Optimising online booking tools (OBT) has been identified as the top priority for travel managers for 2023, followed by duty of care, budget control and sustainable practices, according to the latest Institute of Travel Management (ITM) survey of buyer members.
With online booking performance emerging as a major issue for buyers – jumping from fifth to first position on buyers’ list of priorities within the last 12 months – 40 per cent of respondents reported feeling their OBT is "not ready" to support delivery against their top priorities, particularly in relation to duty of care information at point of sale, air and rail policy inclusion, integrated air/rail display, booking changes and disruption handling, and the ability to support traveller wellness policy.
The majority of buyers (75 per cent) are also dissatisfied with their OBT’s ability to include carbon budgets and carbon emissions at point of sale.
The ITM conducted its annual member survey over a two-week period at the end of November, with 100 corporate travel buyers, managers and heads of travel with a mix of global, EMEA, UK and Ireland responsibilities responding.
As a further sign of the times, managing supply chain point of failure/servicing made its debut in the top 10 list of priorities, ranking eighth.
ITM CEO Scott Davis said this year’s survey “reflects the complex nature of the industry’s recovery post-Covid as well as the perfect storm caused by global inflation and the cost-of-living crisis”.
“It’s not surprising to see that budget control has moved back up the list of priorities to be back in the top three for the first time since 2021, as global inflation and rising costs are starting to impact on travel budgets and volumes next year,” he added.
Influencing sustainable practice, traveller safety and traveller confidence were also highlighted as the top challenges, followed by managing EA/PA relationships, industry resourcing and service delivery, and TMC servicing.
In terms of budgets for 2023, half of respondents expect their spend to increase, 25 per cent said budgets would remain the same, while the remainder expects to see a decrease.
Almost 60 per cent of buyers said that the current economic environment and cost of travel will have the greatest negative impact on travel volumes next year. Other factors likely to cause volumes to fall include the current level of supply chain disruption and service levels (17 per cent) and sustainability or net zero targets (11 per cent).
With a sharper focus on sustainability, 24 per cent of respondents said they will introduce carbon budgets in 2023.
Buyers also reported the need for suppliers to comply with the following measures: sustainable aviation fuel usage/targets (89 per cent); provision of carbon off-setting solutions (86 per cent); science-based targets (77 per cent); sustainable practice linked to ISO 14001 (76 per cent); and carbon emissions dashboard and reporting (60 per cent). However, these supplier criteria are only mandatory for around a quarter of buyers, according to the survey.
“Responsible travel choices are still a key trend as corporates increasingly focus on meeting their organisation’s sustainability objectives,” said Davis.
“There’s been progress in moving the dial to bring supplier sustainability measures into travel programmes, but there’s still a lot of work to be done to embed these initiatives and influence traveller behaviour. That’s another reason why OBT’s need to evolve and play a critical role in helping travellers and bookers make responsible choices,” he explained.
Additional findings include:
- 50 per cent of buyers will remain on a transaction fee-based commercial model with their TMC; 34 per cent will use a hybrid model of transaction and management fees; 6 per cent will move to a management fee basis; and 3 per cent will switch to a subscription basis.
- Just over half of buyers (52 per cent) do not anticipate any major modal shifts in types of travel, however 44 per cent expect to see a significant shift from air to rail, and 19 per cent expect to see greater use of serviced apartments instead of hotels.
- Accommodation is the dominant sector for RFPs with 44 per cent of buyers planning to undertake a full RFP of their hotel programme in 2023/24. The trend for all other sectors (including air, ground, TMC provider, technology, payment and risk management) is targeted negotiations or a contract extension.