What do you remember from the latest EVP barometer published by American Express GBT?

Adrien Cannes – Business travel is a way to act in person. So we tried to take a step back on the value of a meeting compared to a videoconference, a phone call, a chat… We were able to conclude the value and the necessity of business travel as a means to interact in person because despite the crisis 91% of travel decision makers consider that it is a necessity for the company, or at least very important. In spite of the crisis, opportunities have been found from an economic and operational point of view in companies. But travel decision makers and travelers are waiting to interact again.

How do you view the importance of sustainable development?

Adrien Cannes – Four or five years ago, it was still in its infancy in discussions. Today it is a real point to consider and to deal with. But the way it is treated is still immature. There is no standard, no practical norm within the company.

What about the duty of care?

Adrien Cannes – There has been a return to the human element. Before the crisis, there was a focus on the digitalization of the user experience, its autonomy, in order to get closer to a BtoC environment. With the crisis, the number of human interactions within GBT has doubled, as a palliative for this duty of care component.

So is a TMC still able to cope with such an offline demand in 2022?

Adrien Cannes – We are still capable of doing so, but this is not the strategy of the industry, or even of any company. The goal is to be digital, innovative, to get closer to BtoC. The target is the end user. What the purchasing department and the financial department want is for the tools provided to be perfectly adopted by all employees. We had the resources to manage the crisis from a human perspective. We had the resources to manage the crisis from a human point of view. We were strong enough to face this situation and we will have the resources to face the next ones that may arise. We will continue on the path of digitalization, to offer the right OBT, the right settings, a good user experience, but we will always have the possibility to manage crisis situations and repatriations as a stopgap measure, if necessary. That’s our job!

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What role did your consulting division play? What were the clients’ needs?

Adrien Cannes – Our teams worked a lot during the crisis. People were undecided, they had no visibility, they didn’t know what to do. So we had to help them define a short and medium-term strategy.

On which files, concretely?

Adrien Cannes – For example, the clients were in a complicated situation regarding direct supplier contracts. The idea was to integrate the relationship with the suppliers into theWe had to respond to this urgency. And more broadly, it was a question of understanding the general vision of travel. In fact, the travel manager found himself managing much lower volumes of travel, and was therefore able to undertake some fundamental work. For example, by questioning the relevance of his reporting solution, to effectively track travelers in real time, or to offer more alternatives on the CO2 side. These are subjects that have emerged because there was time for this reflection. The review of travel policies has gone well beyond the annual review, with new challenges and new expectations among travelers. When we talk about new generations of travelers, it’s not because it’s a trendy subject. We are analyzing the traveler populations and behaviors of our clients and there are now 30% of millenials. And these employees do not travel or interact in the same way as boomers. The crisis has also allowed us to sit down with our clients to redefine these kinds of strategies.

Are these issues over now? Perhaps the Ukrainian crisis has replaced them?

Adrien Cannes – Some clients took up these issues at the beginning of the health crisis, notably because they had deadlines in terms of project schedules. Others tried to hold on for a few more months, hoping for a return to normalcy. So there are still delays in updating our clients’ strategies. As for the crisis in Ukraine, it is less impactful in terms of travel philosophy. It shows, if it were necessary, that travel is not in a separate world, that everything is connected, that energy governs the logic of all business in the world, including professional travel. There were geographical and operational impacts, but I think the most profound crisis concerned the energy aspect, with an impact on pricing.

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So how do you reconcile rising prices with the desire to ensure the comfort of business travelers?

Adrien Cannes – It’s a complex equation: the human element, the traveler’s comfort on the one hand, the price on the other, and sustainable development… We would all like to have the solution. This solution varies according to the company, the geographical area, and the sensitivity of each person. Some companies allow travelers to “under-classify” themselves, by privileging premium to business, which generates not only a financial saving but also a carbon saving, and to reinvest this saving via an association. At American Express GBT, we have also integrated the carbon impact differential according to travel classes, aircraft fill rates and freight/passenger ratios into our methodology for the past two years. This feeds into the Green Compass tool, which enables us to establish the path to be adopted by each company to truly achieve its objective of decarbonizing its business.yage of business. As for the price increase, if it is linked to the increase in kerosene, and if tomorrow the technology evolves, whether with hydrogen, eco-fuels or rail, the impact of the price of gasoline will not be the same for business travel. A price increase is therefore a significant element, but it should not be a determining factor in the trajectory we take to innovate and find technological and technical alternatives. We are at the beginning of the innovation curve. The first few years are tough in terms of investment, for SAF as for any technology. But the curve will flatten out over time. And we’ve seen all kinds of price drivers: when a company stops operating on a strategic axis, prices go up. During the crisis, the implementation of all these health protocols also had an effect, especially in the hotel industry. So we cannot simply isolate one factor for price increases.

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How will we be able to return to the same pre-crisis travel levels in 2023-24 despite the adoption of new habits?

Adrien Cannes – Some indicators may go down: the number of trips per company, the travel budget as a function of a company’s income… But there are always companies that are created, that grow. From a macroeconomic point of view, the growth in wealth produced will be fueled by and linked to the growth in the total volume of travel. The sharp decline in travel during the crisis may have shown the incompressible level of travel volumes required for a company’s economic activity, and this will grow with the growth of the company, the economy, the population, and technology.