The FCM view: Business travel’s recovery
Marcus Eklund, Global Managing Director, FCM
Q3 2021 has started with a wave of positivity for travel around the world. Transatlantic travel is opening in November, IATA shared European load factors reached 74.6% in August 2021 (vs 89.1% in August 2019), Singapore opens vaccinated travel lanes with 11 countries, and Australia is slowly starting to reopen its borders. Offices are being occupied again. There’s still some way to go but it’s heartening to see our world, and global business, reopening.
At the same time, we’re still seeing the effects of the pandemic on travel businesses. Acquisitions, closures, refinancing. Corporate travel volumes are not due to reach pre-pandemic levels for some time yet.
A Deloitte survey of 150 travel managers found in Q2 2021 that less than 1 in 5 companies had reached 25% of their 2019 quarterly spend, and 9 in 10 expected to reach 75% or higher of 2019 spend levels by Q4 2022. Traveller confidence is a mixed bag too while the threat of sudden border closures remains and vaccination levels vary.
We will continue to watch with interest how the travel industry landscape changes in the next two years. Consolidation and change does rock confidence in procurement, HR and finance teams. The business travel industry must be highly adaptable to rapid change and deliver services that react to an ever-changing environment. A McKinsey report identifies four key steps in the future of corporate travel:
- Leverage real-time data
- Embed agility into planning
- Personalise experiences based on safety and comfort
- Communicate with clarity
Each of these areas have been a focus for FCM during this formative era. Our customer-first approach and ability to adapt quickly has seen our superstar teams retain 98.5% of our customers, win a record number of new accounts, unveil a brand new look and voice for the brand, and develop new technology that’s going to support and elevate future travel requirements. In FCM Platform we’re combining AI-driven data and insights with tools that focus on traveller safety and clear communication, through global consistency and flexibility with bespoke user experiences and choice.
It’s still not business as usual. By the end of July 2021 FCM’s transaction volumes globally approached 50% of pre-COVID levels with consistent growth expected to continue. But it’s an environment our people have adapted to and our technology roadmap will be reflective of. It’s that blend of digital investment and human interaction that has always been the perfect mix for FCM’s customers and continues to drive new partnerships. Take two of our new customers JTI and Pernod Ricard, who both implemented during the pandemic with stellar support from our teams. Even with changes and challenges that they’d never been faced with before, our people always find a way.
There’s light at the end of the tunnel. A world that’s more focused than ever before. We know we must reach ambitious sustainability goals that are a pressing concern for us all. Companies and travellers need seamless support on their way back to travel, however they decide to move forward with business travel goals. Our teams at FCM will continue to use their strengths as they always have done, bolstered by the skills and even more agile mindset they’ve developed over the past 18 months. Our people and our technology is ready for this new chapter. Let’s use that positive energy to spur the business travel experience forward for the better.