Technology to transform the role of travel managers by 2019

Travel managers expect their role to shift from tactical to more strategic activities

Technology is poised to transform the role of travel managers within the next three to five years, according to a new study by the GBTA Foundation, the education and research arm of the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA). Travel managers see their positions shifting to a more strategic role, thanks in part to streamlining and automating processes. Today, travel managers’ responsibilities are dominated by tactical tasks, with a large focus on managing vendor relationships.

The study, A Day in The Life: The Role of Travel Managers, sponsored by Sabre Travel Network, surveyed more than 700 North American and European travel managers and looked at the role of the Travel Manager, the value these managers bring to their organizations and a potential evolution in their role in the near future.

When asked about their current responsibilities, the study showed travel managers are pulled in many different directions. The vast majority of travel managers cited procurement-related activities (e.g., evaluating and negotiating with preferred travel service providers and obtaining and managing contracts with their providers) among their daily tasks. Travel managers also are frequently responsible for activities related to managing internal and external stakeholder relationships, developing and monitoring programs and policies, as well as other areas such as evaluating technology solutions and applying business analytics.

“As it’s done in so many industries already, technology will transform the role of the travel manager over the next few years,” said GBTA Vice President of Research Joseph Bates. “Thanks to the automation of so many processes, travel managers will be able to expand their role and further demonstrate their value.”

“New software and services are rapidly changing the way companies manage all procurement categories, and travel is no exception,” said Greg Webb, President of Sabre Travel Network. “Strategically-minded travel managers are achieving superior results by using more sophisticated technology and hiring more tech-savvy team members. We see this shift in the research and among our clients.”

Additional key highlights of the report’s findings:

  • Travel policy compliance represents the biggest challenge for travel managers, both in ensuring that the travellers follow company policy as well as obtaining senior leadership buy-in for new policies. Additional common problems include keeping costs down, managing globalization, using data to direct decision-making, and keeping up with technology advancements available for travel.
  • In addition to technology, travel managers also expect to see an increased reliance on data and analytics to make decisions, further globalization of travel programs and an increased focus on safety and security in the next three to five years.
  • While the majority of travel managers are currently being asked to calculate company savings from having a managed travel program, quantifying it has proven difficult and ineffective. Quantifying company savings, both financial and non-financial, stands to further showcase the value travel managers bring to their organizations.


413 North American travel managers and 316 European travel managers, including members and non-members of GBTA, completed the online survey between September 9 and 19, 2014. Respondents had the option of taking the survey in England, Spanish, French or German.

More Information

The survey, A Day in The Life: The Role of Travel managers, is available exclusively to GBTA members by clicking here. Non-members may purchase the report through the GBTA Foundation by emailing [email protected]. To view an abstract of this research, please click here.

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