interested in Russian business travel and related industries.

— How did you collect information? Especially if we take into account the fact that the business travel industry is really very closed and poorly studied.

— We used various data sources, the main were inquiries and a series of confidential interviews with corporate buyers, ABT members. And it is this fact that makes the survey exclusive. Several hundred experts took part in the interview, one expert from one company — I don’t think that anyone has ever been able to get such a bulk of information from travel managers in the Russian market.

We would not have achieved success without the team work of all ABT experts, and without the support of Amadeus and Travelport who were sponsors of the survey.

— What market segments did you analyze?

— I would like to point out the general market analysis, the main trends and market outlook, quantitative and qualitative indices of all the sectors: aircraft and hotel industries, railway industry, environment, travel technologies, distribution channels, payment systems and many others. For the first time the habits of Russian business travellers have been analyzed: the main business trip destinations, booking and payment methods, the desirable service level. The main administrative issues are studied.

— Who is this information addressed to?

— ABT annual report will be interesting for travel service providers, corporate buyers, technology providers, press representatives. I think, companies that provide infrastructure for airports, motorways, the railway network, as well as investors will find a lot of useful information.

Interestingly, even before the official release of the annual report had been announced, we started receiving requests (from all over the world, just imagine it!) for a copy of the survey. It means that investors are interested in the Russian business travel market.

— How did ABT experts manage to assess the Russian business travel market?

— In 2012 the Russian business travel marked amounted to 440 bln roubles and grew supposedly by 7% per year, it amounted to some 470 bln roubles in 2013. If we compare it to other countries, it is an average growth rate. For example, in France the business travel market grows by 1,1% approximately, and in India — by 21,5%. The average world growth rate is 8,1%.

— Were any unexpected conclusions made during your work on The Yearbook, that could surprise even you, the industry expert?

— The greatest surprise for me was the size of the Russian business travel market. Before we extrapolated the figures and got the total amount, there was a great dispute and discussion. Even the representatives of the largest air carriers hardly assessed the industry as the half of its real volume.

I think, the main cause of this uncertainty lies in the fact that tourism has always been considered in Russia as a whole industry, and nobody has ever tried to assess the business travel segment separately, and it has turned out to be really huge! We have managed to dismantle the myth of the industry’s inconsistency.

— Are the conclusions contained in the report actually in the framework of world trends? Or does Russia have its own unique development path, as usual?

— There are certain distinct features, of course. They are related mainly to the huge territory of Russia. There are no other cases in the world when after a 10 hours` flight you still do not cross the border of the country! This is why the most part of the corporate travel budget accounts for domestic business trips. I think, you can face a similar situation in the USA, but there it is caused by economic reasons, and not geography.

You can not also ignore the evident lack of 3* hotels, where business travellers all over the world usually stay. As in Russia high quality three star hotels are scarce, most business travellers prefer 4* hotels.

Another important characteristic is payment systems. In western countries 99% of payments related to business travel account for corporate credit cards, but they are very rarely used in Russia.

And of course, I would like to point out general problems of infrastructure caused by the lack of investment, they include both motorways and railways.

— There are over 100 pages in «The Yearbook» — what is the right way to work with such a large bulk of data?

— I think, every reader of the annual report will have his own reasons to look into it. Only journalists will probably read the survey from cover to cover and the information will come in useful for their analytical articles. Travel managers may use the conclusions of the survey to plan their business budgets for the next year: it would be interesting for them to compare the situation in their company with the overall market situation. Especially if we take into consideration that you can hardly find another similar source of consolidated information: for example, airlines` data is so detailed that it includes the main flight destinations, fares and even aircraft configurations. You can compare even the distance between the seats that varies considerably in different airlines, I note.

Congress managers and MICE-experts will find it interesting to get acquainted with the section devoted to congress facilities of the main hotels in Russia’s twenty largest cities. You can easily find information on Moscow and Saint-Petersburg in open sources, but the data on the regions of Russia can be considered exclusive.

ABT report will be a great source of information for investors who are interested in the Russian market. I call on everyone to study the contents carefully and to find «your own» informational section and only then to start reading it carefully.

— When will your survey be published?

— As far as I know, ABT is planning a press conference where a printed version of the annual report will be presented. We will inform you later on the date and the place of the conference.

Svetlana Denikina (