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Exploring business travel trends in Europe

Reed & Mackay Hall: BTSE Stand: K50
Exploring business travel trends in Europe

Service, sustainability and technology; these themes were outlined as some of the key business travel trends that will impact Europe, according to Reed & Mackay’s Managing Directors (MDs) in France, Spain, Germany and Sweden.

Europe is a key market for Reed & Mackay, which has made strategic acquisitions and investments on the continent over the last couple of years. These initiatives solidify the travel management company’s (TMC) dedication to providing exceptional service to clients in these local markets as well as to multinational clients.

“The last few years have been monumental in Reed & Mackay’s expansion into Europe,” Reed & Mackay CEO – UK, Europe & Global Events Julie Oliver says. “Having operated in France and Germany for a long time, the chance to move into Spain and Sweden was too good to pass up; the opportunity these markets presented to expand our meetings and events arm, in particular, felt like a natural progression for the business.”

Discover why Reed & Mackay’s Europe MDs highlight those, and other, trends for European and international clients over the next year and beyond.

Corporate traveller demand for personalised service grows

The expansion of Reed & Mackay in Spain provides global clients with the confidence they’re working with a TMC that understands the cultural, regulatory and logistical particularities of the market, Reed & Mackay Managing Director Spain Paula Fuster highlights. This, in turn, allows for a highly personalised service that clearly focuses on the client’s business objectives.

It’s a trend Reed & Mackay Managing Director Nordics Eva Moen is also witnessing across Scandinavia, in part driven by the need for closer connections since the pandemic. “The travel industry has a huge number of suppliers, systems and regulations,” Moen says. “If an organisation works closely with a TMC on their travel programmes, they can solve problems as soon as they arise. It’s difficult to train an AI programme to handle the specific problems that can occur while travelling.”

Reed & Mackay Managing Director Germany Christoph Zilt echoed that the German market is experiencing a similar demand for personalised service. Zilt explains how clients combine Reed & Mackay’s proprietary technology with working closely with their business travel consultants.

This is a similar situation that occurs for clients in France. “I’m proud of the level of service we offer clients,” Reed & Mackay Managing Director France Johann Smith says. “Customers like the personalised service we provide. I think this will continue to be important for the French market throughout 2024.”

The value of local knowledge

Understanding a client’s business and the environment they operate in has become increasingly vital, the MDs all agree. Providing on-the-ground understanding of cultural differences is crucial when working with both local and multinational clients.

“We’re a partner to the client; we should be familiar with our suppliers and their offer so our customers can trust us to choose the best travel routes and products for them,” Moen says. “Additionally, most of our clients prefer to communicate in their local language so, when challenges arise, it provides a sense of security.”

Fuster agrees local consultants and the understanding they bring to the respective markets is fundamental. “Sharing the same language as clients builds trust, establishes and fosters closer working relationships,” Fuster explains.

“Europe is heterogeneous,” Zilt adds. “There are many languages and cultures, which means customers’ needs are different across the markets.”

Smith echoes Zilt’s analysis. “Furthermore, there are major legislative and regulatory differences across Europe,” he says. “While we offer similar services, we don’t necessarily use the same routes. This ties back into the personalised service we provide, which considers the specific demands of each market.”

Eco-friendly travel is on the rise

Zilt believes there’s been a shift in preferred travel methods among corporate travellers in Germany, moving towards more eco-friendly options, with train travel becoming more popular for business travellers. Meanwhile, in Spain, Fuster notes a growing awareness of business travel’s environmental impact from clients. “They’re now seeking alternative travel methods that reduce their ecological footprint, without compromising the quality and efficiency of their travel and event arrangements,” Fuster explains.

This, in turn, has led to a growing focus on providing sustainable options to clients. “We’ve been proactive in developing roadmaps to meet client needs, while complying with new sustainability legislation being implemented across our markets,” Oliver adds.

Moen agrees, pointing to the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive as being a principal driver. “There’ll be requirements for efficient and continuous reporting, as well as for TMCs to provide advisory services,” Moen says.

Boosting online corporate travel booking

Clients continue to need TMCs to optimise online booking tools for seamless business travel. And being able to offer clients sustainable travel options within proprietary technology delivers multiple advantages, Fuster adds. “Reed & Mackay’s technology allows us to offer personalised solutions that also address an organisation’s environmental concerns,” Fuster says. “It shows we are committed to providing a comprehensive service that meets changing market demands and ensuring first-class customer experience.”

It’s technology the Swedish market has also welcomed. “We are a country with high digital maturity and customers expect us to be at the forefront of technology implementation,” Moen explains. “So it’s important we deliver technology that also handles all travel-related jobs, from receipt submissions to approvals.”

Zilt agrees, adding that the current geopolitical landscape also means clients are increasingly focused on risk management for their travellers. “The R&M portal provides a single point of entry for customers to access booking tools, trip security information and reporting, while allowing them to monitor the safety of their travellers with ease,” he says.

The value of in-person meetings and events

Meetings and events (M&E) is a key area for development in Europe throughout 2024 and now having Reed & Mackay in Spain and Sweden, this stream is already well established.

Zilt also highlights the opportunities for meetings and events growth in the German market over the coming year. “Germany is one of the largest business travel markets in the world, so we know the demand for M&E services is there,” he says.

Equally, Smith is optimistic about the outlook for M&E in France and expects the Paris 2024 Olympic Games to have a significant impact on the demand. Additionally, he believes the number of hybrid or virtual events will decrease, as physical events become a preferred trend, partly due to the continuation of hybrid working.

The future of AI in corporate travel

Artificial intelligence’s ability to simplify complex processes means there’s plenty of optimism across Europe about its use to complete admin-heavy tasks in the business travel booking process. “I welcome AI; it will allow travel consultants to focus on providing an increasingly personalised service to clients,” Zilt says.

And Fuster agrees AI will be integral moving forward in the business travel and events space. “The growing demand for intelligent technologies, driven by AI, blockchain and machine learning, plays an essential role in business travel, events and conferences; they influence every aspect of the process,” she says. “In addition, the personalisation and flexibility New Distribution Capability provides business travellers will increase the demand for AI.”

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