The future of travel management strategy – trends that will impact travel and meetings thinking

11 March, 2022

“The future of our sector has never been more challenging, nor more fascinating. The potential to shine is palpable but knowing where to focus and what to do is the key. Not getting it right has consequences, more than ever before,” explains Paul Tilstone and Caroline Strachan, the managing partners of Festive Road in a recently published insight into the macro changes affecting travel management in 2022 and beyond.  

The specialist business travel consultancy has produced a broad, macroscopic view of the sector in The Macroscope Report, detailing key considerations for the future of travel management strategy, policy and service need. The report builds on its previous work on the Permissible Travel Framework and the Purposeful Travel Model with insights from travel managers and road warriors to offer a framework for the structure of future travel management visions.

The report identifies eight key factors that will continue to impact travel and meetings management thinking, regardless of other external impacts such as high inflation, talent shortages due to changing employee priorities and the dynamic changes in the fuel market. That is not to mention the challenges of shifting pandemic mindsets and the extended dangers of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

“Never has there been a better time to take a step back, consider the ‘why’ of the travel and meeting programme itself and the value travel and meeting managers  deliver to their businesses,” highlights the report. “A blank piece of paper and a fresh perspective are probably two of the most important tools for successful travel management in the 2020s,” Festive Road acknowledges.

MACRO #1 – Future of work: dispersed but not forgotten

Call this moment in time “The Great Resignation” or see it as an opportunity to drive “The Great Attraction”, the workplace and employee attitudes have been disrupted, says the report. The way we work has changed and so has the way we meet and travel and for travel managers “these are unique times to reinforce the values of their programme in this new emerging world where a dispersed workforce is the new norm, or at least part of it,” says Festive Road.

MACRO #2 – ESG at the purposeful core

Sustainability is most often defined as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs, but the scientific data is telling us that we’re overshooting our planetary means and tipping Mother Earth out of kilter, notes the report. “This critical decade represents a moment in time when organisations can take a proactive stance and balance people and plane alongside profit,” says Festive Road.  

MACRO #3 – it was always about the meeting

The full integration of travel and meetings has been a high ideal for years, yet few companies have reached a truly co-ordinated approach to the two sister categories, says the report. Travel and meetings “are intricately linked” acknowledges Festive Road, and the pandemic has triggered ‘the meeting’ to be achieved in a different way while traditional options were paused. New methods are not “just about saving money or reducing emissions,” notes the consultancy, but “the most effective way to achieve meeting objectives”. As such, the knock-on effect “is huge,” it says and marks a new dawn: “the decade for a true strategic meetings and travel management programme has arrived.”

MACRO #4 – the whole trip experience (at last)

When travel managers reinvent their travel programme with the traveller at the very core, extraordinary things can happen. Duty of care is met and travellers adhere to policy and preferred suppliers because they are the right fit, says the report. Travellers expectations have changed and new working habits have been formed. “It is truly time to connect all the critical elements that make up a business trip and put servicing the traveller as a programme priority,” says Festive Road.

MACRO #5 – Dynamic content the true king

While content has been ascending the throne for many years, deep and rich content aggregation from multiple sources is now table stakes with he coronation moment close, says the report. “Dynamic content is the next evolution that will usher in personalisation, agile policy engines and a much better shopping and on-trip experience,” says Festive Road.

MACRO #6 – API explosion brings buyer empowerment

The corporate travel ecosystem has never been so vast and diverse as it is today, and increasingly the marketplace is getting more complex as the three letters – API – become mainstream lexicon for travel managers, says the report. The Application Programming Interface is the route to broader and deeper content in the sector and there are already signs that “it’s about to explode,” recognises Festive Road.

MACRO #7 – Hail to the storytellers

Data is everywhere in travel. Every click of the traveller’s mouse, keyboard tap, or swipe, generates data that can and should shape travel programme decisions, says the report, but our challenge to date has remained how to consolidate the huge amount of available. From identifying new travel patterns and opportunities to leverage tailored products, to re-defining the KPIs of travel management, “data underpins it all,” says Festive Road. “We’ve entered the era of the analyst as the lockpicker, the storyteller through numbers. The data cruncher is cool,” it adds.  

MACRO #8 – take the lead or be directed

In the last two years the spotlight shone brightly on travel managers and they rose to the challenges that were set at a significant time of crisis for their companies and sector, but if the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that travel functions cannot operate as in island, says the report. “In a world that being an ‘operational doer’ may no longer be enough, travel managers have the opportunity to take a step back, be discerning in the projects taken on and turn strategic goals into critical reference questions,” says Festive Road.