Buyer Sentiment for Year Ahead, Airline Distribution, and Meetings & Event Management

24 Jan 2024

A ‘Pulse Check’ of Global, EMEA and UK travel managers attending ITM’s latest Buyer Knowledge Exchange (BKE) has revealed that most buyers are optimistic (50%) or excited (20%) about the industry and their travel programme for the year ahead. But they also expressed a degree of caution as 2024 is likely to see ongoing disruption due to several factors, including geopolitical and economic uncertainties.

Those buyers who feel apprehensive about the year ahead (23%) attributed the cause to various issues, including their organisation’s focus on cost cutting within the travel function, and the challenges from travellers and the organisation on the value to the travel programme and TMC. 

A consistent challenge for buyers also centres around changes to airline distribution models and the impact these changes are having on internal stakeholders and traveller behaviour. Several buyers feel concerned about going to tender for their TMC and OBT in the current airline distribution environment, which they described as a ‘minefield’, and the impact this has on communication with internal stakeholders who have little understanding of the industry. A further poll of attendees revealed that buyers’ top three considerations in selecting the ‘right’ TMC partner are service delivery; financial/cost; and technology (including OBT and payment solutions). 

Further discussion led to buyers sharing insights into how they are addressing the challenges to their travel programme currently being posed by airline distribution models, and how buyers are overcoming barriers in their travel policy. For example some travellers are only authorised to book directly with air carriers if they have completed a detailed additional form within their expense system.

Meetings & Events (M&E) was another key topic raised for discussion by buyers whose role includes this remit, particularly Service Level Agreements (SLAs) for meeting management companies. Buyers shared recommendations for a policy re-fresh for M&E, implementing measurable KPIs, and examples of SLA metrics. The group also discussed security measures to ensure safety of meeting locations and venues. ITM will soon launch an M&E workshop to address the meetings management responsibility and support members in this role. Agenda items will include security profiling of the venue and locations, D,E&I considerations and more.

Buyer Knowledge Exchange sessions are hosted regularly by ITM to assist buyer members problem solve common issues, ask questions of their peers and benchmark their approach. Travel managers taking part represent diverse industry sectors such as financial services, energy, food, technology, consulting, media and entertainment.

For a full download of buyer sentiment, poll results and other topics that were raised at the latest Buyer Knowledge Exchange, visit our Resource Centre to access the notes from the session. The next Buyer Knowledge Exchange takes place on 20 February 2024. Buyers can click here to register and join the discussion.