What’s on your list for 2022?
As we enter the new year it's hard to know what to prioritise, so we asked business travel experts what they think should be on a travel buyer's to-do list...
Speak to travellers
“Travel buyers should survey their travellers about their attitude to returning to travel and be aware that a proportion of them might be very nervous despite being road-warriors pre-pandemic,” says Nick Pratt, Head of Sales, Blue Cube Travel.
“They should use the feedback to construct ongoing direct communications with travellers that address whatever concerns are raised – be that mental or physical anxieties – and put in place support and tools to help travellers.”
Melanie Quinn, Clyde Travel Head of Sales and Customer Relations, also advises buyers to check the appetite for travel within their travelling community and, if necessary, adjust policies to be inclusive.
James Stevenson, CEO GlobalStar Travel Management, says buyers should be asking several questions, such as who is going to need to travel, what conditions must they meet, where can they travel, and why are they travelling? “Include some scenario planning – what’s the worst that could happen and how would you manage it? Buyers need to arm themselves with as much knowledge as possible,” he advises.
Julia Lo Bue-Said, CEO Advantage Travel Partnership, notes that policies are being adapted to empower travellers to be accountable for their own travel decisions, aligned to guidance and with multi-stakeholder engagement, rather than just being about bottom line cost savings. “Employees need to continue to feel valued by their employer and staying away from home and travelling on business is part of this process of recognition and loyalty.”
Reassess TMC partnership
“Given the changes in the past 20 months, it’s worth reassessing whether your current TMC partnership can still deliver effectively in the new travel, health and wellbeing landscape,” says Katie Skitterall, UK Director of Sales and Operations ATPI.
“It’s crucial that you are partnered with a TMC that is able to keep your travellers safe and provide them with peace of mind in an uncertain time, while also helping you plan for the long term in a world where travel has changed fundamentally.”
This advice is echoed by Julie Cope, Managing Director TakeTwo Travel Solutions. “Travel buyers need to talk to their TMC about their service level agreement and address whether their TMC can still comply with the agreed terms. Too many buyers are reporting long wait times on the phone when trying to contact their current TMC, slow turnaround of email requests and poor customer service in general.”
Pat McDonagh, CEO Clarity, adds: “Many TMCs have restructured and service may be delivered slightly differently to before the pandemic, so perhaps you no longer have a dedicated team. That can work, but has your TMC got the data transparency and demand management processes to support excellent service?”
Look at TMC payment terms
“The recuring topic of TMC remuneration models will no doubt be on the agenda again in 2022,” says Julian Munsey, Sales Director, Meon Valley Travel.
“I would urge companies operating on an invoice account to take a very close look at their payment terms. Credit will dry up in 2022 and there could be a move by IATA to align BSP with the rest of Europe by moving to a weekly payment cycle.
“The mathematics on this are therefore very simple. With minimal income for the past 20-plus months, the cash is simply not there for TMCs to leverage debt. It never really has been! I believe 30-day payment terms, or longer in some instances, will become a thing of the past.
“If you don’t already know, take time to find out how and when your TMC must pay suppliers. Work to support your TMC by meeting their required terms to ensure their business remains economically viable and can remain open 24/7/365 to support you. Finally, don’t be surprised when a weekly billing cycle with settlement by direct debit becomes the new norm.”
Freshen up travel policies
Buyers need to take a close look at their travel policies as we enter 2022, say a number of travel management experts. “This might mean looking at whether to make policies more traveller-centric, renegotiating rates, taking advantage of offers, and perhaps even considering implementing an interim policy,” says Nicola Cox, Director Midas Travel.
Aman Pourkarimi, Head of Consulting Gray Dawes Group, suggests: “If you have a travel policy dated 2019 or earlier, then rip it up – it’s simply not fit for purpose. Start again and update it quarterly. A good travel policy regularly updated can reduce a travel manager’s time spent on issue resolution by as much as four-fifths. Thus, allowing them to focus on strategy.”
Belinda Hindmarsh, Senior VP Head of Global Market Management and Development CWT, says a 2022 policy must provide peace of mind and support for the traveller in this changed travel landscape. “For instance what happens if someone becomes unwell on the road, how would you treat planned or unplanned quarantine situations, what is covered by the company in terms of testing requirements, and any additional expenditure such as selfisolation, medical support?”
Get up to speed with start-ups
“Buyers need to ensure that they approach start-ups that have launched during the pandemic to find out how, as an industry, we can become more efficient and more automated,” says Julia Lo Bue-Said of Advantage Travel Partnerships.
Indeed, according to Mark O’Brien, Managing Partner Avenue5 Consulting, more than 2,800 travel and mobility start-ups were established in 2021, attracting $48 billion from venture capital investors, which is the highest dollar investment in the sector in the last 10 years. “These start-ups share one vision – they’re trying to bring innovation into the marketplace,” says O’Brien.
Check ‘return to work’ strategy
Speak to your colleagues in HR and other stakeholders to find out how your organisation plans to handle the return to work. This will have a big impact on your return to travel strategy going forward.
