CTC Australasia Corporate Travel Summit & Sustainability Awards – industry insights

28 November, 2022

The last two years have turned the corporate travel industry on its head. Spearheaded by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has given rise to the ‘Zoom-boom’ and forced a complete overhaul of all company health and travel policies.

While airlines largely believe that domestic corporate demand could regain its pre-pandemic strength before 2024, they also acknowledge that the overall recovery from the COVID-19 crisis remains choppy and uncertain.

Beyond COVID-19, corporate customers are also changing their response to the broader demands for responsible operations, of ESG and sustainability, and ultimately of working to reduce the impact on the planet. Corporate customers hold a much more aggressive net-zero trajectory than airlines – most of which are targeting net zero by 2050.

The CTC Australasia Corporate Travel Summit & Sustainability Awards, the return of CTC in-person events in Australia, provided a much-needed platform for this conversation, with hundreds of corporate travel executives gathering in Sydney to share the latest developments, best practices and trend analysis to help guide the industry through its next revolution.

Here's some of the key insights from the event.

ATMC chairperson: 'A lot of companies are moving from unmanaged to managed travel'

ATMC chairperson Tass Messinis stated "a lot of companies are moving from unmanaged to managed travel". Mr Messinis added: "It's clear that buyers are now more reliant on travel management companies" as they navigate change.

Envest Global: There will be more pressure on airlines for sustainable growth

Envest Global executive director Steve Limbrick stated "we're seeing a lot of change occurring in various markets", adding the aviation industry has made "big improvements" in technology, investment and fuel efficient aircraft. Mr Limbrick said sustainability "comes at the forefront" with buyers and investors, noting the industry "still has a long way to go from where it needs to be". He said there will be "more pressure on airlines to make sure that growth is undertaken in a sustainable way". 

ANU manager travel services: Next gen of corporate travellers reliant on apps for booking

Australian National University (ANU) manager travel services Dean Easton stated: "The next generation of corporate travellers want to make bookings and changes on an app, they don't want to be reliant on humans". Mr Easton added: "Organised travellers are very price sensitive, whereas disorganised travellers will take what they can get. The planet's not coming into it at the moment".

AMEX GBT commercial director: 'Disruption is the new norm'

AMEX GBT director of commercial Danielle Russom stated "As we look across the industry, disruption is the new norm, and I don't see that changing in the next six to 12 months". Ms Russom noted the disruptions have "implications" for travel management companies and buyers, as business travellers need to be supported "in a different way" from a leisure traveller. She added the topic of having better support for a traveller "has become an important one".

Qantas Airways: COVID-19 changed interactions with customers

Qantas Airways executive manager global sales & distribution Igor Kwiatkowski stated "Predicting what will happen in the future is extremely hard", adding during the COVID-19 pandemic the carrier had to "hunker down and change the way we interact with our customers". Mr Kwiatkowski said: "There's a lot of empathy that came through during COVID as we were all dealing with the same thing, which rarely happens". He noted mental health became a "real topic of conversation", leading to a "genuine engagement in people's wellbeing".

Serko SVP APAC: Travel policies will be written around sustainable choices very quickly

Serko senior vice president APAC market Murray Warner stated commitments to reach net zero are going to drive policies and behaviour of booking tools. Mr Warner said: "Travel policies are going to be written around sustainable choices very quickly", adding: "There's a lot of work going on to try to move from what business travel has been to what it needs to be".

NARTA International: TMCs 'critical' for travel sustainability information

NARTA International head of procurement and sustainable solutions Jen Barclay stated sustainability and ESG is "critical to our business" and all businesses within its buying group. Ms Barclay said sourcing sustainability information from travel management companies (TMC) is "the best way", adding: "relying on the TMC is something that's really critical for us".

AirPlus International: Forecasting and budgeting causing 'big problem' post-COVID

AirPlus International director APAC operations Piers Gibbons stated there is a "big problem" with forecasting and budgeting, due to "up and down" bookings and refunds over the past two years, adding: "So how do you forecast how much you'll spend if you don't have consistent historical data to go on". Mr Gibbons said real time data is important, adding the company is working closely with travel management companies to come up with "what is meaningful from massive data". He noted the company is also simplifying this down to "meaningful points that allow them to make decisions".

