Comments provided by travel managers as part of the survey also demonstrated abundant concerns about employers not understanding the role or value of the travel manager and of the travel programme itself, with NDC and content fragmentation exacerbating the issue.
One travel manager said their biggest challenge was “changing the leadership’s perspective on travel” and “not being able to implement [a] responsible travel [programme] because travel is still only considered as a cost centre”.
Another travel manager said they spend too much time “convincing the board and the traveller of the benefits of having a corporate travel programme”. Others complained about “incompetent management who know little about travel” and of executives who “only see the subject in relation to their personal objectives”.
“The [travel manager] role isn’t valued and distribution landscape disruptions don’t help us demonstrate our value to management,” noted one survey respondent. Others complained about the reduction of airline content through GDS channels, changes in airline retailing and distribution, and deteriorating access to content via TMCs.
“NDC servicing is not ready, yet airlines are removing further content,” one travel manager observed, while another reported an “increase in the volume of queries related to fare inconsistencies across different channels”.
Clarivate’s Woodliffe agrees that supplier relationships have shifted post-Covid. “The surge in the leisure market… has redirected vendor focus, often overshadowing the corporate segment. We have had to work harder to engage with vendors and proactively remind them of our continued presence and value.”
The challenges of rising travel costs on the one hand, and the need to drive down costs on the other, drew more commentary from survey respondents than any other area.
Travel managers reported “drastic price increases”, “soaring hotel rates” and a “surge in ticket prices” while others obliquely pointed to the impact of inflation. One respondent noted their company had adjusted its travel policy – by removing certain allowances – in the face of spiralling costs.
Several travel managers also complained of difficulties negotiating rates with suppliers and of lingering service issues. “I’m constantly pulled into operational matters due to poor TMC performance,” noted one respondent.
One travel manager said their role was in jeopardy such was the increased scrutiny on cost reduction, while another said their company’s “open chequebook honeymoon is over”.
“My company does not focus on long-term strategies,” reported another travel manager. “They only care about cutting costs and getting a cheap service. There’s no interest in staff retention or comfort for our travellers.”
Looking ahead, Woodliffe said his primary challenge – a broad one – remains navigating the “evolving landscape of travel uncertainties,” he said. “Striking the right balance between providing essential support [for travellers] and maintaining operational efficiency in this ever-changing environment is key to the success of our travel programme.”