The Big Idea: How the business travel industry can solve the talent crisis, promote DE&I and more

Representatives from all areas of the business travel ecosystem gathered at the GBTA Europe Conference in Brussels in November during The Big Idea session, sponsored by BCD Travel. The travel management company developed the theme for the session “Travel and The Law of Attraction” to discuss the pain points and solutions that appeal to talent both in and outside of the industry.

This also included ensuring sustainable growth for business travel around four core pillars: industry image; diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI); traveler well-being and technology. The output from the session was summarized in “The Big Idea Report,” co-published with BCD.

“Travel has returned rapidly so the industry is catching up to recent demands,” said David Coppens, BCD’s EVP operations strategy. “Making sure travel stays attractive to the workforce and keeping retention high for current employees is so important, so The Big Idea is all about bringing constituents together to develop solutions as an industry rather than each individual constituent on their own.”

The session attracted about 300 participants and sparked debate among attendees about the future of business travel as a career and how the sector can continue to remain relevant and convey its value and purpose to those inside and outside of the industry. After Coppens gave an overview of the challenges faced in business travel, attendees split into groups to summarize their ideas into a slogan and a series of tangible actions for each of the four pillars.

Findings summary

Industry Image | Travel4Good: Invest / Thrive / Connect / Prosper

  • Boosting the image of business travel starts with identifying the underlaying reputational issues about the industry. A sense of ‘risk’ attached to a sector that was so directly impacted by the pandemic may discourage new entrants to the travel industry.
  • There is a clear need to better frame business travel’s value proposition as ‘travel for good,’ accentuating not only the benefits the sector brings to the economy and society but also the flexibility, inclusivity and long-term career path potential within the industry.
  • Business thrives on in-person connections, bringing people together in a smart and sustainable way and bringing some fun back to travel.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion | A shared journey, individual paths

  • A new generation of industry talent and business travelers should reflect all facets of diversity, including race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, mobility and socioeconomic group.
  • The sense of community that unites business travel and the role of every single player as an actor of change is a core part of what can help build a diverse, equitable and inclusive future for business travel.
  • Promoting cultural awareness and removing barriers to entry and success by targeting underserved, under-resourced or non-traditional talent populations supported by technology will help drive the change.

Traveler Well-being |  Happy traveler, healthy company!

  • A traveler-centric approach, making sure that business travelers and their well-being is ‘front and center’ is critical to spur employee engagement, encourage travel and appeal to talent.
  • Re-establishing the excitement of business travel post-pandemic and the benefits of the hybrid working model on a more positive work-life balance will be key to build the appeal to new generations.
  • New generations such as Gen Z and Gen Alpha don’t want to choose between professional advancement, personal growth and social responsibility. Business travel is an enabler to connecting to the wider world.

Technology | User first – elevate the experience

  • Technology is a key lever to appeal to new and existing talent. Digitization is a real opportunity to build personalized career paths for travel managers, travel services and solution providers alike.
  • Building the tech appeal of the industry will help accelerate the shift and support the transition towards smarter and more sustainable business travel choices.
  • Designing a digital workplace for the future and thinking like a digital marketer embracing the new platforms and communication channels to attract the next generation.

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