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OPINION


WORDS SCOTT DAVIES


FOCUS ON THE FUTURE


Each buyer has unique challenges as they look ahead to what’s coming up this year


our buyer members to find out what their priorities, concerns and major work items will be for the year ahead. We ask them how they are prioritising their objectives versus the previous 12 months and meeting the usual challenges, such as expense integration, compliance and access to content.


A


It is heartening to know that once again, a big priority is traveller safety. However, although it was the winner on average, only one-third of respondents named it as their top priority and a further one-third didn’t place traveller safety within their top four focus areas. While this may seem initially alarming, there is a lesson here. On my travels I am often asked what the concerns of UK buyers are, and I reply it’s not possible or appropriate to generalise. The reality is that every buyer is working within


S YEARS GO, 2019 is shaping up to be a pretty mundane affair isn’t it? At the turn of each year at ITM we survey


a unique business with its own agenda and they are running a unique travel programme. The discipline of travel programme management is, therefore, by its nature, unique from one company to another.


LESS EMPHASIS ON RFP Our survey also asks how many of our buying organisations plan to renegotiate with suppliers in the coming year and what format the process will take. There is a clear year-on-year reduction in corporates’ appetite to RFP their air programmes, with only 11 per cent indicating this intention for 2019. Is this good news for incumbent airlines? More likely it reflects the maturity of pricing and


MORE THAN


95 PER CENT OF BUYERS REPORT THAT THEY EXPECT BREXIT TO MAKE THEIR LIVES MORE COMPLICATED


the flexibility within today’s contracts to tweak fares and deploy tactical offers to react to movements.


Despite the trend towards dynamic pricing in the accommodation sector, 33 per cent of our buyer members said they still planned a full hotel RFP in 2019, although this represents a dip from 42 per cent in the previous year. I don’t think many buyers would describe their roles as simple, so it must have been particularly exciting for over 95 per cent of them to report that they expect Brexit, and its associated potential scenarios, to make their lives more complicated, particularly in negotiations with suppliers. Finally, how is the B word negatively affecting corporate confidence levels? Not surprisingly the answer is more than in the last few years, with 51 per cent of companies expecting growth within their businesses down from 57 per cent a year ago. Considering the unknowns at the time of writing, I was expecting a larger drop-off than this. Were you? I have to remind myself this is a magazine column and I can’t hear your answer, but it seems that, despite all of the uncertainty ahead, there are some resilient businesses out there for us all to work with. Let’s keep educating, informing, connecting and inspiring each other as we tackle another nutty year in the travel industry. Have fun!


Scott Davies is the chief executive of the Institute of Travel Management (itm.org.uk) 158 JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2019 buyingbusinesstravel.com


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