May 23, 2022
 

Seat at the table

It's time for travel buyers to insert themselves into the debate on the value of meeting face-to-face, says ITM CEO Scott Davies

The New Year didn’t get off to a particularly happy start for the business travel industry thanks to Omicron. Nevertheless, as 2022 unfolds, I am in no doubt that this remarkable industry will deploy the same vigour, optimism and hope that we have applied to every challenge we have faced.

The potential for virus mutations will lurk in our consciousnesses and our business plans for some time but the wonders of medicine and the government’s decision to end plan B restrictions, leave me feeling that we are on our way towards much better days.

In ITM’s recent Buyer Priorities Survey, buyers mostly felt that 2022 travel spend would be around 50% of 2019 levels. I’ll take that.

“Actively optimising the conversation around who, how and why we meet in a Covid world has overshadowed previously perennial challenges like budget control and content access”

Elsewhere in our survey our buyers ranked their critical priorities for the year ahead. Every other indicator told us that sustainability (incapsulating the travel programme’s role in supporting corporate ESG commitments) was rapidly rising to the top of their to-do lists. But in terms of absolute priorities it ranked fourth for the second year running, just behind traveller wellbeing, duty of care and, a brand new entrant at the number one spot: Managing The Return To Travel.

Actively optimising the conversation around who, how and why we meet in a Covid world has overshadowed previously perennial challenges like budget control and content access.

However, upon further examination, it is clear that the travel that may return must comply with newly enhanced criteria around impact upon our planet.

Boardrooms around (most of) the world increasingly wish to tread lightly on this world of ours, as opposed to just being seen to do the same.

“One of the key questions we face as an industry is how to qualify and quantify the value/ROI of a face to face meeting or event”

Two years ago, 17% of buyers said that their policy allowed travellers to choose a more sustainable travel option, even if it was higher priced that the initial offering. This year 36% of buyers said their programme would allow this trade up. A very significant development when we consider that many of the step changes needed to reduce emissions come at a higher initial cost.

It is heartening to hear that 95% of buyers reported that their value and profile within their organisations had maintained or increased during the pandemic. But, one of the key questions we face as an industry is how to qualify and quantify the value/ROI of a face to face meeting or event.

Over a third of our buyers said they were actively involved in their company’s conversation and that active analysis was under way. The other two thirds would be well served to get themselves inserted into this essential debate at the earliest opportunity.

And if you can’t find evidence of the appraisal taking place in your business, I would strongly suggest you make yourself the instigator of it. You are already an expert after all!  

www.itm.org.uk