It Depends On Where You Sit

As we close out 2009, the focus for most of us is on the year ahead. In fact, I've heard some industry colleagues say that the best they can report on the year we've just been through is that it is almost over. In the final 2009 edition of The Wire...from AirPlus, we gauge the attitudes of travel managers in the U.S. and Europe on the future. The most interesting result to me is the fact that the respondents' view of how 2010 will develop seems to depend on how aggressively the company made travel program changes this year. [more] In blogs past, you've read that I am encouraged by some of the changes such as demand and value management and I hope these changes stick.

Bolstering my positivity is that the majority of the respondents to this survey feel that 2010 will be a year of improvements. And I think it is very important for the leaders of our industry to have and promote a positive outlook for the future. In my opinion, optimism will have as much of an impact on the recovery for our industry as the moves by governments and central banks will. That's because companies are optimistic about the future and see chances for growth and profits, and will therefore travel. So now more than ever is the time to look forward to and prepare for the new reality that we will define for ourselves, our companies and our industry ... and leave the past behind.

As mentioned, the survey showed that the level of optimism and expectations for 2010 are driven in part by how a company has already reacted to the economic downturn. I would have thought that those who cut the least from their program must be in industries and business that thrive during such economically difficult times. I would also expect that companies that made aggressive cuts in travel spend must be keeping a very conservative view of where 2010 will take us. But the opposite seems to be true when I review the results.

Those with the smallest budget cuts in 2009 (less than 5 percent, but more than zero) are the most likely to experience additional cuts in 2010. Indeed, nearly 43 percent of these respondents anticipate additional cuts. In contrast, those companies that cut budgets by 5 percent to 10 percent are the most likely to hold budgets steady. Nearly 86 percent of this category indicated unchanged budgets for 2010, but none indicated budget increases. Lastly, those companies that reduced 2009 budgets by 10 to 15 percent were the most likely of any category to increase their budgets in 2010, with 35.7 percent of these respondents anticipating a little extra money.

Does this fit to what you are hearing in the marketplace? What are the reasons behind this trend? I'm interested in your thoughts on improvements in the industry's economic landscape in 2010 and beyond, so please comment here or visit our online community at