Travel buyer Q&A: Earle Thomas, Buro Happold

We catch up with Earle Thomas, associate director – procurement, Buro Happold, on why bleisure will have such an impact on corporate travel this year, plus his predictions for business travel in 2022

What’s keeping you awake at night?
My high level concern is duty of care; something our company takes very seriously. Below this concern are elements that might adversely affect our ability to fulfil our duty of care obligations. We have a highly experienced and respected security team and health and safety leader who provide advice and reports at all levels. We have tools from our TMC providing country information and alerts to ensure travellers are fully informed. Gaps occur when travellers fail to notify our traveller tracking system that they have arrived safely. We could also create issues for ourselves by booking travel for non-employees. This later point opens up potential for issues relating to IR35 and GDPR to name a few.

What innovation will make the biggest impact on travel management in the next 12 months?
The merging of the business and leisure industries will have a great impact; enabling even wider choice, removing the perceived barriers and anomalies in pricing. A tool that can collate, analyse, book and report across these two sectors will deliver savings and key management information to their clients.

How will business travel look in 2022?
Wide choice. Impulse buys (short notice), not necessarily due to lack of notice or planning but an expectation that there is no need to commit until the last minute. Geolocation-driven data feed.

How will managing business travel look in 2022?
Real-time management information at the travel manager’s fingertips. The ability to book and report almost instantaneously.

How will the business traveller look in 2022?
Relaxed; the stress is for the provider. Expecting excellence at all times. Finding issue with non-neutral features; for example, taking issue with gender-specific features.

How will we, as an industry, best survive the next three years?
Provide services and tools that put the stress points on the providers. If your product delivery adds stress to the traveller, they will pick a less stressful option.

Why do you attend the Business Travel Show?
It is the go-to show for this industry. An incredible array of service providers, middle-men, TMCs, post-trip analysts, tech-tools, gadgets, training, information and networking.

What are you hoping to see on the conference programme this year?
More signs of barriers coming down between business and leisure travel markets

Earle Thomas is a member of the Business Travel Show advisory board. The show takes place at Olympia London from 20-21 February 2019 and you can register for a free pass at businesstravelshow.com

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