ITM Trending Survey reveals buyer and supplier priorities for 2024

Suppliers were asked to rank what they believed would be buyers’ top priorities for 2024. Interestingly they selected budget control as the number one priority, and placed OBT optimisation in sixth place. Despite these discrepancies however, buyers were aligned with suppliers on other key priorities such as sustainable practice, duty of care and ensuring full content access.

Online booking tools and access to full content, especially for air travel, will be the dominant issues for business travel managers in 2024 according to the latest Institute of Travel Management (ITM) Trending Survey of buyer members.

The 2024 ITM Trending Survey, supported by American Express GBT, was conducted over two weeks at the end of November 2023 among over 100 corporate travel buyers, managers and heads of travel, with a mix of global, EMEA, UK and Ireland responsibilities. For the first time ITM also polled over 200 supplier members to gain insights into their understanding of buyer priorities, as well as the challenges facing their respective sectors.

Buyers’ top four priorities for next year remain unchanged with online booking tool (OBT) optimisation ranking top, followed by duty of care, budget control and sustainable practice collectively in second place as the difference between each factor was negligible. However, also sharing equal second place is ‘ensuring access to full content’ which moves into the top five (up from sixth last year) overtaking traveller wellbeing.

The majority of buyers (75%) also stated that access to full content/NDC will be the biggest challenge they face in managing travel in 2024. Indeed 66% are not confident that they will have access to the airline content they need in 2024. In terms of OBTs, most buyers are dissatisfied with fulfilment across several content-related areas such as displaying non-GDS content (75%), capturing off programme bookings (70%), rail content (73%), and seamless air/rail policy inclusion. Access and ability to service all content will also be travel managers most important KPI for their TMC.

Other buyer survey findings include:

Expense integration & payment solutions moved up three places from last year to rank 8th; managing supply chain points of failure/service issues moved down one place to rank 9th.
36% of respondents are planning to increase their travel budget year on year in 2024; 38% will keep budget at the same level. The remaining 26% will see a decrease.
The economic environment and cost of travel will have the biggest negative impact on travel volumes in 2024 (ranked by 67% of buyers, against 57% last year), followed by sustainability/net zero targets (15% of buyers, versus 11% last year)
Sustainability requirements will also increase – 52% of respondents said that suppliers must comply with carbon emissions reporting (up from 39% in 2023); and 35% of buyer require science-based targets (up from 23% last year)
In terms of RFPs, the survey results suggest that there is a lower propensity for buyers to go to full tender for their TMC (19%). However, the accommodation sector will see 45% of buyers go to full RFP. For air programmes, the preferred approach is targeted negotiations (43%).

Challenges facing supplier survey respondents in the next 12 months fall into the following key areas: rising costs due to inflation, global economic uncertainty and tighter corporate travel budgets; talent shortages, recruitment and training new staff; and access to full content, not just NDC, but also sustainability data required by corporates. The commercial objective for most suppliers (64%) in 2024 is revenue, whilst 13% are looking to gain market share. Suppliers are also investing heavily in the corporate travel sector – 71% have increased their investment versus a year ago, and 58% have grown their commercial headcount.

Scott Davies, CEO, ITM commented: “A fundamental part of ITM’s mission is to connect buyers and suppliers to help them understand each other better and collaborate to find win-win outcomes. For that reason we decided to also conduct a supplier survey alongside our annual buyer member survey to provide valuable insights of the trends and challenges both sides expect to face in the coming year.

“It’s encouraging to see that suppliers in general are aligned in terms of understanding buyer priorities as they included the same issues in their top five. However there was a discrepancy in the way they ranked them, with suppliers assuming that price would come top for buyers. The key takeaway for suppliers should be that it’s not all about cost. Buyers have a much more challenging and wide-ranging remit influencing their priorities.

“What is coming through loud and clear from the buyer perspective is access to full content, and their reliance on OBTs to deliver and fulfil that content,” Davies continued. “Yet buyers are clearly still facing issues with their OBT, hence OBT optimisation remains as the number one priority. Last year, the reasons were primarily driven by the challenges of managing the return to travel post-Covid; now that has shifted to focus on dissatisfaction with OBTs’ ability to deliver what buyers really need in today’s business travel environment.”

Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.

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