Skift Take

Travel managers are concerned about direct impacts such as the cost of fuel while "fiscal cliff" maneuverings in Washington are sadly more or less business as usual.

When it comes to travel concerns about 2013, the people who run large corporate travel programs are much more concerned about the cost of fuel than political shenanigans over tax increases and spending cuts in Washington, D.C.

In a survey of nearly 100 travel managers in North America and Europe, AirPlus International found that the cost of fuel topped their list of concerns for 2013 while other possible game-changers, including the global economic slowdown, the “fiscal cliff,” and U.S. government gridlock, fell considerably lower in their expectations of potentially impactful developments over the next year.

The survey by the business travel payment-solutions provider took place October 22 to November 15. It used a scale from 1 to 5 with 1 standing for no effect and 5 meaning a major effect.

The precise rankings for the current events — and the survey considered volatile fuel prices a current event — that would impact managed travel programs in 2013 were:

  • Cost of fuel (3.47)
  • Other global economic factors (2.95)
  • European debt crisis (2.92)
  • U.S. “fiscal cliff” (2.89)
  • Continued U.S. government gridlock (2.59)
  • Social unrest (2.59)
Going rogue

“When asked in an open-ended question about what respondents are most concerned about, what’s keeping them up at night, managing costs and traveler safety were by far the top answers,” AirPlus states. “Many had concerns about monitoring and maintaining compliance to travel programs, with several noting rogue booking [also called open booking] and keeping up with technology as particular concerns.”

Going “rogue,” or seeing road warriors making “open bookings” outside the corporate-booking tool and contravening corporate travel policy, has been a hot topic in business travel circles this year, with travel and expense solutions provider Concur, for example, readying an open booking platform for small- to medium-size businesses.

However, the surveyed travel managers placed open booking far down on the their list of factors that would influence their managed travel programs the most in 2013, and perhaps the reason is that out-of-policy bookings have been a perennial nuisance and aren’t reaching crisis proportions.

Anticipated trends

The survey tallies on the most-impactful trends were:

  • Air and hotel ancillary fees: (3.35)
  • Airline consolidation (3.34)
  • Mobile technologies (3.15)
  • Big data (2.82)
  • Open booking (2.51%)
  • Corporate card Chip & Pin (2.34)

Corporate card Chip & Pin is commonly used outside the U.S., AirPlus states, where cards require a pin to use instead of a magnetic stripe.

It is interesting that of the above envisioned impactful trends in 2013, the travel managers indicated they would have much more sway in addressing mobile technologies, and air and hotel ancillary fees within their managed travel programs than they would trends such as airline consolidation and open booking.

Here is the travel managers’ ranking of the trends they felt would be addressable in their managed travel programs next year:

  • Mobile technologies: (71.4%)
  • Air and hotel ancillary fees (62.6%)
  • Open booking (41.8%)
  • Airline consolidation (41.8%)
  • Corporate card Chip & Pin (30.8%)
  • Big data (27.5%)
That makes sense that the travel managers feel relatively empowered about their chances of dealing with mobile technologies and ancillary fees.
That’s because corporate travel managers are beginning to offer mobile booking solutions and can establish policies pertaining to air and hotel ancillary fees while it would be difficult to influence events out of their control such as a possible US Airways merger with American Airlines.

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Tags: corporate travel, fiscal cliff, fuel

Photo credit: The "fiscal cliff" is a distant concern for travel managers. This photo shows the Cliffs of Moher, County Claire, Ireland. (Library of Congress)

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