BTN's 2012 Travel Manager Salary & Attitude Survey Shows Mixed Results, Underlying Strength - Business Travel News

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BTN's 2012 Travel Manager Salary & Attitude Survey Shows Mixed Results, Underlying Strength

August 01, 2012 - 03:30 PM ET

By Chris Davis

A quick glance at the top line of this year's BTN Travel Manager Salary & Attitude Survey shows a surprisingly ugly result for U.S. travel managers: The average compensation package for travel buyers dropped 4.7 percent from last year's survey. That figure has little precedent in the 29 years that BTN has polled readers as to their overall compensation; it's only the second time in the past 17 years that the year-over-year average has dropped. But top lines can deceive, and a deeper look at this year's data raises the opposite conclusion: It was a strong year for buyer compensation, especially in light of a sluggish U.S. job market.

[Please click here to view the digital edition of the 2012 Travel Manager Salary & Attitude Survey, featuring all charted data, downloadable as a pdf.] 

The 224 business travel buyers who provided salary information for this year's BTN survey on average reported that their total compensation increased by 5 percent, a shade below the 5.5 percent increase calculated in last year's survey but historically higher than typical increases recorded in this survey. Only 4 percent saw their compensation decrease this year.

Why the disparity? Much of it appears to lie in differences between the 2011 and 2012 survey samples of those respondents with the specific title of "travel director." In the 2011 survey, those respondents reported average compensation of almost $155,000 in total compensation. This year it's only $128,904, but those respondents reported an average 2.1 percent year-over-year increase in their compensation.

Those respondents with the title of travel manager—the largest subset of respondents—reported a total annual compensation package of $98,082, slightly lower than in last year's report but about 5.2 percent higher than what this year's sample indicated they received in the prior year.

The entire survey base includes travel managers, travel directors, travel vice presidents and travel specialists, advisors, coordinators, analysts and buyers along with purchasing/procurement/sourcing managers, supervisors and directors; transportation managers, supervisors and directors; and meetings/conference managers, supervisors, planners and directors. In aggregate, they reported an average compensation package of $105,518, actually a bit higher than the $103,912 reported in the 2011 survey and representing a 5.4 percent increase from their own prior-year compensation.

(For another perspective, the U.K.-based Institute of Travel & Meetings travel managers association this month released its first member compensation survey, finding a U.K. annual average of £60,464 in a survey conduced in March and April. Using an exchange rate of $1.56 for every £1, ITM noted the similarity of its $94,324 figure with the average annual U.S. compensation of $96,851 figure included in a December 2010 Global Business Travel Association survey, leading ITM
to conclude that "the remuneration of U.K. travel managers is completely in line with that of their counterparts in the United States.")

Increases in compensation often come hand-in-hand with increases in workload, and so it is this year with BTN's respondents. In an open-ended question on the greatest change in their jobs in the past year, several volunteered that they've been charged with additional duties, including those not related to travel. "With the success of the travel program in less than four years, I am now being given broader responsibilities in areas outside travel including communications and
office services and design," wrote one.

The additional workload perhaps is a factor for the
42 percent of total respondents who indicated they believe their compensation package is low relative to their responsibilities, a figure about the same as reported last year. About 48 percent
indicated they see their salaries as in line with their responsibilities, while the remainder indicated they are "paid very well."

Changing Responsibilities 

About 10 percent of respondents indicated that in the past two years they've assumed responsibility for T&E card management, the most frequently cited among a list of job functions offered in the survey. About 9 percent each noted new responsibilities for their companies' intranet travel site and travel data warehouse.

Meetings management led among functions in which respondents do not currently manage but expect to within the next two years. About 13 percent expect to add strategic meetings program management to their professional repertoires, while 12 percent expect to receive responsibility for meetings logistics management. Some analysts see a correlation between corporate interest in strategic meetings management—the multi-pronged approach that blends policy and technology implementation with advanced sourcing practices—and overall economic weakness; the uncertain economy could drive more attention to meetings cost control.

