As business travel begins a long-awaited recovery, we surveyed buyers about the categories they’re most likely to be sourcing afresh or renegotiating in 2022 – and how they go about it



Air travel is the travel category most likely to be addressed by buyers in 2022, with nearly a third-naming it their top priority as many businesses begin to travel internationally once again. Accommodation is the next biggest priority, followed by travel management companies – suggesting widespread satisfaction with buyers’ existing partners – and online booking tools in fourth. Despite ongoing challenges in the car rental sector, only five per cent of buyers named it their top priority for 2022.


Sourcing a new travel management company was perhaps not surprisingly identified as the most complex of all travel categories given the amount of discussion around remuneration models over the last two years (see below). TMCs garnered nearly a third (30 per cent) of buyers’ votes, comfortably ahead of airlines on 19 per cent. In contrast, rail travel and risk/security partners appear to be comparatively more straightforward.


The way companies pay for the services of their TMC partner has been one of the mostly hotly debated subjects during the Covid-19 pandemic, with the predominant transaction fee model leaving TMCs financially vulnerable as business travel ground to a halt in 2020. Nevertheless it remains the most popular single remuneration method among travel managers, with 26 per cent, but more than 60 per cent will be pursuing a hybrid fee model. For all the talk of TMC subscription fees, only three per cent of buyers will be going down that route in 2022, suggesting the concept is not yet living up to the hopes of some travel management companies.


The Covid-19 pandemic brought annual RFPs to a shuddering halt but they were a process in decline before 2020. As we move forward, it’s clear buyers are moving away from annual sourcing cycles, with only a third (32 per cent) expecting to continue with annual accommodation RFPs and around one in five (18 per cent) doing so with airlines. Car rental (21 per cent) and TMCs (18 per cent) are the categories most likely to be reviewed every two years, while continuous sourcing is the most popular method of securing airline and accommodation partners.


Many buyers and suppliers opted to roll over existing corporate rates during the last two years but as travel recovers and pricing volatility looms negotiations are more likely to recommence. They will not be without their challenges though, as a variety of hurdles remain in place. More than half of buyers (53 per cent) say unknown future travel patterns present a serious challenge. A lack of meaningful data (36 per cent) on which to build deals was the second most problematic element, followed by a downturn in travel activity (35 per cent). Sustainability goals have been widely talked about but appear to be causing fewer sourcing issues.