Travel buyers are forecasting a confident outlook for business travel in 2016, despite broader economic challenges, according to new research from the ATPI Group and the Institute of Travel and Meetings (ITM). For the next 12 months, 55 per cent of ITM travel buyers surveyed predict that people will travel more, and a significant 72 per cent feel confident about their business outlook and growth opportunities for 2016.
When asked to think about the next five years, 58 per cent of respondents stated that the amount of travel required by their business will increase. Only seven per cent see a reduction in business travel when looking towards 2020. Confidence is also seen in travel patterns that the sector expects to see in the next five years – 47 per cent are anticipating that people will be travelling to more new destinations.
Adam Knights, managing director – United Kingdom, ATPI Group, commented, “The economic recovery of 2015 has increased confidence amongst businesses, despite a background of uncertainty in some sectors and regions of the world. We are seeing business travel professionals feeling more optimistic about the longer term future than in recent years, and are planning to be travelling more, to a wider choice of destinations.”
However, it’s evident that the terror events of 2015 have changed attitudes towards business travel. When asked about biggest concerns for 2016, 65 per cent of respondents marked safety and security of travellers as the most important factor when managing business travel plans, followed by 31 per cent backing reduction of business travel costs.
The factor that is dismissed as unimportant by most respondents is offering flexibility in travel policies – 58 per cent regarded it as the least of their concerns in 2016. In a similar research conducted by the ATPI Group amongst business decision makers in February 2014, flexibility was in the top two priorities for the year, which marks a major shift in just two years. Just over half – 52 per cent – state that managing travellers’ behaviour is essential for delivering greater financial efficiency, suggesting that a closer reign on travel programmes is a trend for the coming year.
When asked what could improve their business’ approach towards travel management in 2016, if money was no object, the top response was visibility of the total cost of trips (29 per cent), with a strategic approach to duty of care and risk management coming in second (27 per cent) and enhanced preferred supplier deals with air/rail/car/hotel providers in third place (21 per cent).
“Strong, robust travel policies are a clear theme as businesses look to plan for growing travel requirements. This makes complete sense as controlling spend will always be an important factor for any business. Despite a more positive outlook for business travel in the longer term, the message for TMCs is clear – be transparent and supportive of client priorities in order to help them deliver the growth that will bring yet greater need to travel further afield, and more often,” Knights added.
Working with ITM, the ATPI Group conducted the research during November-December 2015 amongst travel buyer members to assess their predictions and confidence levels for the future.