Accor director of ESG Pacific: Companies that don't do ESG well will suffer

Accor director of ESG Pacific David Young stated ESG "is core and companies that don't do it well will suffer". Mr Young said while ESG was previously an "unloved child" within big organisations, there has been a recognition in the last 12 to 18 months that ESG "is not a part time job or sits outside the core of the business". He added ESG is no longer a peripheral, but is "fundamental" to the business.

Flight Centre Travel Group: 'The TMC model has always evolved and will continue to evolve'

Flight Centre Travel Group MD of corporate ANZ Melissa Elf stated "the TMC model has always evolved and will continue to evolve" and the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the change. Ms Elf noted that customers are seeking more automation and more efficiency, but personalised services and customer experience is still relevant.

Meridian Energy: 'It’s easy to see through suppliers who are greenwashing'

Meridian Energy head of procurement and workplace Nick Robilliard, Roche senior procurement partnering manager APAC David Staples stated "It's easy to see through suppliers who are greenwashing". Mr Robilliard said: "Suppliers are going to react to pressure that is applied by buyers", noting: "There's power in numbers".

HRS Group: You have to adapt the user experience to the tool

HRS Group CEO HRS Pay Kurt Knackstedt stated "You have to make sure you're adapting the user experience to the tool". Mr Knackstedt noted up until the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a lot of industry investment in new tech development, and an "understanding that systems needed to be unified through technology". He added: "Then the pandemic hit and all of that stopped, and we had two years of nothing, now there is progress towards stitching the systems together".

Etihad Airways: Biggest challenge has been keeping teams connected

Etihad Airways GM Australia & New Zealand Sarah Built stated the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a "rollercoaster of dealing with things you never thought you'd have to deal with", adding: "Suddenly we were living a business contingency plan". Ms Build said the biggest challenge for the carrier has been keeping teams connected, noting Etihad is evaluating everything "as best we can" and working with strategic partners to build on existing relationships. She added: "As an industry we're all quite tired and crawling to the finishing line of the year".

Corporate Travel Management GM: Data should enable travellers to make 'the best decisions possible'

Corporate Travel Management GM NSW/ACT Karen McGilvray stated data should be used to enable travellers to make "the best decisions possible". Ms McGilvray said forecasting and the analysis of data will become "really important".

Lamb Weston: Travel approvals will move away from the cost aspect

Lamb Weston senior director of procurement for capitals & indirects Bhart Sarin stated duty of care and risk management "is going to be the foundation of all program redesigns, globalisations and truncations". He noted travel approvals will "move away" from the cost aspect, adding: "The pennywise and pound-foolish approach will find its way out of the system. You're going to go back to more of a demand driven model".

Uniglobe Travel International MD Asia Pacific: Travel tech start ups aiming to disrupt TMCs and GDSs

Uniglobe Travel International MD Asia Pacific David Hughes stated many travel technology start-ups have the intention of "disrupting TMCs entirely" or "pushing GDSs out".

Marriott International working to diversify talent and 'bring in new ideas'

Marriott International regional director global sales Australia & New Zealand Karryn Cutcheon stated customer experience is the company's "biggest challenge" in regards to recovery, adding it is "working hard" to attract new talent and appeal to new generations. Ms Cutcheon said the company is also working to diversify talent and "bring in new ideas and new people".

International SOS: Risk of protest activity expected to 'get much worse'

International SOS security director James Robertson stated the risk of protest activity is "manifesting really significantly in lower risk settings". Mr Robertson said protests related to the increasing cost of living are expected to "get much worse" over the northern winter 2022/23, particularly in Europe, and remain a "driver of unrest" over the next year.

web3academy: Metaverse can have a 'huge impact' on travel, training, meetings and education

web3academy chief metaverse officer Patricia Haueiss stated the metaverse "will replace some parts of the traditional travel industry, but not replace it in full". Ms Haueiss said the metaverse can have a "huge impact" in areas such as travel inspiration, staff training, meetings and educational content. She said the metaverse can also support "proximity" and "loyalty" with customers.