How do you define a travel manager? They tend to be ‘multi-tasking professionals’, many of whom source hotels for business travel as well as meetings and events and have ‘more complex concerns than ever before’

26 February, 2020

Travel managers have increasingly ranging working roles and this can differ significantly by industry type, company size. It is hard to define their precise roles, however a new study of UK travel managers has tried to do that as the findings of a survey of more than 200 professionals shows how the role is changing, notably to also source venues for company meetings and events.

The UK edition of the ‘Cvent 2020 Travel Managers Report’ is based on a survey completed in Jan-2020 by independent researcher Censuswide of corporate decision makers which work for companies with more than 250 employees or offices in two or more countries. It was designed to deliver insights to help hotels and venues gain a greater understanding of the priorities, considerations and challenges of UK travel managers.

As for that definition, Cvent says that in general it found that travel managers “tend to be multi-tasking professionals, many of whom source hotels for business travel as well as meetings and events. They demand greater transparency and efficiency throughout the sourcing process and expect flexibility from their hotel partners. They also tend to have a clear understanding of hotel selection priorities and travel programme challenges”.

What is clear is that the role has evolved from simply booking transport and accommodation and that is what Chris McAndrews, vice president of marketing for Cvent Hospitality Cloud, says are delivering the “more complex concerns” they face today. “Corporate travel managers are leveraging more external resources to make decisions and have more complex concerns than ever before. They also have more complex roles,” he explains.

This backed up by the survey which showed that a high majority (86%) of respondents were responsible not only for organising travel, but also sourcing venues for their company’s meetings and events. According to Mr McAndrew this provides “a strong call to action for hotels to address these concerns and support the changing needs of CTMs in order to secure more MICE business”.

The survey identifies a real concern among travel managers about supplier transparency during the sourcing and negotiating processes, with more than one in three (38%) saying their top challenge during negotiations is lack of hotel transparency when quoting pricing. Meanwhile, the findings also revealed the importance of Last Room Availability (LRA) which was described as essential for more than half the travel managers (51%) for a hotel to be included in their programme.

The survey also suggests that the way in which hotels engage with guests can also be a key reason hotels and venues miss out on corporate travel programme opportunities. A majority (51%) of travel managers cited poor service and unprofessionalism (pre and post stay) as a reason for excluding or removing hotels. The same number (51%) also highlighted that hidden costs not disclosed during negotiations is a top reason for excluding or removing hotels from their travel programme.

On a positive note, more than two in three (71%) UK travel managers expect their 2020 budget to increase over 2019, with a fifth (22%) expecting a significant increase. Many travel programmes will include more hotels, rooms, and locations than last year, but obviously this now comes with the threat that international health concerns could impact this outlook.

The challenges most managers expect to face in 2020 reflect the concern with traveller safety and climate change, according to the survey findings. Around half (45%) of managers polled selected duty of care as their top challenge in 2020, almost equal to budget considerations (48%). The survey also found that 31% of managers cited environmental sustainability as a key 2020 challenge.