A growing demand for business travel in the Bay of Plenty has led House of Travel's Hamilton office owner/operator to open a division of the company's award-winning Orbit Corporate Travel in Tauranga.

Paul Forward, managing director of Orbit Tauranga, said the company had plans to take on eight staff in the first 12 months of operation and hoped to add at least another dozen staff within the next two to four years.

"Tauranga business executives are travelling domestically and offshore more frequently as they develop new export markets," said Mr Forward.

"With this growth comes the need for better management of their travel planning requirements."

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The city's export and manufacturing-led economic growth made it the ideal location for the nationwide chain's eighth branch to be established, he said.

Mr Forward is also owner/operator of the Hamilton operation, which has 50 staff and trades as Calder and Lawson-House of Travel. Calder and Lawson was established 30 years ago and became part of HOT 15 years ago, but retained the original name because it was so well known in the city, said Mr Forward.

"We have a strong Orbit division in Hamilton with a lot of Bay of Plenty clients," he said. "Over the past 18 months, we've been looking at establishing a base in Tauranga to form part of our growth strategy. After discussions with Priority One and others, including our Tauranga clients, we decided to open this year."

Greg Simmonds, Priority One's strategic projects manager, said the decision recognised the maturity of the business market in Tauranga.

"Tauranga is being seen as a place where business is done," said Mr Simmonds.

"It's a good reflection of that when you're getting firms from other regions opening offices here - they're starting to see that Tauranga has grown up."

Initially, Orbit's three-person local team led by Rachel Hearfield, will be based out of HOT's existing branch on the corner of Willow and Spring Sts that is owned and operated by Shane Kennedy.

Mr Forward said the HOT branch currently was more focused on the leisure/vacation market, but also provided business traveller services. However, HOT recognised there was a need for the specialised business travel services Orbit provided.

There was space to expand but at some point Orbit would move into its own offices.

Mr Forward, who is Tauranga born and bred but lives in Hamilton, rotates between the two offices.

He said one of the factors that had influenced the decision had been his experience in regularly attending the Tauranga Chamber's monthly Business After Five events, which drew more than 100 businessmen.

"There's a thriving business commu

Corporate travel grows as 261,600 go overseas

New Zealanders are increasingly travelling for business purposes. According to a Department of Statistics report, Business Travel to and from New Zealand: 1989 - 2009, the number of New Zealand residents travelling overseas for business has increased substantially over the last two decades, up from 110,200 in 1989 to 261,600 in 2009.

Around 234,400 visitors came to New Zealand for business in the year ended June 2009, accounting for 10 per cent of all short-term overseas visitors. But a higher number of New Zealand residents travelled overseas on short-term business trips (261,600 residents or 14 per cent of all short-term departures). Overall, business travel has experienced substantial growth since 1989, said the report, with short periods of decline coinciding with key events, often economic downturns

And despite the challenge posed to travel agencies by the growth of online travel services, there was still strong demand for specialised corporate travel services, which could help businesses improve their bottom line on travel costs, said Orbit Tauranga managing director Paul Forward.

That was because corporate travel specialists offered a different level of service and technology to those offered by retail travel agencies, he said.

"We can ensure a company reduces its total cost of travel by improving its purchasing patterns," he said.

"Orbit provides an end-to-end service offering, including market leading technology and consolidated and electronic billing options."

In addition, Orbit Tauranga would offer a local emergency response team for its business clients.

"...We have trained staff who are equipped to deal with any issues which could potentially arise," he said.nity here," he said. "We see strong potential for growth."