FCM Travel Experts Reflect on Business Travel in 2021

INSIGHT

Looking Back to Look Forward: How 2021 was the Blueprint for Continued Business Travel Success

GBTA 2021

2022, Business Travel is Ready for You

When the glittering New Year’s Eve ball finally dropped in Times Square a year ago, ushering in 2021 after only what can be described as an eventful 2020, travel managers held a collective, hopeful breath: what would 2021 hold for the future of business travel? Was there even a future to look forward to?

Fast forward to November 2021, and 3,000 of them would gather at GBTA 2021 in sunny Orlando, Florida. They traveled by train, plane, and automobile, and gathered for the first time in what felt like forever. So, what happens when the best minds in business travel are together again after an extended time apart? According to three FCM Travel experts who were in attendance, it was anything but business as usual.

Meet the FCM Travel Experts

The time is ripe for making big decisions

Heidi, Peter, and Florian all agreed – every potential buyer who attended GBTA was prepared to have serious conversations with vendors about the future of their travel program.

“Buyers attending GBTA knew that they were looking ahead at a minimum of the next two years of their travel program, with Q1  being the starting gate,” said Heidi. “It seems like Q1 is being viewed as the official ‘restart’ of business travel on a global scale.”

Peter noted that for travel managers and TMCs that there is absolutely no “business as usual.”

“We’re fully shifting into a need for omnichannel travel management. TMCs need to be more open source and flexible. Solutions need to be customer-centric in their designs and developed with agility.”

Florian noted that there is a definite interest in breaking the mold of standard travel management programs and tech.

“NDC still needs to be in the conversation – it’s not going to go away. And many buyers have expressed a yearning for new online booking tool options. There’s a renewed interest in transforming their travel programs and thinking outside the box.”

Sustainability isn’t leaving the conversation any time soon

Travel managers, TMCs, airlines, and hotels keep hearing about the critical need to become more environmentally sustainable. The word is heard so often, it may just feel like background noise. However, FCM Travel Experts say it shouldn’t be counted out.

“2% of the world’s carbon footprint comes from air travel.” said Florian. And from what he and other travel experts saw at GBTA (and heard from clients and buyers throughout 2021) this is of great concern.

“On the FCM side, we understood the importance of walking the walk when it came to sustainability,” said Heidi. “We significantly scaled down the amount of people we brought to GBTA. Our booth was smaller, we didn’t pass out any paper. Everything was QR code. A buyer approached me and said ‘I love your booth because it makes sense. FCM understands the times.’”

Peter cautions against allowing sustainability to fade into a forgettable buzz word.

It’s an important topic, but a lot of people just aren’t sure how to approach it. We have to think past common tactics and innovate. Travel managers must leverage technology and work cross-departmentally to better measure their carbon footprint. More importantly, they must transform this information into sustainable action, both pre- and post-booking, that factors the planet, travel’s human impact, and their company’s bottom line.”

Business woman handshake

 

And lastly…travelers are happy (and ready) to be in-person again

We all mulled over what we’d like to do when the lockdown lifted. For many, it seems like they’re ready to get back to traveling.

“This has solidified for me the benefit of collaborating with our industry peers in-person,” said Heidi. “It’s important that we all keep the balance between keeping our travelers safe while also valuing the power of getting together in person.”

Florian noted how impressed he was with the attendees and vendors, despite the uncertainty of this year. “It’s just a good experience all-around. It’s excellent for networking, for brainstorming, and socializing. All the top airlines were in attendance. People are ready to get back to work on business travel.”

And if there are any nagging nerves about attending events or traveling, Peter has this to say: “The event felt safe. There were masks, scaled down attendance, and GBTA implemented CLEAR to authenticate proof of vaccination for entry.”

What’s next?

If there’s one phrase we all may be tired of hearing, it’s “we’re in uncertain times.” However, to our FCM Travel Experts, business travel goals in 2022 couldn’t be clearer.

  • This is the time for businesses to reevaluate their travel programs. Your TMC, your tech, your policies – everything. The COVID-19 pandemic gave everyone the opportunity to assess what they currently have, so now it’s time to decide what to do next.
  • It’s time to simplify your travel management program. Consolidating your vendors and services will directly impact efficacy, sustainability, and traveler well-being.
  • It’s time to start up your travel programs again, while always being aware of the local and international regulations and keeping duty of care top of mind.

And to be honest, all of that sounds pretty exciting. Here’s to a 2022 full of safe and effective business travel.

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