Leaders in Business Travel and Meetings are, overall, relatively optimistic in their outlook. World markets rallying around Trump’s departure, a Brexit agreement reached and vaccine roll outs starting to kick in globally, all point to a positive stimulus to get back to business.
My take on those conversations with these leaders is that business won’t be at full steam until late 2022 and into 2023 and even then, it is only predicted to about the 70% of pre-pandemic levels (new normal). But the critical underlying message is that more will be delivered by fewer and so margins will be better in this sector in many cases. The winners, as I have pointed to over many months now, are those who are reimagining their customer and supplier relationships and simplifying their processes to deliver the future customer services. Technology is the key to that, hence the continued investment appeal of travel and meetings tech.
It is true to say that managed meetings have been a big part of those discussions. Intermediaries, big and small, now have heightened awareness of the need to offer a solid and compelling proposition in the meetings area. This will be driven by their corporate customers looking to achieve greater compliance and visibility of meetings being planned. Behind that shift are organisations ensuring diligence of new safety Leaders and well-being processes, which post this Covid-era will still be needed. No longer will meetings be an after-thought and bolt-on to corporate travel contracts. It will, if the market sentiment I am picking up comes to fruition, be a key criterion in the selection of the travel management companies deployed by all Buyers – the question is whether the TMCs will be up to it?
I am watching with great interest as to how this plays out in terms of winners and losers. But I have concern that the smaller & mid-scale TMCs must act now. There is a danger of them putting managed meetings into the too hard camp and losing ground, and market relevance. Third party technologies – such as Wizme allow industry leapfrogging steps to be achieved and meet market needs with low or no level of investment. And it’s important that the small to medium segment of the TMC market thrives – they ensure Corporates have competitive choice, personalisation and quality local service. Lose this segment and corporates will suffer in the long run.