Report: Travel Managers Face More Challenges Than Ever
The travel manager role has evolved significantly over the past few years, from travel budgets to policy administration, to managing health and safety factors during the pandemic. Today, their role continues to change as socioeconomic factors like inflation, sustainability, and geopolitical issues like international conflicts impact their responsibilities.
The fifth annual SAP Concur Global Business Travel Survey explores how the travel manager function has evolved and the challenges and priorities that continue to reshape their responsibilities and corporate travel programs.
According to the global survey of 700 travel managers in seven markets:
The Travel Manager Role Only Gets More Stressful
Nearly half (47%) of global travel managers say their role is more stressful now than 12 months ago. Unsurprisingly, the top challenge is that inflation is driving up the cost of business travel, as felt by 41% of respondents.
But it’s more than that. Travel managers are challenged by:
- Ensuring traveler safety in areas becoming hostile to marginalized groups (38%).
- Ensuring traveler safety against illness or natural disasters (38%).
- Finding more environmentally sustainable travel options (37%).
- Inadequate staffing with their travel management company (30%).
Travel managers are hungry for tools to improve visibility into all aspects of travel. Nearly all global travel managers (98%) say their job is hindered by lagging data and analytics, particularly when it comes to ensuring traveler safety (39%), demonstrating ROI to senior leadership (39%), reporting on the company’s travel emissions (38%), complying with regulations and industry standards (37%), setting budgets (37%), and updating travel policies (37%).
“The job of the travel manager is more complex than ever,” says Charlie Sultan, president of Concur Travel at SAP Concur. “Their responsibilities span so much more than managing travel and expenses, and they’ve experienced layoffs and staffing shortages over the past few years, both within their own teams and with their travel management companies.”
Threats to Business Travel
There is continued debate about when or if business travel will return to pre-pandemic levels. At SAP Concur, total spending on airfare is on pace to exceed 2022 levels and continues to tick toward 2019 levels. This may be partially influenced by rising ticket prices: the average airfare is up 11% from 2019.
However, according to global travel managers, the biggest threats to business travel are last-minute delays and cancellations by airlines (45%) and travel industry suppliers changing how they sell and book travel (38%). You can read how SAP Concur customers can navigate changing access to fares in our blog.
Global travel managers identify cuts to travel budgets or travel freezes (35%) and inflation (32%) as threats, but interestingly, they don’t see cost as within the top three threats to business travel.
Travel Policy Changes
As further proof that change is the new normal, in the next year, 98% of global travel managers expect their company to change their travel policies. The most common change will be to enable better tracking to ensure employee safety in certain parts of the world, according to nearly half (42%) of respondents.
Additionally, in the next 12 months, travel managers say their company’s travel policies will change:
- To accommodate travelers’ need for flexible options (e.g., booking directly with suppliers) (38%).
- To better comply with internal and external sustainability goals (37%).
- To reduce their travel costs (37%).
- To increase cost visibility and traveler visibility (36%).
For some travel managers, the change in policy will be a return to normal. More than one out of three (34%) say they’ll go back to pre-pandemic policies.
The SAP Concur Global Business Travel Survey was conducted by Wakefield Research between April 7-28, 2023, among 700 travel managers, defined as those who direct or administer travel programs for businesses, across seven markets: France, Germany, Hong Kong, Mexico, SEA Countries (Malaysia and Singapore), UK, and U.S. Data has been weighted to facilitate tracking.