April 18, 2024

Trends to watch

As buyers face continued uncertainty and disruption, 2023 will be a time of change and discovery. Four experts share their insights

Put disruptions front and centre

Paul Tilstone, Managing Partner, Festive Road

Disruption used to be the exception to the rule but the accumulation of big disruptive trends means travel managers now need to focus on a number of simultaneous areas at once. These include continuing service level challenges brought about by the ongoing talent shortage; disrupted travel services caused by volatile weather patterns due to climate change; supply chain impacts caused by natural resource shortages, industrial action and increasing political instability globally; and fragmented access to inventory brought about by emerging supplier distribution strategies.

Travel managers will need to put this widespread set of disruptions front and centre. They will need to better understand the landscapes in which they operate, be able to mitigate risk where possible, work with key suppliers in deeper partnership, know what the emerging options are and use effective communication to inform and support. In a disrupted world there’s an opportunity to adapt and shine, to provide service where and when it matters more than ever, and those who do so will see an increase in their organisational value.

The year of discovery

Kerry Douglas, Head of Programme, ITM

The complex nature of the recovery and the perfect storm of global inflation and the cost-of-living crisis is going to pile yet more pressure on travel buyers in 2023.

ITM’s Chair said at our recent Trending Summit: “If 2022 was the year of recovery, 2023 will be the year of discovery”. The discovery will be on lots of levels: discovering how to handle challenges like managing travel programme budgets when average trip costs are going up and up; how to overcome supply chain servicing issues which are impacting on traveller confidence; how to influence sustainable travel practice.

Online booking tool performance will also continue to be a major issue, not just in terms of content but aspects such as duty of care, disruption handling and helping travellers and bookers make responsible travel choices. In 2023, travel managers can continue to elevate the strategic importance of their role and show their expertise in helping organisations deliver on strategic pillars whilst attracting and retaining talent by building and executing responsible travel programmes

Short-term price corrections

Mike McCormick, EVP of Business Development at Onriva

Travel buyers will need to step away from fixed annual or multi-year forecasts and manage flexible, dynamic budgets due to the uncertainty of current global economic conditions and still recovering global business travel industry.

Travel costs will never be as predictable as they once were, but travel managers can adapt by focusing on dynamically managing budgets and using longer range forecast estimates for guidance.

The best way to respond is by simply knowing that the industry will have many short-term ‘price corrections’ in the supply and demand curve, and recent price increases and decreases are just one of the many the industry will face. My prediction is that we will have an unprecedented number of short-term price corrections in the next few years, and the best advice is to anticipate them and work with your supplier partners to adjust with these daily/weekly price changes. Combining that with being closely aligned with every changing internal travel demand will continue to make the travel buyer’s role critical.

Break from the status quo

Juliette Jackman, TRIPBAM Head of Business Development, Europe

In 2023, I expect to see buyers break away from entrenched programme management strategies to adopt practices that truly best fit their organisations. This isn’t wishful thinking; we’re actually seeing it.

A major professional services firm is shifting its entire air programme to direct booking. Another global giant has already thrown out hotel negotiating and is using advanced analytics to establish market-wide rate caps.

On a smaller scale, buyers are combating climbing rates at conference and event hotels by sending transient business to boutique or independent properties.

Part of these changes are the result of a Covid reset but they’re also the product of changing supplier behaviour. For example, look at the distribution moves American Airlines is making. Buyers can’t stick with the status quo because suppliers are already upsetting it. Here’s to exciting changes ahead. We can expect to see everyone in the industry doing things differently.

For more 2023 trends, see our Trends Special