February 22, 2024

Stationery, cement or business travel?

We all need to play our part to attract new talent into our fun and sexy industry, says Scott Davies, CEO of ITM

Many of us who care deeply about this wonderful business travel industry are concerned about how we attract and retain talent going forward. It often seems that we don’t regenerate quickly enough and, in general, the faces in leadership positions don’t seem to be getting younger, do they? (not naturally anyway…).

At the recent ITM Autumn Conference around 500 people from a cross section of businesses in our industry gathered to collaborate and learn and we seized the opportunity to see how they got here. As a gathering of this type represents the industry reasonably well it was interesting to hear how many people clearly identified as working in business travel or another industry type that supports business travel.

35% of our “industry” said that they primarily identify within another type of vocation (aviation, hospitality and technology figured strongly) – and this doesn’t even consider that travel managers and buyers often characterise themselves within their employer’s own core business.

Furthermore, we asked what proportion of our people aspired or aimed to work in the business travel industry at the start of their careers. Rather confirming something I have always believed, a sizeable three-quarters of our people never intended or dreamed of working in business travel. And yet here they are (I even wonder if some of our 25% of responders were in fact mis-remembering – it was just after lunch…). When asked to describe what made it special to work in this wonderful discipline, they prioritised words including fun, people, community and even “sexy”.

Now, I’ve also often hypothesised that the stationery industry probably boasts with great regularity about what a fabulously sociable and raucous bunch they are and that the cement business loves to tell itself how it knows how to party like no other tribe on Earth. But I can’t speak about them, and I don’t want to. It’s our industry that I’m proud to say I belong in.

My own daughter has shown an interest in joining our line of work. But what should be the first step on her path? Many young people will have to think about what roles Artificial Intelligence will change or replace in the medium term. Not easy to imagine, as only 7% of our event attendees said they understood what AI was and what its role would be.

Of course, we all need to play a part to PR our industry better. So, tell stories, be proud and help those starting out in work by giving them some suggestions as to how to sample and seize opportunities in business travel. It’s guaranteed to be fun, the people are awe-inspiring and it’s certainly never dull, is it?

itm.org.uk