April 18, 2024

ITM buyer poll: Domestic travel is back

Approval processes are relaxing and online bookings tools are being switched back on for domestic travel, according to an ITM poll of travel managers.

The straw poll of 30 UK, EMEA and global members revealed that additional layers of c-suite approval, put into place during the pandemic for domestic corporate travel, are being removed and approvals are reverting to local market line-manager level. 

But it found that while OBTs are back for domestic trips, they remain switched off for international travel bookings where senior executive approval is still required.

Anecdotal evidence from travel managers showed that while enquiries for international trips are steadily increasing, some travellers are being deterred from booking because of the complexities of quarantine restrictions, Covid testing and vaccination requirements, intra-EU travel and immigration regulations.   

They key challenge, they reported, is how best to educate travellers and bookers regarding the return of business travel.

This includes advising them to book trips further in advance due to Covid complexities and arranging itineraries to maximise time in a destination to support both testing requirements and sustainability initiatives.

Buyers are also striving to keep messaging simple for travellers in terms of approval levels and whether to book online or offline by market.

In addition, buyers expressed the need to manage travel bookers’ expectations around response times for offline enquiries, taking into consideration that TMCs are adjusting to staff returning from furlough and rebuilding their operations post-pandemic.

“It’s encouraging to hear the sentiment among ITM’s buyer community that domestic travel is ‘back’ – albeit not at pre-Covid levels – but there is definitely a lot more movement particularly in the UK and US,” said Scott Davies, CEO of ITM, who also spoke about seeing green shoots in a comment for The Business Travel Magazine.

“However, there are still a lot of challenges around international travel, in particular managing travellers’ expectations that they can no longer just jump on a plane and that trips need careful planning well in advance. Although the UK government’s announcement that fully vaccinated European and US travellers can enter England without quarantine is positive news, there are still so many other layers of complexity and logistics to consider before a trip can go ahead,” he said.

“Travel managers are also conscious of the severe impact that the pandemic has had on their TMC’s business and staff levels. Our buyers are therefore working closely with their TMCs to adapt to these changes as business travel returns and manage their travellers’ and bookers’ expectations that it’s not yet business as usual.”