Mandating Rail over Air, Airline RFPs, and Current Travel Programme Priorities - Key Topics discussed at latest ITM Buyer Knowledge Exchange

29 Feb 2024

A ‘Pulse Check’ of Global, EMEA and UK travel managers attending ITM’s latest Buyer Knowledge Exchange (BKE) revealed that over half (52%) do not have a policy that mandates booking rail over air travel, on routes where this option is feasible. When those buyers were then asked if their company is planning to implement such a policy, over half (54%) answered ‘no’ while 38% were unsure. Only 8% answered ‘yes’. 

The general consensus among buyers is that there is a desire to mandate rail but complex access to content, cost, transit times, and technology platforms’ inability to display rail alongside air, were all barriers to implementing or enforcing such a strategy. However those buyers who are mandating rail over air have only chosen to do so on certain  routes, for example domestic rail in France and Spain where the rail journey is 3.5 hours or less.

A further poll of BKE attendees sought to assess any change in their programme priorities for 2024. Policy adoption/adherence to policy emerged as the top priority (70%) closely followed by traveller experience/customer service (67%), with sustainability, and cost management/programme savings ranking joint third (both 63%). Interestingly the result saw a shift since a previous poll of BKE attendees (in October 2023) when buyers listed their top three priorities for 2024 as firstly cost management/programme savings, followed by policy adoption/adherence to policy, and sustainability in third place.  

Buyers also discussed their approach to airline RFPs. Two thirds of those attending the BKE session agreed that airline contracts are even more critical today than five years ago (67%), and the majority (83%) believe that account management is even more vital now compared with five years ago. Those buyers planning to RFP their air programme this year are being driven primarily by the changing distribution landscape and access to content, followed by traveller experience. However in an industry that is experiencing major  changes to airline servicing and distribution, buyers say that they are having to fight harder and have tough conversations with airline partners when negotiating contracts.

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, telecoms, 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 the ITM Resource Centre to access the notes from the session. The next Buyer Knowledge Exchange takes place on 19 March 2024. Buyers can click here to register and join the discussion.