London business visitor surge to continue, tourism expert predicts

The number of people visiting London for business reasons will continue to rise in 2014, following impressive growth over the past five years, one expert has claimed.

VisitBritain’s director of strategy and communications, Patricia Yates, said that corporate visits rose by 20 per cent in the three years leading up to 2012 and that confidence in this part of the tourism sector remains high.

Ms Yates’ comments come after Cheval Residences released the results of its latest industry survey. After questioning 200 firms that regularly travel to the capital, the serviced apartment provider found that 10 per cent expect to boost their activity in the city by as much as 40 per cent in 2014.

According to thecourier.co.uk, a further 10 per cent said they expect an increase of 20 per cent, while, on the whole, 35 per cent said they’re likely to do more business this year than in 2013.

Cheval Residences director George Westwell said the news looks good for the capital’s financial situation. He was quoted by standard.co.uk as saying: “The confidence of business organisations visiting London augurs well for continued economic expansion in the capital.”

The report also highlighted just how valuable business travellers are to the UK economy. In 2012, this market alone generated £2.7 billion, with 3.1 million people visiting London from overseas.

Heathrow's Terminal 2 opening in stages

Terminal 2 at Heathrow is opening in stages to avoid a repetition of the disastrous opening of Terminal 5.

According to bbc.co.uk, when Terminal 5 opened in 2008, the airport descended into chaos, as staff failed to cope with the new baggage and computer systems. Terminal 2, also known as the ‘Queen’s Terminal’, officially opens today (June 4) but will only be operating at ten per cent capacity. This means only 34 flights and 6,000 passengers will be passing through.

When the terminal eventually reaches full capacity, it will see 330 flights a day to 50 different destinations by 26 airlines, reports freshbusinessthinking.com.

Heathrow development director, John Holland-Kaye, says the new terminal will transform the airport.   

“Opening a new terminal is one of the most complex challenges that any airport can undertake,” he states. “Our measure of success is not everything running perfectly on day one; there will inevitably be things we can improve. Our real measure of success is whether T2 comes to be rated by passengers as one of the world’s best airport terminals for years to come.”

T2 consists of 17 restaurants, 33 shops, 60 check-in gates, 66 self-check-in kiosks and 29 security lanes. It’s very first flight was a United Airlines Boeing 767 from Chicago, which carried 178 passengers and 11 crew members. It arrived at 05:49 BST this morning.

Ryanair's annual traffic reaches record 82.3 million customers

Ryanair’s annual traffic rose to 82.3 million in May, a record for the company and a three per cent increase on the previous year’s figures.

According to buyingbusinesstravel.com, in May Ryanair saw a four per cent traffic boost compared to the number of passengers seen in April. This means some 8.2 million passengers flew with the airline in the past month, which is an increase of 300,000, as only 7.9 million people travelled with Ryanair during the same period in 2013.

Kenny Jacobs, the airline’s chief marketing officer, says its new website, the allowance of portable electric device use on all flights and allocated seating offering have all helped boost passenger numbers.

“Ryanair continues to deliver so much more than just the lowest fares for our 82.3 million customers,” he explains, reports travelweekly.co.uk. “We are especially pleased with the three per cent point improvement in May load factor, which is slightly ahead of our two per cent point growth target.”

During May the load factor, which is the number of passengers as a proportion of the amount of seats available for them, stood at 85 per cent, whereas in the previous year it was only 82 per cent.

The figures are good news for the firm, as just a few weeks ago it announced that its profits have declined by eight per cent over the past year.

Make sure your wedding speech isn't full of too many in-jokes

Write a wedding speech that doesn’t contain too many in-jokes that only a handful of people will understand, journalist and broadcaster Grace Dent recommends.

Writing for hellomagazine.com, Ms Dent notes that a wedding speech needs to appeal to a wide variety of people, so only including in-jokes will make some people feel out of the loop.

