What would you like to see happen in corporate travel this year? We asked travel managers around Europe to tell us their top priority for their own travel programme and their biggest wish for change across the sector.
The responses were most revealing. Sustainability is a big topic as one might imagine, as were risk management and traveller wellbeing. But so too is a wish for service providers to up their game, and for everyone in the sector to collaborate more with – and be a bit nicer to – each other. How many of these aspirations will be realised in 2023?
Global category director – travel & mobility, Capgemini, France
My number one priority for my travel programme: Embracing the transition from managing corporate travel to addressing people mobility more holistically. I am also looking to upgrade our approach to everything mobility to what we call the Never Normal: a state of constant movement, both on the internal side that drives demand and KPI focus; and in the external environment with supply disruptions, inflationary pressure and technological evolution. Key to this, more than ever, will be building even better collaboration both within my company to understand evolving needs, and with current and new suppliers to co-develop solutions.
My biggest wish for change: Call me a hopeless optimist but my continued wish is for everyone in the travel industry to be more transparent with each other. There are some really big topics like decarbonisation to address, and we can only do it together. I feel some suppliers are using the inflationary environment as an excuse to increase pricing beyond the market index. This hurts the overall relationship and eats up resources that could be put to use on more structural projects.
Travel manager, Ministry of Defence, Finland
My number one priority for my travel programme: In addition to the Ministry of Defence striving towards the Finnish government’s common sustainability goals, our number one priority remains safety and security. Now that we are travelling a lot more post-Covid, 2023 is the perfect time to update our risk management matrix, processes and guidelines. Our target is to arrange face-to-face safety and security education in addition to the existing e-learning. I am looking forward to discovering how we will be able to benefit from the ISO 31030 travel risk management standard. We have made preliminary plans with our risk management team for how and when to proceed.
My biggest wish for change: The business travel industry is full of amazing people and exciting developments. My wish for 2023 is that the sector will attract new talent and innovation. Deeper, wider collaboration will lead to great progress.
Travel & meetings manager, Tetra Pak, Sweden
My number one priority for my travel programme: Integrating sustainability goals into the “travel wheel” so that it is as easy and natural to make the most sustainable choice as to select the lowest-priced airline ticket or contracted hotel. We hope to push sustainable travel up our agenda through introducing e-learning on this topic and leveraging the support of our net-zero emissions target team.
My number one wish for change: Global standardisation of emissions for all business travel categories with a clear source and methodology that can be presented to internal sustainability specialists. Travel managers can support their companies’ sustainability programmes but we are not scientists. We need reliable source information to provide to reporting and control functions within our organisations. This is becoming increasingly important as legislation pressurises companies to release data on their emissions.
Global travel manager, UiPath, Romania
My number one priority for my travel programme: Ensuring an enhanced experience for our travellers with an emphasis on wellbeing, safety and duty of care. Travellers were exposed to unprecedented disruptions in 2022 and we cannot allow that to continue, otherwise they will become very apprehensive about travelling. We have to bring back the appetite for travel by equipping our people with the right tools to make business trips productive, meaningful experiences. We will achieve this through changes to policy, including allowing expensing of late night commuting costs (and dinner at the office), airport lounge passes and gym passes.
My biggest wish for change: True collaboration between travel suppliers and buyers to reduce friction for business travellers. I also wish companies would understand the value of travel and how it can be leveraged as a tool and treated less as an expense. And I wish travel management would become more data-driven and treated less as a reportable process when it is in fact a real-time process with real-time data required to reach the right decision makers at the right moment.
Executive assistant, FLSmidth, Denmark
My number one priority for my travel programme: We will focus on getting our newly acquired businesses fully implemented with our global travel management company and updating our global negotiated hotel and airline rates to match the travel patterns and needs of our new colleagues. To succeed, we will have to work closely with our TMC and our hotel, airline and car rental partners, plus our payment providers and finance department.
My biggest wish for change: We hope airlines will restore their full route networks as we still struggle to get our travellers flying on their optimal routes. We would also like to see China fully re-open so we can get back to our offices and customers there.
Senior global travel category manager, Grundfos, Hungary
My number one priority for my travel programme: The net zero ambitions of Grundfos, which require us to reduce our carbon emissions by 90 per cent by 2050, were recently approved by the Science Based Targets initiative. As business travel is a contributor to our emissions, our main focus will be on establishing a baseline and realistic targets for our commodity. We would like to be more proactive in internal dialogues, armed with quality data through enhanced partnerships with our contracted TMC and with carbon intelligence provider Thrust Carbon.
My biggest wish for change: We want TMCs to bounce back from being operational partners to resuming a more senior, sparring partner role. We acknowledge these companies were hammered during Covid-19, but the resurgence of business travel and the change in focus to topics like sustainability and risk mitigation in recent months require an immediate response from the TMC community. We would like to see them become one-stop shops for intelligence on traveller tracking, sustainability and commercial KPIs. Currently, we feel that if we want quality service in these three areas, then we need to go to three additional service providers, which leaves us with a fragmented experience.
Director travel, fleet & events, Merck, and president of travel management association VDR, Germany
My number one priority for my travel programme: Implementation of a central payment solution for hotel spend to reduce the administrative burden, streamline processes, reduce corporate card management and, ideally, increase traveller satisfaction. Overall, reducing processes is one of the key topics for 2023.
My biggest wish for change: More stability for our industry and more people coming back to work in it. I also feel that social behaviour deteriorated during Covid, and we need to relearn how to collaborate in a friendly and smart way that avoids blame and shouting. The world around us shows enough examples of how it should not be and we should show the opposite. Together we are stronger!