“Of all the socio-economic factors to consider, the biggest is working from home,” says Aman Pourkarimi at Gray Dawes Group. “One in two of us in the UK now work from home at least part of the week and that compares to one in three in 2019. That’s a seismic shift in a very short space of time and, importantly, is very relevant to how business travel is shaped in an organisation. I encourage travel managers/ buyers to gather their employer’s ‘return to work’ strategy and adjust the policy accordingly. Supplier programmes, for example, will need to adjust in terms of volumes, types of suppliers and routings if offices have been closed.”
Nick Vournakis, Chief Customer Officer CWT, adds: “Managing mobility of a more scattered workforce, thanks to the Covidinduced ‘work-from-anywhere’ trend, will see little let-up. “Navigating different tax, immigration and visa rules when it comes to safe and stress-free mobility adds even greater complexity for travel managers to navigate next year and beyond.”
Brush up on Brexit rules
“Travel Buyers need to ensure travel policies include guidance for travellers who may be affected by changes in EU entry requirements,” says Blue Cube’s Nick Pratt.
“UK passport holders can no longer breeze through EU channels and are increasingly likely to be interrogated about the nature of their trip with some travellers now requiring work permits.
“Crucially, it’s not simply a change in rules for UK citizens travelling anywhere in the EU. Each member state can potentially impose different restrictions.”
Dabble with dynamic pricing
“Now is the time to experiment with hotel dynamic discounts that can roll over to the following year with 100% last room availability,” says Peter Grover, Managing Director EMEA for TRIPBAM.
“This is hardly a new option available to buyers, but whereas in the past they may have been hesitant to test out these kinds of rates while static agreements remained attractive, in 2022 conditions are ripe to explore this new sourcing approach.
“There are a couple reasons why. Firstly, volumes should return but they’re still not at 2019 levels, so there’s an opportunity to pilot with a smaller programme size than in the past. Secondly, a handful of travel buyers, large and small, have already opted to go dynamic, which has paved the way for smoother collaborations between corporates and hotel partners to make it happen.”
Step up wellbeing support
“Ramp up your engagement strategies to support traveller confidence and wellbeing,” advises Ciska Teunis, Strategy Manager, Global Business Consulting at American Express Global Business Travel.
“Today’s volatile, changing situation is likely to continue during 2022. Travelling in an uncertain environment can impact on wellbeing. To make travelling a positive and motivational experience, people need to feel secure and confident in their ability to seamlessly navigate evolving travel requirements and protocols on their journey,” says Teunis.
“Travel managers can build confidence by communicating with travellers using tools and channels to keep them informed at every stage – as they plan and book a trip, before they go and while they’re on the move – and putting all the information they need at their fingertips.
“Review the different ‘personas’ in your travelling community. Understand what tone and messaging, and which channels, are most effective with these different personas.”
ATPI’s Katie Skitterall says communication is now more important than ever. “It is essential that travellers know every detail of their trip, including what they potentially can or cannot do to protect their wellbeing and how they will be updated if or when something important changes. And this doesn’t just apply to the travel itself, but also the before and afterwards.”
ITM CEO Scott Davies points out that the travel programme has shifted to be more about ‘traveller management’ than ‘travel management’. “One size doesn’t fit all. Individual needs and support need to be included for all elements of the travel programme, but especially around information, health, wellbeing and security,” he explains.
Say ‘hello’ to the new ISO
“For anyone without a risk management background, the new ISO31030 Travel Risk Management may seem intimidating, but in reality it’s a very approachable document and reading it should be high on a travel buyer’s to-do list,” says Alex Twiggs, Business Development Director, EMEA, at World Travel Protection.
“While it’s only guidance and there are no requirements to implement it, we’re seeing employees have higher expectations for travel risk assessment now that they’ve experienced a pandemic.”
He believes the ISO provides a practical framework for creating a bespoke travel risk management system, regardless of the size of an organisation. “Your company might already be implementing many of the steps in the standard so it can also act as reassurance that you’re on the right path, as well as give additional ideas to consider,” he explains.
Blue Cube’s Nick Pratt says now is the perfect time for buyers to get their operations prepared. “The new global standard has been published by ISO but is not ready for organisations to be assessed for accreditation. This gives travel buyers the chance to prepare now for any changes needed to meet what is set to become the framework to govern travel risk management practices globally across the entire travel supply chain.”
Get involved in industry lobbying
We’ve still got some way to go to cement the sector’s recovery so, if you haven’t already, it’s time to join the fight.
“As an industry, the pandemic has taught us that educating our local politicians, local governments, the EU Commission and the White House is key,” says Catherine Logan, GBTA Regional Vice President EMEA.
“Advocacy efforts have gained momentum during the pandemic and great strides have been made. It is the responsibility of everyone in the industry – suppliers, corporate travellers, buyers and industry associations – to fly the flag and continue these efforts, to educate and to lobby governments from the bottom up to help deliver the message on behalf of the business travel industry.”