“Think about who is in the room and how much detail people need to know,” she states. “Save the gritty, grubby and incriminating stories for people who’ll adore them at the bar afterwards. Instead give people light detail of how you met.”

Fellow journalist, Malcolm Fraser, agrees that in-jokes should be kept to a minimum. He adds that some special mentions should be given to “VIP” guests, such as people who travelled a long way to make it to the wedding, reports askmen.com.

Ms Dent also says it’s a good idea to make notes, especially if certain names need to be remembered. However, the speech should be practised a few times beforehand to make sure it sounds natural on the day. Anyone making a speech needs to ensure they speak loud and slow enough too. She notes that people should not be afraid to ask whether everyone in the room can hear them during their toast.

London accommodation laws need to “catch up”, government official claims

A law preventing Londoners from renting out their homes to business travellers and tourists is “outdated”, the communities secretary has claimed.

Eric Pickles’ comments come after the government announced that it will look to update legislation from the 1970s which requires homeowners in the city to acquire planning permission before renting out their homes for periods of less than three months. While the law is often overlooked, those breaking it currently risk being hit with fines of up to £20,000, thesundaytimes.co.uk reports.

The short-term rental market has grown significantly in recent years as business travellers search for alternatives to conventional hotel accommodation. Dedicated apps and websites such as OneFineStay and Airbnb have proved particularly popular.

Mr Pickles was quoted by cityam.com as saying: “The internet is changing the way we work and live, and the law needs to catch up. We have already reformed the rules on renting out your unused parking spaces, now we want to do the same regarding renting out your home for a short period.”

London isn’t the only city to present Airbnb with legal hurdles to navigate. The legitimacy of the site, which has been in operation since 2008, is also being questioned in San Francisco and New York where similar rules prevent uses from agreeing tenancies shorter than 30 days.

The service’s popularity in the UK capital grew considerably during the 2012 Olympics as many people looked to benefit financially from the influx of visitors.

'One More Journey' allows Londoners low on cash to catch the bus

People travelling around in London can make ‘One More Journey’ on the bus, even if they can’t afford to pay the full fare.

The new scheme allows people with an Oyster card to make an emergency journey if need be. Once it is activated, an emergency fare advice slip is issued to the let the person know One More Journey is now activated. The credit on the card will become negative, so the person will only be charged once they top up their card again, reports standard.co.uk.

Transport for London (TfL) originally planned to launch the scheme in July, but it was pushed forward because its trial was so successful. Mike Weston, TfL director of buses, says customers and drivers alike responded positively to the scheme during the trial.

“Introducing this facility is the first of many steps we are taking to ensure a smooth transition to cash free bus travel from July 6 when passengers will benefit from quicker boarding and the guarantee of always paying the cheapest fare for their journey by paying with an Oyster or contactless payment card,” he explains.

Despite its success so far, there are concerns that people needing more than one bus to get home will still be left stranded. TfL notes that it will be adding more top-up points to solve this issue, especially in the outskirts of London, where they might be harder to find, reports london24.com.

EasyJet shows interest in Heathrow's expansion plans

EasyJet wants to keep a keen eye on Heathrow’s expansion plans, suggesting the carrier may be looking to move to London’s biggest airport sometime in the near future.

According to telegraph.co.uk, easyJet has requested to attend the London Airports Consultative Committee (LACC) meetings. The LACC represents the airlines operating at Heathrow, particularly their strategic and operational interests. EasyJet apparently wants to be included in these meetings because it has an interest in Heathrow’s expansion plans.

A spokesperson for easyJet states that the airline is eager to keep an eye on the expansion plans of both Heathrow and Gatwick.

“Heathrow is one of less than a handful of primary airports in Europe we don’t operate from,” he explains, reports buyingbusinesstravel.com. “We operate out of hub airports in France, in Italy, in Holland. We don’t currently [operate from Heathrow] but we’ve never said we wouldn’t in the future.”

