BTN's 2009 Travel Manager Salary & Attitude Survey: Frozen Salaries, Job Cuts Dim Travel Buyers' Optimism - Business Travel News

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BTN's 2009 Travel Manager Salary & Attitude Survey: Frozen Salaries, Job Cuts Dim Travel Buyers' Optimism

August 17, 2009 - 12:00 AM ET

By Chris Davis

The 26th edition of BTN's annual Travel Manager Salary & Attitude Survey is perhaps its bleakest. Those travel buyers fortunate enough to still draw a salary report a sharp increase in pay freezes and growing pessimism about their future compensation and the opportunities the industry holds, and those who already have lost positions face a dreary job market with no clear indication of any imminent turnaround.

Download a PDF of the full 2009 Travel Manager Salary & Attitude Survey here, including all data, charts and analysis.

The survey of 250 travel buyers does, however, report some good news: Average salaries have increased from last year's survey, and respondents were far less pessimistic about their own career paths than they were for those of the industry at large. The average salary of a typical travel buyer—an umbrella term for the purposes of the survey that encompasses a broad spectrum of job titles and responsibilities—approached $100,000, and that of the typical travel manager cracked $105,000.

However, despite universal hope that the worst of the recession has passed, most travel managers don't feel optimistic about their salaries—38 percent of respondents, in fact, had their pay frozen in the past year and 20 percent expect a pay cut in the next 12 months—and there's still fear that they can be pink-slipped at any time.

"Career success this year is holding on to your job," said Dawn Penfold, president of Southern Pines, N.C.-based meetings industry employment firm Meetingjobs. "There have been heavy layoffs and downsizing, and people are being asked to do the same work in fewer hours."

Corporations of all sizes have reacted to the recession by cutting corporate travel spending and employees, which very frequently has led to smaller in-house corporate travel departments. Those buyers who remain in many cases have had to assume the workloads of one, or even several, of their fallen coworkers.

"Anyone and everyone is looking for a job," said Carol Ann Salcito, president of Norwalk, Conn.-based travel management consulting firm Management Alternatives. "I don't know anyone who isn't overworked, overburdened, overtaxed, overeverything."

In consequence, some corporate travel programs have become less effective. "There's a lot of very good travel programs that, if you validated them today, would be horrible because the people in charge of them are not familiar with the travel industry or the corporate culture," according to Salcito. "At other companies, travel management is strong because the travel managers know how to talk to senior management. There, people are listening."

While doing the work of several employees and a pervasive hope that travel cost-cutting has peaked may be enough to allow companies to stop laying off travel managers, there remains the possibility—likelihood, even—of more, should finances not improve quickly.

"It's slowed down a bit from the beginning of the year, but people with jobs feel fortunate to have jobs. They're minding their Ps and Qs. No fam trips. No golf outings. They're making sure their jobs can't be perceived as fluffy or fun," according to Penfold. "Make yourself indispensable. Don't be complacent."

There's no particular level in the corporate hierarchy that is immune from the downsizing ax. "At the beginning, it was higher-level people, but now it's more across the board," Penfold said.

Those travel managers without jobs—although typically in receipt of reasonable-to-good severance packages, Penfold said—have walked several different paths in their efforts to regain employment. Many continue to scour for travel-related openings or have offered their services as consultants, and she said many unemployed buyers are looking for new professions. That said, the travel industry is not without its openings.

"Some, not many, have found new jobs. I just talked to one travel manager who had been out of work for one year who found one. There are some," Salcito said.

"We're seeing a little more activity now than we were two months ago," Penfold said early this month. "We've had eight job postings in the last two weeks, and we had five all of last month."

Salcito wasn't entirely pessimistic about the immediate future. "This isn't a total doom-and-gloom conversation, but I can't say we've turned the corner yet," she said. "Give it a few months."

Penfold, though, was blunt about the landscape. "Everybody is being targeted. Nobody is safe, and there's nothing you can do about it but do the best at what you do."

METHODOLOGY

Business Travel News' Travel Manager Salary & Attitude Survey is an annual measure of the opinions and compensation of a wide variety of corporate travel professionals. For the 2009 edition—BTN's 26th—250 travel professionals this spring visited a secure Web site at BTN's e-mailed request to answer a survey questionnaire. Not every respondent answered every question, and chart totals do not always total 100 percent due to rounding.

About 41 percent of the respondents were travel managers or supervisors, 14 percent were travel directors, 12 percent were vice presidents, 11 percent were travel specialists, advisors or coordinators, 8 percent were purchasing, procurement, sourcing or transportation managers or supervisors, 2 percent were meeting managers or supervisors, 1 percent were meeting or conference planners or coordinators and 11 percent fell into the "other" category.

The typical travel buyer respondent had 15 years of travel management experience. Sixty-eight percent of buyer respondents were female.

In this survey, "travel buyers" includes all qualified respondents; "travel managers" is a subset of "travel buyers."

"Travel manager"—unless otherwise specified—refers to the approximately 64 percent of respondents with the titles of travel manager, supervisor, vice president or director. Of those respondents who are classified as "travel managers," about 18 percent were travel vice presidents, about 21 percent were travel directors, and about 62 percent held travel manager or travel supervisor titles.

BTN art director Eric Wong designed all charts; executive managing editor Chris Davis wrote all captions. BTN appreciates the participation of the respondents and market research and media consulting firm Preston/Rogers Associates, which compiled and tabulated the results.
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