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Business Travel 2020

Emerging trends in business travel in 2020

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Scott Davies


Both buyers and suppliers of business travel must keep their eyes and ears open to emerging trends and priorities while they diligently manage the day-to-day programmes they are responsible for.

Often, these travel experts estimate and hypothesise about which challenges should be focused on going forward. Guesswork is rarely the smartest way to set your sites so, each year at ITM, we ask our buyer members the direct questions. The responses are equally insightful, thought-provoking and essential.

Safety never goes out of fashion

We have been asking our buyer members to list their priorities in order for almost ten years and in each of those years, traveller safety has been top of the list.

2020 is thankfully no exception. While this may sound rather obvious, we still take comfort from the reality than nothing trumps the importance of ensuring the safe movement and surroundings of a company’s most valuable assets.

Suppliers always do well to place maximum focus on the importance of traveller safety when designing their products and services.

Traveller wellbeing is becoming more prominent

If you follow trends in business travel you may not be surprised to learn that that fastest rising priority for travel buyers is traveller wellbeing, which rose five places up the chart to take third spot behind budget control.

Across all walks of life there is growing focus on diet, fitness, balance and both physical and mental wellness. Travel managers must therefore respond to the needs of their travellers by working to provide solutions through their supply chain and processes.

Since wellbeing and wellness are subjective terms that mean different things to different people, the key is to provide options and allow travellers some flexibility to eat, drink, exercise, work and rest in the optimal way for them while on the move.

Be sustainable or become irrelevant

The highest-ranking new entry to our hotlist was sustainable practice, in at number six. This is an even more noteworthy climb because the landscape in this area is moving rapidly.

The climate change debate has gained powerful new champions in the form of smart and motivated Generation Z leaders and this topic is dominating agendas around the world.

If you follow trends in business travel you may not be surprised to learn that that fastest rising priority for travel buyers is traveller wellbeing.

We have begun to see organisations operating two simultaneous travel budgets. The traditional spend budget is now allocated alongside a carbon budget that also may be exceeded.

Are you holding a large meeting this year? I strongly advise you to ensure the name badges contain no materials that aren’t reusable or compostable.

Is there an appetite to ‘go green’ if it costs more money?

One of the barriers to more responsible travel can be that it often comes with a cost premium over previous methods.

Given the traction that sustainability now has within travel programmes, we took the opportunity to better understand the challenges ahead by asking our buyers about what they were prepared to trade in return for a greener footprint.

Sustainable Aviation Fuel (known as SAF and made from sources such as plants and used cooking oil) is just one potential way to reduce emissions. We asked buyers if they would be prepared to allow or encourage air tickets that were more expensive but fuelled by SAF.

Seventeen percent of buyers said that they would. We thank them for their candour, but this frames the issue we now face.

Sustainable travel will need to be affordable upfront in order to see the mass adoption that will be necessary before they deliver economies of scale.

Travel buyers are heroes

The ITM Trending Survey¹ is a humbling piece of work for the ITM team. The sheer number of priorities and challenges that today’s travel manager is juggling defies belief.

We haven’t even mentioned data security, technology implementation, full content access or the considerations that Brexit brings. Travel managers deserve our ultimate respect and support. If you see one today, be sure to listen more than you talk!

Institute of Travel Management (ITM) is the leading association for business travel professionals in the UK & Ireland, representing more than 4,000 members.

¹ Also known as the Top Priorities Survey is available to download as a PDF of results (

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