The West London airport is currently applying for a third runway. If this application is successful, there will be more landing and take-off slots available to new airlines wanting to operate at the airport. For more than ten years, Heathrow has been running at full-capacity and landing slots are so popular, they’re traded for huge eight-figure sums.

If easyJet does move to Heathrow, it could increase its share of the business traveller market even further. Just last month it announced that it served 12 million business passengers in the year to March.

Uber promises to keep London moving during taxi driver protests

Uber says it will keep the capital moving tomorrow (June 10) during a protest by taxi drivers.

According to standard.co.uk, the taxi drivers are protesting against Uber, an app which helps riders find a driver and estimates how much they’ll have to pay for the journey, based on distance and time. Transport for London (TfL) has granted Uber a private hire licence, which has angered black cab drivers as they argue the app is too similar to a taximeter. Only black cabs can legally use taximeters in London.

The drivers will protest in Trafalgar Square from 2pm tomorrow. As many as 12,000 cabbies will take part and it’s estimated the strike will cost the economy up to £125 million.

TfL has taken the case to the High Court, which will decide if services such as Uber can indeed be licensed to operate in London. However, it will take several months for the High Court to reach a final decision.

Jo Bertram, Uber’s UK general manager, says the service will be running as normal tomorrow.

“Our technology allows us to identify areas where demand is high; and we’ll be helping Londoners to get around town quickly and efficiently, at an affordable price,” she explains, reports telegraph.co.uk. “While the cabbies’ protests may seek to bring London to a standstill, we’ll be on hand to get Londoners from A to B.”

All weddings are very similar, '112 Weddings' filmmaker says

Most weddings follow pretty much the same formula, because getting married is a way people can feel accepted by society, the filmmaker of ‘112 Weddings’ says.

Doug Block has been filming weddings for 20 years and decided to make a documentary following what happened after the big day of 112 different couples. Speaking to telegraph.co.uk, Mr Block says he was surprised at how many of the couples didn’t really take ownership of their wedding day. It shows that people would rather be normal and not deviate too far from what an average wedding day consists of.

He adds that so much planning goes into the wedding, but no one really considers what happens afterwards. Mr Block recalls a rabbi who remarked in his film that it’s easy to make the big day a happy one, because people have invested so much money into it. However, a marriage is hard work and money cannot solve every problem.

Mr Block also mentions that there’s always a lot of tears at a wedding, but it’s still seen as a sort of taboo by some people.

“There will never be a more acceptable place to fully express your emotions publicly than at a wedding,” he explains on independent.co.uk. “I’ll never understand why some brides and grooms seems so determined not to cry, as if it’s a point of pride.”

Moreover, when the parents cry they aren’t always happy tears. Sometimes they’re sad because they’re letting go of their son or daughter, he adds.

Reasons behind unproductive meetings revealed

A meeting with no clear purpose or agenda is a sure fire way to leave your attendees drained and your meetings unproductive.

That’s according to a report by Robert Half Management Resources which surveyed more than 400 employees about some of their meeting and conference bugbears.

Cited by benefitspro.com, 30 per cent of those surveyed identified ‘no clear purpose’ as the reason why their meeting was unproductive. A further 30 per cent believed the meeting’s agenda straying from the main topic broke their meeting down into a draining, frustrating venture.

In addition, 20 per cent were left cranky about meetings that don’t end at their scheduled conclusion time while 15 per cent were unhappy with late starting times.

According to Dan Cook, a meetings expert writing for benefitspro.com, good leaders ensure the agenda and any supporting materials “are accessible and publicised in advance”, leading to a stimulated, energised audience.

“If it’s an in-person meeting,” asks Cook, “make sure there are enough seats in the room for everyone. Leave time for setup and pre-meeting technology challenges that may arise.”

Furthermore, meetings leaders should finish their meetings with an action point.

“If anyone leaves the meeting wondering what the next steps are, you haven’t done your job as meeting host,” added Cook. “Allow time for people to ask questions, and determine who has responsibility for each follow-up item.”