5 key takeaways from Th!nk


At FCM and GBTA’s inaugural Th!nk event, everyone was challenged to bring a fresh approach to business travel. With many countries in recovery from the pandemic (and faster than we all thought), it was a pivotal moment to hear about trends and insights from around the world, and what the industry is focused on for the years ahead.

Here’s our top five takeaways from the kick-off event in Athens, Greece.

1. Post-COVID, it’s very people driven.

Melissa Elf, General Manager, Australia at FCM explained there are two factors driving this:

  1. The Great Resignation: retaining talent as a core strategy in travel programme.
  2. Travellers not used to being on road or away from families, so need the best experience.

Steve Norris, Managing Director EMEA at Flight Centre Travel Group (FCTG) hopes for a momentum similar to what he noticed after the financial crisis. Back then, the appetite for change was around visibility of spend. He believes this crisis can be used as momentum to pay more attention to duty of care, travellers and the planet.

It’s about service, and answering all those questions that travellers have. And it’s also about how travel buyers can use data and technology to make trips easier. As Stephen Pitcher, FCM’s Chief Data Science Officer described; imagine knowing five minutes before everyone else in the airport that your flight is delayed. Those precious minutes make all the difference.  

2. Trips are changing

Initially, conferences appear to be driving business travel’s recovery. Melissa divulged that FCM’s Meetings & Events division is very busy. “It’s all about creating culture and connections,” she added. This presents its challenges, as Andy Cassidy of AMC Networks explained, because conference locations means travellers are not booking preferred hotels in the company’s travel programme, and airline capacity is limited.

Bertrand Saillet, Managing Director, FCM Asia, revealed length of trips have drastically changed. Where the average trip was five days previously, it’s now an average of 14. Trips are extended for leisure or for visiting family and friends, or there’s more legs crammed into one trip.

Which was supported by Chris Galanty, Global CEO of FCTG Corporate, who increasingly hears customers say they want to travel less, but travel better.

3. Priorities are shifting away from cost.

In a live poll at Th!nk, the audience were asked what their priority was out of:

  1. Sustainability
  2. Cost/Savings
  3. Traveller wellness 

The results were close. But it was sustainability that edged the vote with 39%, vs cost at 32%. Whether that’s a sign of the post-COVID landscape or a longer term vision we will see; but shifting away from cost is clearly starting. FCM leaders on stage told of sustainability popping up more in RFPs. With priorities clearing changing, it’s a reminder for buyers to keep checking in with people and leadership on how to balance it all.

4. Communication is more important than ever.

Billy McDonough, President of FCM Americas first mentioned the trend for increased demand in communication technology, and to deliver people information at the right time. Especially in the booking phase, so travellers make the right decision, and also during a trip.

Throughout Th!nk, this trickled into the arena of sustainability. Serving up notifications and nudges to book more sustainable options, for example.

But there were also some word of warnings. Ben Park, Senior Director Procurement & Travel at Parexel reminded buyers not to get caught up in hype, and to understand the full experience of technology, such as AI as part of their travel programmes. Plus futurist Shivvy Jervis urged the audience to look at digital transformation as not just a challenge for IT; all departments need a voice.

5. Companies need to move to prescriptive data.

Many companies work in a descriptive or dynamic way with their data. But that needs to move to predictive and prescriptive, said Stephen Pitcher. For example, knowing that you’ve lost a sale is descriptive, where knowing that the lost sale is coming and stopping it is a more prescriptive way to use data.

There’s also no harm in slowing down “real-time” data. Stephen believes there’s more value in quality data from a 15-minute period, vs data coming in every minute.

Plus, we exclusively previewed some technology trends with GBTA. Look out for more later this year!

It’s hard to break down a full conference into a few words, and there is plenty more to uncover in Th!nk’s on-demand library. The library remains open to explore.