ITM Column: All’s well that ends well

Traveller wellbeing is topping your agenda – but why has it only become a burning issue now?

At ITM, we constantly ask our members which topics and challenges they would like us to provide more resources and support around. Since we gathered a record 535 delegates at our annual conference in Brighton this year, we took the opportunity to check in with them again during a plenary session. Can you guess what subject they said they wanted us to focus on most?

You probably won’t be too surprised to hear it was traveller wellbeing. Good job, too, as we have a lot planned in this area, but that’s not my point here.

The almost universally high priority being given to traveller wellbeing has got me thinking: why was it ever not up there as a top priority? Looking back over the dusty ITM archives and the even dustier depths of my own memory, I wanted to remind myself which priorities previously usurped this critical focus area.

Going back just five to ten years, the priorities reported in our Trending Survey and other sources suggest that cost savings, policy compliance and safety were generally cited as the top three concerns. For a while sustainability popped up, and is rising again now, but those three priorities seemed evergreen.

Does this mean that travel buying organisations didn’t give a stuff about the wellness of their employees as they flung them around the world with a care only for the cost of the unpleasant trip? I’m sure it didn’t. So why is it comparatively more important today than before?

I wonder if it suggests either a) a more empathetic style of modern leadership and management, or b) more pragmatically, that the cost of not investing in wellness is focusing bosses’ minds (in the form of recruitment, productivity, healthcare and other resulting costs)?

To the former point, I’m sure people management must have evolved somewhat since Victorian times, but I think the answer is that there are organisations that culturally place the health and happiness of their people first and foremost… and there are still rather a lot that don’t.

To point b), I don’t want to believe that this is true, but it is playing a part. In particular we see organisations in highly competitive industries, such as professional services, where winning comes primarily from attracting and retaining the best people, trying to demonstrate how life is infinitely better working for them versus one of their rivals. Flexibility, choice, health and lifestyle benefits and a sense of community make a difference when the best people are deciding where to work.

The good news is that we think traveller wellbeing is here to stay as a top priority and we’ve all made great progress in giving wellness its rightful place.

In fact, the very thought that it could again be replaced by one of the traditional staple concerns makes me feel really rather unwell.

Subscribe to the BBT Newsletter

Join the Buying Business Travel newsletter for the latest business travel news.

Thank you for signing up!