12 December 2022, etc.venues Monument, London
Business Travel Show Europe, presented by The BTN
21 November, London Hilton Metropole
The new AirPlus International Travel Management Study presents a generally optimistic view of the industry with most travel managers (a record 58%) expecting the number of trips to rise this year.But travel managers in all ten countries surveyed marked out rising costs as their number one priority. The survey also revealed that many companies still do not have travel policies or spend much time managing travel.The 58% who expect the number of trips to rise compares with 48% in last year's survey. This year only 8% said they expected the amount of travel to fall.While 61% of travel managers in the US expected to handle more travel, optimism in Europe was higher. 73% of Austrian travel managers expect trips to increase along with 65% in Germany (up from 51% in 2007), 58% in Italy (up from 36%) and 48% in France (up from 33%).There were two areas where the travel managers expected significant growth: rail and meetings and events (M&E).On the first 27% thought rail trips would grow. The figure was most prono8nced in countries with expanded high speed systems, like the UK, where 31% expected train travel to rise and Spain where the figure was 38%.AirPlus also found that a much higher number of high spenders (39% expect their rail travel to rise compared with smaller spenders where the figure was 20%. AirPlus said this might be due to pressure from investors to make greener travel choices. On the second, 36% of travel managers expected volume on M&E to grow, compared to 26% last year. But the dampener on this was that AirPlus thought the rise was more to do with companies realising they were spending more on M&E than they knew rather than an actual increase in activity. Expectations of growth were also more subdued in mature markets for M&E management, like the UK than in less mature markets like Portugal, which expected a 48% growth, and Spain (42%).AirPlus commented: "They (the figures on growth expectation) suggest that the long-term internationlisation of trade considerably outweighs any short-term concerns about the US sub-prime market precipitating a global downturn in commerce and travel."Furthermore, even if concerns about CO2 emissions are leading some companies to consider switching their communications from face-to-face to virtual conferencing, there is no sign of this having an impact on trip volumes."But running parallel with the expectation of growth were the marked concerns over controlling costs. This, after a bleep last year, was back as the number one priority of travel managers in the ten countries. Their four other major concerns, in descending order, were: traveller wellbeing; optimisation of internal processes, introduction and monitoring of travel policies; and reporting on cost for management.But contradicting this concern for cost was the high number of companies, 20%, which had no travel policy. The survey found that 66% of companies had a policy which covered all aspects of travel while 14% had one which dealt only with some areas.Culture seemed to play a part with the three German-speaking countries, Germany, Austria and Switzerland being the strictest enforcers, followed by the English-speaking countries, the US and the UK, and then the Latin countries (France, Spain, Italy and Portugal).The exception seemed to be The Netherlands where travel was the most liberal and the travellers, says AirPlus, the "most pampered" in this study.But size of spend and who controlled it were also factors. Only 5% of major spenders had no travel policy compared with 16% of medium enterprises and 31% of small ones. When purchasing was in charge, 91% of companies had a policy but if it were sales and marketing, 36% had no policy.But the most revealing statistic was how much time companies devoted to managing travel. The figures were not encouraging. The survey found that 61% of high companies did not have a full-time or three quarters-time travel manager.For medium sized firms, 87% had no one who spent more than three quarters of the week on travel while for small companies, the figure was 96%.AirPlus said this could be because procurement was playing a growing role in travel management and was outsourcing to consultants or travel management companies.This could explain the shift away form full-timers but it also seems to contradict the concern for controlling costs.AirPlus's summary is optimistic. It identifies two economic trends: one the medium-term and the other the long-term.The first could signal a slowdown because of rising oil prices, problems in the financial sector and signs of a decline in consumer confidence.The second trend "remains relentlessly upwards." For most businesses of a reasonable size, it said, "it is no longer possible to function without travel."And which will dominate in 2008? "It is the latter: travel will continue to grow."* For the survey, conducted for AirPlus by Ipsos, 100 travel managers, making 1,000 in total, were surveyed in each of ten countries: the US, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, the UK, France and Portugal.