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ITM “Pulse Check” highlights current concerns for travel buyers


Respondents were also almost evenly split on whether they believe the TMC sector is adapting to changes in the distribution landscape, with 56% agreeing, and 44% disagreeing.

Travel managers are facing a multitude of challenges around distribution, booking platforms and access to content with no satisfactory solution in the immediate future, according to the Institute of Travel Management’s (ITM) latest survey of buyer members.

An overwhelming 82% said that their online booking platform does not meet all their requirements today. Reasons cited by buyers were primarily due to lack of access to full airline content; LCC challenges which are leading to direct bookings with airlines, thus increasing risk potential and lack of incident support; and poor user interface and information displays.

Just over half of buyers (52%) believe that there will be a satisfactory solution to the content challenges with airlines, OBTs and TMCs within the next three to five years. But 32% are unsure, and 16% believe not.

Around 100 corporate travel buyers, managers and heads of travel, with a mix of global, EMEA, UK and Ireland responsibilities, completed the ITM “Pulse Check” survey exploring current sentiment and trends. The results were revealed during the ITM ‘empower’ Conference in Brighton on 24th April 2024.

The “Pulse Check” also highlighted how buyers are under pressure to accelerate steps to meet carbon net zero targets. Many foresee a reduction in travel volumes as the only quick fix.  Indeed the majority of respondents (79%) agreed with the statement “I believe we will all have to travel less to meet carbon reduction targets.”

Reflecting on the TMC landscape, 72% of buyers believe that TMCs will continue to be the critical primary partner in their programme in the next five years. But 19% are unsure. Respondents were also almost evenly split on whether they believe the TMC sector is adapting to changes in the distribution landscape, with 56% agreeing, and 44% disagreeing.

Their comments on the TMC sector included the following:

  • “Most of the big TMCs are intrinsically tied to the GDS and there is growing scepticism that this approach is the way forward”
  • “TMCs still need to adapt more quickly to provide solutions to the rapidly changing airline and hotel content distribution channels”
  • “The space is ripe for disruption – and new entrants or other eco-system partners could impact the TMC’s business model if they don’t evolve.”

Asked how they feel about the year ahead for business travel, just over half of buyers (56%) said that they are on standby to ‘expect the unexpected’; 29% feel optimistic; and 16% are concerned or anxious.

Scott Davies, CEO, ITM commented: “The results of this latest ‘Pulse Check’ provide a valuable window on the current challenges and priorities that are dominating travel managers’ workloads now and for the foreseeable future. Distribution and access to content continue to be a major headache for buyers. But this is not an easy fix, so it’s not surprising to see that only half of buyers believe the industry will find a solution within the next three to five years.”

“Building responsible travel policies has been on buyers’ priority list for a while,” continued Davies. “However there is an increasing recognition among buyers that they may need to take more decisive action to ensure that their organisation is on schedule to meet carbon targets and legislative requirements. Travelling with purpose and potentially taking fewer trips per person will inevitably be something that travel managers need to take a long hard look at within their programmes.”