February 29, 2024

ITM survey: Record buyer workloads despite less travel

The workloads, responsibilities and challenges of travel buyers are higher than ever despite the drop in travel, according to the latest survey by ITM.

The April survey of 100 corporate travel buyers, managers and heads of travel, with a mix of global, EMEA, UK and Ireland responsibilities, found only 28% of respondents said they are expecting travel to return to pre-pandemic levels.

International travel is forecast to reach 45% of 2019 volumes in the second half of this year, a jump from the 34% of 2019 volumes predicted for the first half of 2022.

Meanwhile, buyers expect domestic travel to reach 56% of 2019 volumes by the end of this year, up from 47% in the first six months.

Scott Davies, CEO ITM, said: “As always, the results of our latest survey provide a valuable window on the world of our travel buyer members. Whilst business travel is gradually returning, unsurprisingly only 28% of buyers believe that it will return to pre-pandemic levels.

“However, the workload, responsibilities and challenges they 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.”

Other survey results, presented at the ITM Accelerate Conference in Birmingham today, included:

  • 61% of buyers are not yet in a position to agree financial or revenue targets with suppliers
  • 39% have been party to discussions around the rationale and ROI of in-person meetings but 88% have yet to agree appropriate measurement criteria
  • 66% believe their OBT is ready for the return of business travel volumes and 48% said their TMC was ready
  • 36% said less than 10% of their organisations emissions is linked to business travel
  • 72% said suppliers with science-based targets would be at an advantage in securing their travel business moving forward
  • 27% have already initiated DE&I considerations within their programmes; of those who have not, 30% will review initiatives this year
  • 51% are planning to implement specific programme initiatives focused on traveller wellbeing
  • 65% agreed that the pandemic has broken down barriers with senior stakeholders through an elevated focus on their role within their organisations
  • 63% agreed that their mental health has been impacted over the last two years.

The survey also identified the top five challenges facing buyers:

  • reduced travel team or TMC resources
  • new data expectations such as CO2 reporting and trip ROI
  • reduced budgets
  • reduced supplier resources and support
  • managing changes due to legislation such as SCA enforcement and Brexit.

“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,” added Davies.

“A key focus will also be on facilitating the ‘right’ amount and type of travel; introducing the concept of travelling with purpose, and aligning this with any corporate fiscal and carbon reduction targets.

“The financial, and increasingly environmental cost of travel can be routinely assessed. Quantifying the other side of the equation – the human and commercial benefit of bringing people together versus connecting them with technology – is yet to be achieved.”