By Drew Crawley, Chief Commercial Officer, American Express Global Business Travel
We don’t always recognize the importance of what we have until it’s gone, especially when it comes to the travel industry and travel management companies. In a world where moments really matter, one of lockdown’s legacies is that the value of meeting travelers face-to-face has never been so profoundly understood.
In late summer of 2021, the green shoots of an international travel recovery began to emerge for travel managers and corporate travelers. The accommodations and ground transportation categories, driven by small and medium-sized enterprises eager to travel and trade, led the recovery. Later, when governments finally eased restrictions, the pent-up demand for air travel among many of our American Express Global Business Travel customers and business travelers started to release.
Let us be clear: businesses and people want to travel, and use a reliable travel program. Of that there is no doubt. However, we will be encumbered by uncertainty with the travel industry for some time to come. Market dynamics that impact the supply and demand curve will make pricing and expenses, including for corporate travel, an onerous task. Governments are still prone to implementing new rules, restrictions and protocols that affect business travelers and travel managers at a moment’s notice. And as I write, we’re still waiting for the Omicron variant to dissipate, which will help travel management trends and business travel trends.
In spite of the corporate travel challenges that impact tourists, I remain fervently optimistic about our sector’s future, because B2B travel partners are designed to manage disruption and simplify complexity for business trips. Our collective goal across the industry is to keep travelers moving seamlessly, helping them create new moments that matter. It’s what makes our sector fundamental to economic and social progress with tourists around the world.
Moreover, travel and meetings managers will be increasingly visible in 2022. As our newly released “Business Travel in 2022 and Beyond” white paper shows, their responsibilities will be more integrated with other departments as mobility becomes central to the culture of organizations, such as travel management companies, that need to bring distributed teams together. They’re also helping set the agenda for sustainability and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) and will be instrumental in helping organizations with travel programs and corporate travelers understand and adapt to cultural evolution.
Over the last two years, we’ve experienced a world without travel and business trips. We’ve endured the toll it has taken on economic growth, business travel trends and travel management trends, and the incalculable cost to social progress and human happiness. We cannot afford to go back – and we don’t have to. In 2022 and beyond, the business travel sector should face the future with confidence, armed with the knowledge, tools, and determination to keep powering progress around the world.