Lovell doubts it will "swing back" after recession
Richard Lovell, chairman of Expotel, said business travel was in for fundamental changes in the next five years.
While acknowledging that travel was a pendulum industry which swung backwards and forwards, he said he doubted it if would ever swing back to what it was before the current recession.
Mr Lovell, former president EMEA for Carlson Wagonlit Travel, was speaking at the Management Solutions UK/Association of corporate Travel Executives joint forum in London today (May 12).
He said globalisation had once been the spur to business travel growth over 20 years.
But the high price of oil in 2008 had led companies to wonder whether it was worth building car parts in 18 different countries.
He said a combination of economic change and technological development was now forcing business travel to change.
He told the 95 delegates that there was now what was seen as good and bad travel.
The first was external meetings to sell while the second was internal meetings.
Some companies had cut the latter by 40% in the current climate.
"Whether that will come back I wonder. Video conferencing is better than it was years ago," he said.
Earlier Michelle Lawley, managing director of BCD Travel for the UK and Ireland, said the current landscape was a challenging time for travel.
Companies were looking to cut costs by downgrading on flights to economy and cutting the number of internal meetings.
The UK Guild of Travel Management Companies had recently reported that transactions were down by 17%.
Airlines were cutting flights and capacity and facing significant financial losses while hotel had reacted "aggressively" to the downturn after enjoying some "very good years."
Airlines were now trying to build up revenue from selling ancillary services like checking in bags, baggage drops and food and drinks.
She said that in the midst of the downturn, "now is the time to talk."
Corporates had to understand the need for travel and needed talk to travellers and their suppliers and "re-negotiate contracts if necessary, especially in the hotel and meetings industry."
Ms Lawley called on companies to "please involve us (travel management companies) in your strategic planning as we can help you get better savings."
She added: "There has never been a better time to focus on travel policy and get compliance from people who have been bucking the trend."
She urged corporates to focus on the total cost of a trip and not just the cost of airlines, hotels and car rental.
"Travel management now requires constant change management. The role of travel management has never been more valuable.
"These are tough times and there is more to come but we can get through by talking to each other and through best practice."