Corporate Traveller predicts that unmanaged travel could become a thing of the past for SMEs and there will be a huge shift towards mandating their entire travel programme via a sole provider in 2021.

The UK’s largest specialist TMC for companies with an SME business travel spend of £50K to £2M has ambitious plans to continue growing market share and secure significant new business next year. Corporate Traveller will also forge ahead with implementation of new business won over the last six months with a pre-Covid spend of £25M.

The TMC has already seen 85 per cent clients move to a fully managed travel program in response to their changing hierarchy of needs post Covid-19. Duty of care and traveller wellbeing have naturally become high priorities, but reporting, visibility and cost savings are also still prominent on the agenda. Research among Corporate Traveller’s clients has also revealed the need for intuitive AI-led technology specifically designed for use by SMEs that still integrates seamlessly with offline service provided by the TMC’s consultants.

And there will be a resurgence in 2021 of customers looking for greener travel options after many organisations achieved their sustainability targets because their air travel ceased or reduced significantly. Pre-Covid, Corporate Traveller was experiencing a 30 per cent increase in demand for sustainability services and the TMC expects this trend to continue when business travel returns.

Rail and car hire, traditionally lower profile with fewer transactions, will remain firmly in the spotlight and increasingly rival air travel, not only as eco-friendly options, but because these sectors provided vital alternative means of travel during the pandemic. Corporate Traveller saw a surge in rail bookings from July to November with total transactions increasing by 141% year on year. Equally car hire bookings went up by 56 per cent over the same period year on year.

Corporate Traveller is also forecasting that its clients will resume travel more quickly than larger corporates once Covid vaccines and testing become readily available. This is because SMEs typically have fewer approval processes and greater flexibility around arranging discretionary travel.

“There’s no doubt that 2020 was a challenging year with 45% of our clients trading at 15% of our previous year’s volumes. Nevertheless, we are very excited about moving forwards into 2021, continuing to grow business from new and existing customers, as well as bringing ground-breaking new technology to the SME market. We are really looking forward to helping our customers get back to travelling again as their desire and need to travel for business is very evident. Everyone has had enough of meetings via Zoom,” said Andy Hegley, UK General Manager, Corporate Traveller.

“We are also aiming to continue dominating the SME business travel sector, building on our recent success in securing £25M in new business, and maximising opportunities for gaining market share post-Covid. We believe there is room in the market to win SME customers with an unmanaged travel programme, who will be reviewing their business travel needs in the wake of the pandemic, for example the professional services sector, who would benefit from the specialist support of a TMC. Traveller wellbeing, duty of care, pre-trip approval, cost control, sustainability and visibility have all become much more important for SMEs and all these aspects are very difficult for them to handle themselves with an unmanaged travel programme,” said Hegley.

“We also expect most clients to mandate 100 per cent of their travel bookings via us as their sole TMC provider. Previously we probably experienced leakage of around 10 per cent where travellers booked their own hotel or flight online. But Covid-19 has brought about a huge change whereby SMEs are moving into the large corporate space in terms of recognising the need to mandate all bookings for duty of care and cost control purposes.”

Other predictions from Corporate Traveller include:

  • Measures introduced in ‘interim’ travel policies are likely to remain in place and shape travel policy in 2021 and beyond, not only regarding duty of care, but whether travel is deemed essential
  • Hotel programmes will be driven not only by cleanliness and hygiene standards, but also facilities and services available to support traveller wellbeing
  • In terms of air programmes, flexibility of booking, reliability, cleanliness standards and reputation will be equally as important as schedules and route network
  • An international certificate of Covid-19 vaccination will become the norm on a business traveller’s packing list
  • Safety measures put in place by airlines, accommodation, car hire and train companies, such as disembarking planes row-by-row, supplies of hand sanitiser and wearing masks – are here to stay.
December 16, 2020 — Gaurav Khanna