We talked to Issa Jouaneh, senior vice president and general manager, American Express Meetings & Events, about how the travel sector performed in 2017, what he expects for 2018, and the one trend business event organizers should keep an eye on:
Did anything surprise you about the travel sector’s performance in 2017?
2017 has been a year of geopolitical turmoil and uncertainty, resulting in a significant uptick in inquiries related to traveler safety and security (according to July 2017 research on duty of care from American Express Global Business Travel and ACTE). Travel managers know that traveler safety is top priority, but what is surprising are the barriers to institutionalizing duty of care within business-travel programs. Progress has been made around tracking technology and tightened security policies, but utilization of these tools is low, and many programs still lack traveler-education and safety-training programs. We expect these barriers will fall as travel managers realize their central role in duty of care and the opportunity for them to better safeguard travelers.
What can we expect from the travel sector in 2018?
Competing for talent will be a top priority for businesses in 2018, with global labor shortages falling and immigration tightening around the world. We expect that travel programs will grow as a key part of their businesses’ retention and recruitment strategies. We have already seen this tactic with some companies, but as competition for talent heats up, employers will look to travel programs as meaningful benefits for employees who want to take advantage of business destinations, have a productive trip, and get home safely. The line between traveling for work and leisure is continuing to blur for many travelers, and companies will find that developing programs that offer a more flexible work–life balance will attract prospective employees, and keep current employee morale high.
What is one trend that meeting planners should be keeping any eye on in 2018 and beyond?
According to the 2018 Global Meetings Forecast by American Express Meetings & Events, meeting planners will see a significant industry move toward more localized programs. Even with their increasingly global mindsets, meeting planners have come to also realize that there are plenty of regional nuances that impact an event’s success. Global programs will need to be more flexible to meet traveler expectations — considering country-specific needs and dynamics. The localization of meetings programs will not diminish global perspectives of key insights or budgetary concerns. In fact, it will help enhance the global program, improving adoption and consolidating spend.