British Airways Gives Away Business Opportunity Grants

I have to admit that I was quite skeptical when I was told that British Airways was going to launch the next round of its Face to Face campaign which encourages business travel. I didn’t think it would really be newsworthy, but when I was told I had the opportunity to meet with BA EVP of the America Simon Talling-Smith at NBTA, I jumped at the chance hoping to discuss other things. It turns out, however, that round two of the campaign is actually quite interesting. They’ve decided to offer Business Opportunity Grants.

So what the heck is a Business Opportunity Grant? Well, it’s actually something BA dreamed up as a way to promote small to medium-sized businesses to travel. In effect, BA will give 100 grants that offer 10 free business class tickets to go anywhere in the world. As Simon said, “In this campaign, we can use some assets that BA has . . . spare seats.”

But it’s not just free tickets. They’ve also brought in other partners to add more.* BA Cargo will give the winner 5 free container shipments to send anywhere they fly. They are working with Regus to offer winners the Regus Gold Card which will allow access to any of their business lounges around the world. Also, Canon will provide an all-in-one printer to each winner. Simon told me that he had a great deal of interest from other partners at NBTA as well, so the pot could grow.

Why are they doing this? It’s quite smart, actually. Business travel has been down tremendously, as we all have seen, and many businesses have started using alternate technologies like teleconferencing more frequently. BA came up with this idea as a way to make sure that people understand the benefits of actually traveling and not just sitting in an office. They’ve even done a study with Harvard Business Review (pdf) to show the importance of being face-to-face.

While formal business can be done via teleconferencing, it’s the informal business that suffers. And often, that’s how transactions get completed. There’s nothing like having a drink with a potential partner to help build a relationship, for example. I think this is certainly true and something that may have been lost in some companies.

So, BA decided to put this together to really push smaller businesses to not underestimate the importance of travel. It’s a small investment for BA, but it can have big dividends if it gets people traveling again.

If you’re a smaller business and want to enter, head to businessgrants.ba.com. The last day to enter is Sept 30. They’ll make you fill out a bunch of stuff on your company and then you have to write essays about why you need this and what you’re planning to do with it. A group of business leaders from around Europe and North America will act as the advisory panel for this, and 100 businesses will win a grant.

I asked if anything else had to be done in return for winning, and the answer was that only a testimonial would be requested. They’re hoping to put some of these stories out via social media so that they can really spread the word.

I like this promotion. It’s unique and it certainly fits with the BA brand. I also tend to agree with the premise. Good stuff.

*[Updated 8/28 @ 113p – Sure enough, they have added more partners already. Courtyard by Marriott will now give winners $1,000 in accommodations for their travels.]

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