9 December 2021, Virtual
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The ITM's third annual trends survey helps benchmark buyers' activities
REASSURINGLY, TWO thirds of the nation's corporate travel managers will have at least as much to spend this year as last, but they intend to drive much harder bargains with their suppliers.
Well over 60 per cent of those polled for the Institute of Travel Management's (ITM) annual Industry Observer report say their travel and meetings activity this year will match or exceed 2008 levels.
Around five per cent say they expect travel programmes to expand "considerably" this year.
However, more than 80 per cent of buyers say they will be reviewing hotel contracts, more than 60 per cent will be looking for new airline deals, and nearly half - 47 per cent - will be reviewing their relationship with their travel management companies.
While corporate hotel programmes are regularly reviewed, the number of travel management company (TMC) reviews is unusually high. "This could suggest that worsening economic conditions drive greater supplier reviews," says the ITM.
The report makes disappointing reading for advocates of 'travel alternatives'. Between 2006 and 2008 there have been only slight increases in corporate use of tele and videoconferencing. Roughly half the respondents say conferencing systems will not reduce travel volumes - mostly because face-to-face meetings are irreplaceable, but partly because the technology is not yet sufficiently advanced.
Asked whether employees would rather travel than use technological alternatives, the overwhelming majority of companies say they would, with fewer than 20 per cent respondents owning up to unhappy travellers. Some hi-tech kit is catching on, however. In the 2006 Industry Observer, only 13 per cent of respondents were using selfbooking tools; in 2008, that figure had risen to 38 per cent.
Another big change during the three-year period is in meetings management. In 2006, 50 per cent of those polled had no meetings policy; that figure is now down to 25 per cent.
Corporate concerns over traveller safety have also driven changes. More than three-quarters of the survey sample say they can now track travellers within one hour, compared with only 50 per cent three years ago. There has been even greater growth in pre-trip risk assessment, with more than 50 per cent of companies checking on the safety of all trips - even within the UK. Three years ago, fewer than 20 per cent conducted assessments for most types of trip, and fewer than 40 per cent bothered with them even for trips to areas of known risk. The number of companies admitting they have no duty-of-care policy - formal or otherwise - has fallen to around five per cent.
From care for people to care for the planet, and the green lobby seems to have won over the nation's travel buyers. Nearly 50 per cent of respondents now agree that "the travel industry can genuinely make a big difference to environmental damage" (against fewer than 20 per cent three years ago) while the number who disagree has fallen from around one-third of the total to fewer than 15 per cent. More than one third, however, remain unsure.
Half the travel buyers polled say their companies are trying to be greener by cutting travel and 40 per cent say they switch modes of travel to reduce emissions. However, 30 per cent say they still do not take any environmentally-friendly measures.