Airline distribution, post-Covid staffing and the traveller experience are set to be the key concerns for travel buyers in the coming months, according to the latest global survey by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA).
The association’s regular Business Travel Outlook poll surveyed more than 800 buyers, suppliers and other industry professionals around the world.
The survey looked at recent attempts by airlines, particularly American Airlines, to “expedite” the introduction of NDC-enabled content by making a significant number of fares unavailable through EDIFACT-based legacy distribution channels.
Most buyers (60 per cent) said they did not support these distribution moves by airlines - this compared to just 36 per cent of TMCs and suppliers who opposed this policy.
Just over half of buyers (53 per cent) also said that some airlines were moving too quickly to roll out NDC and had not given third-party intermediaries enough time to develop the right technology to facilitate this change.
European buyers were generally more likely to support moves by the aviation industry to expedite NDC than their counterparts in North America, and they were also less worried that airlines were moving “too fast” in this direction.
The GBTA survey also addressed the current challenges in recruiting staff, with 58 per cent of respondents saying they continued to suffer a labour shortage, particularly in areas such as technology development, operations, and sales and account management.
The biggest barriers to improving the staffing situation were seen as “unattractive” salaries and benefits in the industry, followed by a lack of qualified candidates and “unappealing” job requirements.
Another issue for buyers is how disruption is impacting the experience of travellers when on the road, with concerns about cancelled and delayed flights, long queues for security and crowded airports.
Travel managers most frequently hear traveller complaints about delayed or cancelled flights (76 per cent and 72 per cent respectively), followed by long call wait times with TMCs (62 per cent) or other travel suppliers (52 per cent), as well as poor hotel service quality (46 per cent).
“Implementing new retailing models, rebuilding our workforce and elevating the employee travel experience are some of the key drivers we are seeing that are shaping the collective future of business travel,” said Suzanne Neufang, the CEO of GBTA.
The survey also revealed that international business travel continues to recover from the pandemic, with bookings reaching 63 per cent of pre-Covid levels globally, up from 54 per cent in January. Spending on international travel is now up to 66 per cent of 2019 levels.
Domestic travel bookings are slightly ahead in their recovery at 72 per cent of 2019’s figures with spending at 74 per cent.