June 13, 2024

State of play

As The Business Travel Magazine published its 100th issue, we ran a travel buyer survey to check in with our readers

Are you happy in your job, how’s your workload, are you being paid enough? How are you feeling about the year ahead – excited, cautious, stressed?

To mark our 100th anniversary issue, we’ve reached out to our travel buyer readers to get a feel for how you’re all doing and to make sure we stay in tune with what you’re experiencing in your professional lives. We’ve also asked some industry experts to analyse some of the key findings and to share their views and insights.

This is the first of a series of surveys we will carry out this year to help us remain relevant and to evolve our products. As a publication dedicated to those who book, manage and arrange travel and meetings, we want to make sure we continue to provide you with the right content, tackle the burning issues, and give you the information and advice you need to make your jobs easier.

Since our first issue back in 2006, we’ve seen how your roles and responsibilities have shifted and expanded, particularly in recent years. There will always be more challenges ahead, and many of you expect your workloads to increase, but we’re heartened and reassured to see that the majority of you are still happy in your jobs – and that you still enjoy reading The Business Travel Magazine.

How happy are you in your job?

We’re sorry for the 7.9% of you who aren’t happy in your job. Maybe it’s time to speak to your manager or get your CV updated and start looking around?

But it’s so heartening to see that the vast majority of you are enjoying  your current role, and even more heartening to see that more than a third of you are “very happy”.

It’s been a tough few years for travel buyers and, while there are still challenges to overcome, the findings reflect a general feeling of optimism in the sector for the 12 months ahead and beyond.

Kerry Douglas, ITM’s Head of Programme, remarks: “It was interesting to see that most buyers are happy in their role, despite most of them expecting to see their workload increase this year.”

Douglas was reminded of the ITM’s autumn conference in London in 2023 when buyers were asked to describe what made it special to work in “this wonderful discipline”. Many of you will remember the results shared on a big screen at the event, showing that buyers prioritised words including ‘fun, ‘people’, ‘community’, and even ‘sexy’.

When it comes to your professional life, what word best describes how you are feeling about 2024?

While more than half of you are feeling positive about your work in the next 12 months, over a third of you are feeling cautious. Sadly, a small number are feeling anxious and stressed.

Kerry Douglas, ITM’s Head of Programme, said a ‘Pulse Check’ of ITM travel managers at a Buyer Knowledge Exchange last year also found most are optimistic or excited about their travel programme for the year ahead. “But they also expressed a degree of caution as 2024 is likely to see ongoing disruption due to several factors, including geopolitical and economic uncertainties,” she explains.

In the next 12 months, what do you expect to happen to your workload?

You’re already a hard working bunch and, if your predictions are right, it’s only going to get worse in the year ahead.

More than 75% of you expect your workloads to increase in the next 12 months, although many only expected a slight rise.

“Our most recent survey confirmed that there are a multitude of complex challenges that are competing for space on travel managers’ desks,” says ITM’s Douglas.

“Buyers must now be experts in areas of sustainability and carbon removal, neurodiversity, accessibility, equity and inclusion, duty of care, visas and other border documentation, not forgetting of course the complex changes in airline retailing and distribution.” It’s exhausting just reading the list!

Based on your current salary, do you feel adequately renumerated for your role?

In five years, do you expect to be working in the same role?

In five years, do you expect to be working for the same organisation?

While 58% of you feel you’re paid the right amount for your role, a significant number (42%) believe your salaries are falling short.

“It’s a sought-after role and since Covid, travel managers and travel buyers have higher profiles and are even more visible and valued in their organisations, so their salaries need to reflect this,” says Lynne Griffiths, CEO Sirius Talent Solutions.

“We know from client experience that companies that have recruited in the last three years have had to substantially increase their hiring budgets to attract the best people.”

When it comes to your five-year career plans, some of you are clearly restless but most of you seem fairly settled.

“In some cases buyers have progressed through different roles with suppliers or TMCs before transitioning to the buyer side,” notes Griffiths. “Once there, they are usually at a point in their career where they are settled and less likely to move back to the supplier side, although a move to another travel manager role is not uncommon.

“But what we’re increasingly seeing is more junior roles being created by organisations that want an intermediary between bookers and their TMC, as travel is more complex. These roles may be more transient as they look to progress their careers.”  

Where/how do you work?

This Split is what I would expect and reflects the wider industry,” says Lynne Griffiths, CEO and co-Founder of Sirius Talent Solutions.

“We’re seeing more companies asking their employees to come back to the office environment but there’s been some resistance and many people are preferring to work from home, at least a few days a week.

“At the same time, some employees want to work in an office and we’ve seen TMCs who’ve closed offices losing people as a result.”

Griffiths expects the balance between home and office working to continue to be a conversation point throughout 2024.

“It will also be impacted by new regulations, due to take effect on April 6, which will enshrine, in law, an employee’s right to request flexible working arrangements from the start of their employment,” she adds.

In the next 12 months, do you expect the volume of business travel in your organisation to:

In the next 12 months, do you expect your organisation’s business travel spend to:

Nearly two thirds of you expect to see your business travel volume and spend increase in the next 12 months, which is higher than anticipated by buyers across Europe, based on the latest figures from the GBTA.

Its latest Business Travel Outlook Poll found 59% of buyers globally expect the number of their organisation’s business trips will increase at their company in 2024, compared to 2023, but the figure was significantly lower among European buyers (37%). The GBTA poll doesn’t give specific figures for the UK.

Reflecting the general upwards trend, a report out earlier in February from Advantage Travel Partnerships and Travelogix, based on detailed data analysis of 25.4m records, recorded an aggregate value of £12.3bn in transactional revenue in 2023. Based on economic and geopolitical situations in the UK and further afield, Travelogix forecasts that 2024 will outperform 2023 by at least 15.5% and by at least 6.2% compared to 2019.

What would most help to make your job less challenging in the next 12 months?

“What stands out for me in these results is that 50% of buyers said ‘better technology’ would make their job less challenging in the next 12 months,” says Scott Davies, ITM CEO.

“This very much echoes the sentiment that ITM buyers expressed in our 2024 Priorities Survey as OBT optimisation ranked as their top priority, particularly in terms of access to full content.

“Most buyers are dissatisfied with their OBT’s delivery and fulfilment of several content-related areas, not just non-GDS and NDC content, but also rail.

“They are also frustrated by the OBTs’ ability to capture off programme bookings, guide responsible travel choices and provide duty of care at point of sale. None of this is an easy fix and the OBT is the manifestation of a lot of issues in a complicated ecosystem. Yet buyers are still so reliant on their OBT to support their programme.”

What will be your focus for 2024?

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