Covid was exceptionally cruel to the business travel market.

Apart from the obvious effects of people unable to move about, it knocked over 90% of activity out of action with a dramatic impact on all travel resources.

Airports, hotels, airlines, booking agents – and huge infrastructure teams supporting these resources – suffered immensely. Furloughed staff discovered that their old jobs weren’t offering the opportunities or rewards that many emerging industries were, and those that remained found their services were worth considerably more to other employers within the sector.

Resource rebound has therefore not just been slow but incredibly chaotic. The result has been the well-publicised delays, cancellations, restrictions – followed by the massive frustration experienced by anyone that has attempted to travel.

The return to international travel by holidaymakers also had many issues – but largely is resolving itself. Newspapers were full of horror stories earlier this year about lost luggage and mass cancellations, shocking the holiday market into action. The easing of international travel constraints and complex border procedures has also helped.

But business travellers have been less lucky. Their frustrations have been less publicised in the mainstream press. Cancellations, delays and re-routing are, in many places, the standard. Over-booking of flights and hotels has become the standard. Travellers being forced to pay – often at the point of embarkation – exorbitant last-minute charges – is also frankly becoming far too much of an ordinary occurrence.

For company budgets, there is also a double whammy; the price demanded for travel is sky-high in comparison to pre-covid times, and the worrying factor is that many companies do not yet recognise this or understand its implications on future travel budgets. Last year’s budget was unspent, and this year’s prices have been yo-yoing. How many companies know what the right price is for travel when even pre-covid prices were so varied? My guess would be very few.

Within the travel management business, Covid also saw huge deals taking place with technology companies acquiring traditional TMCs’s (Agents/ Booking companies).

This is possibly as big an issue as the issue of price because any investment will need to be repaid. The inference, however, is that technology can replace the human touch that is necessary when managing travel for companies. In my view – and this is borne out of numerous discussions with corporate travel managers who are totally feed up with their booking platforms – this is entirely the wrong strategy!

The indications are that business is slowly recovering its supply side – including its human resources. In reality, this will take 12-18 months at a minimum. That means, if you are someone responsible for booking your company’s corporate travel, you could be looking at another 18 months of frustration and complaining colleagues who are exposed to the wilds of global travel.

How can these issues be mitigated by businesses today?

– Firstly, know what you are paying for.

Link this to decisions and policies for future travel. You can’t control what you don’t know.

– Secondly is the re-emergence of the traditional, human touch.

A TMC who can source, support and administer your travel budget is vital. The market is buoyant, and those with inspired foresight have seen the resource constraints coming. The one-touch, online-focused TMC’s are those unable to provide the resources to support their clients. The odd thing is the higher cost of a traditional TMC is overall lower than the online engine – in reality giving the double whammy back to you – the guy paying the bill!

Post-pandemic travel is tricky. But I know that it can be made simpler with our help. Get in touch today.