May 28, 2024

ITM trending survey highlights impact of global inflation and rising costs 

Budget control has climbed back up the list of travel buyer priorities for 2023, according to the latest trending survey by ITM.

It moves up to third place from sixth position last year as buyers face the pressures of higher prices and a tough economic environment.

But the number one priority for buyers was online booking tool (OBT) optimisation, up from fifth place in 2022.

Last year the top priority was managing the return to travel, which was new to the top 10 in light of the Covid pandemic.

For 2023, managing supply chain point of failure or servicing makes its debut in the top 10 list of priorities at number eight. 

Duty of care/risk and sustainable practice both remain in the same position at two and four respectively.

In terms of budgets for 2023, half of respondents expect their spend to increase, 25% said budgets would remain the same, and the remainder will see a decrease. 

Almost 60% said the current economic environment and cost of travel will have the greatest negative impact on travel volumes next year. 

Other factors causing volumes to fall include the current level of supply chain disruption and service levels (17%), and sustainability or net zero targets (11%).

Scott Davies, CEO, ITM said: “It’s not surprising to see that budget control has moved back up the list of priorities to be back in the top three for the first time since 2021, as global inflation and rising costs are starting to impact on travel budgets and volumes next year.”

When asked about travel management challenges for the next 12 months, buyers said the biggest is influencing sustainable practice, followed by traveller safety, and traveller confidence. 

Three concerns entered the top six for the first time – managing the EA/PA relationship (fourth), industry resourcing and service delivery (fifth) and TMC servicing (sixth).

With regards to sustainability, buyers would like to see suppliers comply with the following measures in order of importance: sustainable aviation fuel usage/targets (89%); provision of carbon off-setting solutions (86%); science-based targets (77%); sustainable practice linked to ISO 14001 (76%); carbon emissions dashboard and reporting (60%). 

However, these supplier criteria are only mandatory for around a quarter of buyers. Furthermore 24% of respondents said that they will introduce carbon budgets in 2023.

Further exploration of OBT satisfaction levels revealed that 40% of buyers feel their tool is not ready to support delivery against their top priorities, particularly in relation to duty of care information at point of sale, seamless air and rail policy inclusion, integrated air/rail display, booking changes and disruption handling, and ability to support traveller wellness policy. 

The majority of buyers (75%) are also dissatisfied with their OBT’s ability to include carbon budgets and carbon emissions at point of sale.

“Responsible travel choices are still a key trend as corporates increasingly focus on meeting their organisation’s sustainability objectives,” added Davies.

“There’s been progress in moving the dial to bring supplier sustainability measures into travel programmes, but there’s still a lot of work to be done to embed these initiatives and influence traveller behaviour. 

“That’s another reason why OBT’s need to evolve and play a critical role in helping travellers and bookers make responsible choices.”

Other survey findings include:

  • 50% of buyers will remain on a transaction fee-based commercial model with their TMC; 34% will use a hybrid model of transaction and management fees; 6% will move to a management fee basis; and 3% will switch to a subscription basis.
  • New expectations that buyers want from their TMC include resilient servicing (71%); online changes/cancellations (71%); proactive trip support and disruption management (59%); sustainability advice (54%); travel tech advice (39%); omni-channel booking (37%); tools to support driving volumes back online (31%)
  • Just over half of buyers (52%) do not anticipate any major modal shifts in types of travel; however 44% expect to see a significant shift from air to rail, and 19% expect to see greater use of serviced apartments instead of hotels.
  • Accommodation is the dominant sector for RFPs with 44% of buyers planning to undertake a full RFP of their hotel programme in 2023/24. The trend for all other sectors (including air, ground, TMC provider, technology, payment, risk management) is targeted negotiations or a contract extension.
  • Since the return of business travel, the profile of the travel manager role/department is viewed more favourably within their organisation by 63% of respondents (compared with 58% in 2022)
  • Additional responsibilities now forming part of buyers’ remits include sustainability, meetings and events, duty of care, traveller wellness, non-financial reporting, payments & expense, and mobility

The ITM Trending Survey was conducted over two weeks at the end of November 2022, among some 100 corporate travel buyers, managers and heads of travel, with a mix of global, EMEA, UK and Ireland responsibilities, to explore travel programme trends and challenges for the next 12 months.