March 1, 2024

Traveller sentiment

Scott Davies reflects on a session at the ITM's recent conference when some surprising insights came to light

At this time of the year, I reflect upon the sentiments and takeaways from our annual conference and, even though almost everything is different these days, ITM’s ‘Revive’ event was a useful way to gauge the feeling within our community.

One of the sessions that gave me the most insight invited some previously frequent travellers (from the professional services and banking sectors) onto the virtual stage to understand how they feel about the lengthy stay they have had at home and travelling again in the near future.

It was fascinating to hear how the travellers had surmised that there have been work/life balance gains and, with the benefit of hindsight, some of their previous trips were not necessary. They reported that information sharing and learning events can be effectively delivered virtually, if delivered with the right pace and energy. However, they were very clear that networking, client relationship development and new business opportunities could only be effectively progressed in person. Furthermore, they had a strong sense that competitive forces will quickly mean that if you don’t meet that customer face to face someone else certainly will.

Although our top tier mileage heroes were not necessarily chomping at the bit to set that 4am alarm again or go looking in the bottom of the drawer for their travel adapter, they were more than ready to get out there to connect again.

They understandably suggested that short haul travel and one day trips will be hard to justify unless queues, delays and quarantines are eliminated

“They had a strong sense that competitive forces will quickly mean that if you don’t meet that customer face to face someone else certainly will”

But the biggest surprise for many of us was when our travellers shared their feelings about getting together all of the documentation, information and guidance needed before travel. Although they understood that their TMCs will look to support them, they wanted to take ownership of this task themselves. This was because they were acutely aware that they were the ones who could face the consequences if they were caught in a situation where the rules, restrictions or required quarantine came as an unpleasant surprise.

Given the utter confusion over where we can or can’t travel to, this is going to need to be an area of focus for all providers in the business travel ecosystem. We simply must adjust our focus from travel management to traveller management and do all we can to allow them to feel comfortable with what they need and what to expect.

If we get this part right, the revival is on!

The session is of course available to watch back on demand, along with all of our Revive plenary content.