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Business Travel Show: buyers fear Covid-induced challenges

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Covid dominates challenges facing buyers over the next 12 months as concern about role changes tops chart.

The three biggest challenges facing buyers over the next 12 months are symptoms of the pandemic, according to a recent survey carried out by Business Travel Show Europe. The poll of 337 European travel professionals placed role changes, keeping up with Covid legislation, and pandemic uncertainty at the top of the chart. The fear of increasing costs post-pandemic also appears at number eight. 

For the last five years, a pressure to cut costs has featured in first or second place. This year, cost cutting dropped out of the top 10 altogether to sit in 13th position. Covid aside, airline pricing, Brexit, appointing a new TMC, budget and availability all maintain their places in the top ten. The pressure to be more sustainable – which entered the chart for the first time in 2020 – has dropped back out again to number 11. 

Clare Francis is Travel Supplier Category Manager at Willis Towers Watson. She is attending Business Travel Show Europe as a buyer and a speaker this autumn. When asked about the biggest challenge facing her right now, she answered: 

“Traveling for business has become a lot more complicated in the past 18 months, with the introduction of Brexit, PWD and A1 considerations, as well as the obvious Covid-related quarantine and testing requirements. However, since many colleagues haven’t travelled for an extended period of time, many of these new and confusing restrictions are still unknown to them, so education and communication are going to be a big part of our “reimagining travel” strategy. It’s no longer possible to make spur of the moment decisions to hop on a plane and visit an international client, which will come as quite a shock to many who have be used to doing this for years.”

The biggest challenges foreseen by buyers over the next 12 months: 
 

 
 
 
2021
 
2020
 
2019
 
2018
 
2017
 
2016
 
1
 
A change in my role
 
Cutting costs while maintaining quality
 
Brexit
 
Cutting costs while maintaining quality
 
Cutting costs while maintaining quality
 
Cutting costs while maintaining quality
 
2
 
Keeping up to date with Covid legislation, restrictions and supplier/traveller information
 
Enforcing compliance and engaging travellers
 
Cutting costs while maintaining quality
 
Duty of care/traveller risk
 
Duty of care/traveller risk
 
Enforcing compliance and engaging travellers
 
3
 
Pandemic uncertainty
 
Brexit
 
Budget
 
Hotel pricing and availability
 
Rising airfares
 
GDS content
 
4
 
Airline pricing
 
Appointing a new TMC
 
Airline pricing
 
Brexit
 
Brexit
 
Risk management vs cost savings
 
5
 
Brexit uncertainly and legislation
 
Airline pricing
 
Availability
 
Keeping up with technology
 
Enforcing compliance and engaging travellers
 
Rising hotel rates
 
6
 
Appointing a new TMC
 
Distribution, including NDC
 
Globalisation
 
Rising airfares
 
Price variations between booking channels
 
Rising airfares
 
7
 
Duty of care/traveller risk
 
Budget
 
Hotel pricing
 
Enforcing compliance and engaging travellers
 
Global TMC integration
 
Supplier negotiations
 
8
 
Increasing costs post-pandemic
 
Hotel pricing
 
Appointing a new TMC
 
Distribution, including NDC
 
Rising hotel rates
 
Securing value for money
 
9
 
Availability
 
Sustainability
 
The weakness of sterling/strength of Euro
 
The weakness of sterling/strength of Euro
 
Cutting costs while maintaining compliance
 
Online adoption/booking
 
10
 
Budget
 
Availability
 
Meeting senior management requirements
 
Data including GDPR
 
Data and how to use it
 
Mobile apps
 
11
 
Pressure to be more ethical, sustainable and socially responsible
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
12
 
Keeping my job
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
13
 
Cost cuttings
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
14
 
Data
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
15
 
Distribution
 
NDC
 
One Order
 
 
 
 
 
 

Scott Davies, CEO, Institute of Travel Management (ITM) said: “The results of this survey echo the sentiment that we are hearing from our buyer community around the challenges of conveying accurate information to travellers and bookers. This isn’t just regarding different COVID travel restrictions and testing protocols, but also regulatory requirements for business travellers entering and travelling within the EU. These are complex topics, hence we recently established an EU Travel Taskforce, to support and guide travel buyers as they prepare for increased international travel volumes.

“Similarly, the results mirror how our buyer members are conscious of changes to their role. The complexities of travel buyer roles and responsibilities have pivoted and evolved over the past year in the wake of COVID-19. Additional areas that now fall within buyers’ remits include new reporting requirements (such as CO2), traveller health and lifestyle expectations, and sustainability measures. Most of ITM’s buyer members believe that the perceived internal value of their role and remit will increase as business travel resumes,” explained Davies. 

Louis Magliaro, Executive VP, BTN Group, added: “What a difference the last 18 months has made to our industry. Covid really has turned the world on its head for both European business travellers and buyers who continue to face uncertainty around the pandemic as well as non-pandemic related issues such as Brexit, sustainability and supplier/partner negotiations.

“With over 170 suppliers, including TMCs, airlines, hotel chains, ground transportation specialists and technology providers, and a two-day conference programme packed with on-the-money content, Business Travel Show Europe really is the place to find the solutions to all of the challenges facing European buyers today and over the months ahead.”

337 respondents answered the question ‘As a buyer what do you foresee to be your biggest challenge over the next 12 months?’ as part of the 11th annual Business Travel Show Europe buyer survey in July 2021. Business Travel Show Europe takes place 30 September and 1 October 2021 at ExCeL London. 

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