Less than a third (28 per cent) of travel managers expect business travel activity to return to pre-pandemic levels in the long-term, with international travel forecast to reach 45 per cent of 2019 volumes, on average, by the year’s end and domestic trips to increase to 56 per cent.
The findings come from a survey of 100 travel managers conducted by the ITM earlier this month and revealed at its Accelerate conference in Birmingham today (27 April) – the association’s first in-person conference since 2019.
The survey also pointed to a future featuring less business travel but where travel managers are taking on new and more diverse responsibilities – including reporting requirements and sustainability objectives – and have secured a higher profile within their organisation. Indeed, nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) of respondents said the pandemic has broken down barriers with senior stakeholders.
The research showed that having a reduced travel team or fewer TMC resources is travel managers’ biggest challenge currently, followed by new data expectations such as CO2 reporting and trip ROI (return on investment).
Reduced budgets were the third-biggest cause for concern, followed by supplier resources and support, and getting to grips with new legislation, which ranked fifth.
Less than half of buyers (48 per cent) said their TMC was ready for the return of business travel volumes, though respondents were more positive about online booking tools, with 66 per cent believing them ready for increasing business travel volumes.
ITM chief executive Scott Davies said: “The workload, responsibilities and challenges they [travel managers] are facing continue to run at record levels. The remit of travel managers within their organisations will continue to morph and evolve in response to the fundamental way that travel and meetings have changed.”
He continued: “Buyers have a heavy ‘to-do’ list for the rest of 2022 with sustainability, supplier collaboration, traveller management and financial value all in pole position. A key focus will also be on facilitating the ‘right’ amount and type of travel, [and] introducing the concept of travelling with purpose, and aligning this with any corporate fiscal and carbon reduction targets.”
Davies said that while the financial and environmental cost of business travel can be routinely assessed, quantifying the value of bringing people together in-person – as opposed to connecting via technology – is “yet to be achieved”.
In other findings, 27 per cent of buyers said their organisation has initiated DEI considerations within their travel programmes and 51 per cent are planning traveller wellbeing initiatives. Nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) of travel managers said their mental health has been impacted over the past two years.
New board directors
ITM also announced the addition of new board directors and associate directors.
The four incoming board directors are buyer directors Nikki Parsons, global director for travel at Arcadis, and Nikki Rogan, global travel director for Fujitsu, plus supplier directors Graham Ross, optimisation director at FCM, and Jackie Clark, VP Europe global strategic sales, Japan Airlines.
In addition, Neil Woodliffe, global travel category manager at Clarivate, joins as associate buyer director, while Jo Westlake, director of regional key account management for Northern Europe at Accor, and Dominique Swales, director of global corporate accounts for United Airlines, join as associate supplier directors.
Stepping down from their roles, meanwhile, are: ITM vice chair and buyer board director Audrey Muir, corporate travel and workplace experience manager at Baillie Gifford; ITM supplier board director Claire Barrie, vice president sales, Synergy Global Housing; and ITM treasurer and supplier board director Chris Crowley, chief revenue officer, Duetto.