10 Things We Learned at ITM 2024

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Discover key insights from ITM 2024, where Blacklane explores trends shaping the future of business travel, including sustainability and tech challenges.

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The ITM Empower Conference in Brighton on April 24-25, 2024, provided a wealth of insights for the travel management community. As representatives of Blacklane, we were excited to be part of this pivotal event. Here are our key takeaways from the conference, highlighting the emerging trends and essential discussions that will shape the future of business travel.

Table of Contents

Day 1 Highlights 

The Future of Business Travel and Emissions Goals

During the ITM Pulse Check session led by Scott Davies and Samantha Mcknight, the evolving landscape of business travel in relation to emissions targets was explored. A significant 79% of buyers predict a reduction in business travel to meet these targets in the long term. This session underscored the growing necessity for sustainable travel practices and the industry’s commitment to reducing its carbon footprint.

Online Booking Tools Under Scrutiny

An alarming 82% of participants expressed dissatisfaction with their current Online Booking Tools (OBT), citing poor user experience and content limitations. This feedback highlights a critical area for improvement, emphasizing the need for more intuitive and comprehensive booking solutions to enhance user satisfaction.

Optimism Amid Economic Uncertainty

Gideon Skinner from Ipsos UK presented intriguing insights into consumer views in the UK. Despite a historic low in economic confidence, there is optimism within the travel sector. Notably, 48% of business leaders plan to increase travel for face-to-face meetings, with 67% considering these interactions crucial for business growth. This optimism signals a potential rebound in business travel.

Addressing Emission Goals with Urgency

Mark Corbett from  Thrust Carbon delivered a compelling talk on emissions, revealing that 93% of businesses risk missing their emission goals without substantial efforts to double their reduction initiatives. This eye-opening statistic underscores the urgency for businesses to intensify their sustainability efforts to meet environmental targets.

Evolution of Travel Management

Another highlight of the day was the panel discussion on the evolution of travel management, featuring industry experts Natalie Gardner, Gemma King, Jamie Finnie, and Lana Goddard. They challenged traditional account management methods, advocating for factors like tenure, personality fit, and expertise to take precedence over conventional segmentation by company size or travel spend. This forward-thinking approach suggests a need for new metrics to evaluate partnership success.

Day 2 Highlights

Platform 24 Debate Session

The standout session on Day 2 was the electrifying Platform 24 debate, moderated by Paul Tilstone from temoji consulting. Industry-leading buyers such as Steve Proud (Citi), Imogen Furness (WTW), Sue Jones (IKEA), Nicola W. (EY) engaged in a lively discussion with suppliers  Clare de Bono (Amadeus), Paul Dear (SAP Concur), Bill Brindle (Spotnana), and Anthony Toth (United Airlines).

Challenges in Standardization and Collaboration

Buyers voiced their frustration over the lack of standardization in new distribution channels, which complicates reporting efforts. Additionally, the absence of cross-industry collaboration in developing new technology poses a challenge for long-term success. Despite these obstacles, there is a clear potential for innovation and excitement at this industry crossroads.

Addressing Content Fragmentation

Bill Brindle from Spotnana candidly addressed the issue of content fragmentation, describing it as the worst he’s seen in his industry experience. His direct approach to discussing industry challenges, rather than promoting his own company, was refreshing and well-received by the audience.

Insights on Business Travel’s Future

Stephen Harrison (Hilton) was interviewed by Richard Tams (Tailwind Advisory Ltd) in a captivating session where the ITM pulse buyer survey revealed a cautious 29% optimism for the future of business travel. Steve countered this with Hilton’s record-breaking success in meetings and events over the past financial year, suggesting a more positive outlook for the hospitality sector.

The Transformative Potential of AI and Data

Shelley Fletcher-Bryant‘s (Advito) session on AI and data resonated strongly with attendees. She emphasized the need to explore new avenues in data analysis to uncover fresh insights, underscoring the transformative potential of AI in converting data into actionable strategies. Her statement, “If you keep asking data the same questions, you will get the same answers,” highlighted the necessity for innovative approaches in data utilization.

The ITM 2024 conference provided invaluable insights and set the stage for significant advancements in the travel management industry. As we move forward, these learnings will guide our efforts at Blacklane to enhance our services and support our B2B partners in navigating the evolving landscape of business travel.