Interestingly, fewer respondents (13 percent) currently manage videoconferencing services (often included in meetings demand-management strategies) than any other offered function. While meetings and travel managers sometimes are involved in the determination of any policy that directs meeting stakeholders to use remote conferencing services instead of planning a live event, management responsibility for the technology itself typically resides outside travel and meetings departments, often in IT or facilities. However, an additional 7 percent of respondents expect more videoconferencing responsibility by 2014.

Other functions respondents expect to newly manage include online expense reporting (10 percent)—perhaps driven by increasing adoption of web-based expense management measures in lieu of spreadsheets and the growing convergence between online booking tools and expense management platforms—as well as traveler security (10 percent) and traveler tracking technology (9 percent). Attention to travel risk management certainly has grown in the past decade with each act of terror, spate of political unrest, natural disaster or changing liability regulation, but only 52 percent of respondents report they currently manage traveler security.

Meanwhile, only 15 percent and 14 percent of respondents, respectively, manage mobile phone contracts and "mobility services," but an additional 10 percent expect to manage the latter by 2014. About 5 percent expect more mobile phone contract management. Mobile technology is perhaps the most rapidly evolving aspect of travel management, with a mounting number of apps targeting business travelers and many companies still weighing the best ways to handle them, in terms of allowable downloads and policies governing their use.

More than nine in 10 respondents still manage traditional areas like airline and hotel relationships, with slightly fewer maintaining responsibility for policy creation and enforcement. Respondents may not feel a commensurate increase in recognition along with increased workload: 29 percent of them indicated that they are not well-recognized within their organizations for their professional efforts, up from 21 percent last year. Half indicated such recognition is adequate, while the remaining 21 percent consider themselves very well-recognized.

Looking Toward 2014 

Survey respondents may be assuming additional responsibilities outside the traditional travel realm, but by and large they still see travel management as the home for their professional futures. Only 3 percent of respondents indicated that in two years they expect to be employed by the same organization but in a "a largely non-travel-related position," a figure that was 11 percent in last year's survey.

A 42 percent plurality of respondents expect to be in the same position with the same organization—up from 32 percent last year—and 32 percent expect a promotion to a more advanced travel-related position. About 18 percent of respondents expect to be employed by a different organization, with about half of them expecting to be in a similar position.


Business Travel News' 29th annual Travel Manager Salary & Attitude Survey measures compensation and analyzes perceptions among corporate travel professionals. It compares current salaries to previous years, determines how compensation is derived and shares sentiments from those buying and managing corporate travel.

For the 2012 edition, invitation emails were sent to all qualified subscribers of Business Travel News and other publications from The BTN Group, including Travel Procurement, Travel Management and The Transnational. For further qualification, respondents were asked to describe their position. Those who met the criteria indicated they were involved in setting corporate travel policies; managing business travel cost controls; selecting or recommending business travel suppliers; planning, arranging or approving business travel for individuals; negotiating meeting rates; or selecting or recommending meeting facilities and destinations. Those respondents indicating no such responsibilities were disqualified.

A total of 245 qualified respondents sufficiently completed an online survey questionnaire, though not every respondent answered every question.

Of the 245 respondents, 98 were travel managers or supervisors, 30 were travel directors and 21 were travel specialists, advisors, coordinators, analysts or buyers. The remainder included vice presidents; purchasing/procurement/sourcing managers, supervisors and directors; transportation managers, supervisors and directors; and meetings/conference managers, supervisors, planners and directors. Of the total, 63 percent were female.

About 28 percent of all respondents indicated they spend 100 percent of their work time on travel management. More than six in 10 respondents said they spend at least half their time on travel management.

More than 55 percent of all respondents indicated they held none of the 10 industry certifications listed in the questionnaire. The certification held by more than any other by far was Certified Corporate Travel Executive, with 14 percent of the survey base.

Polled travel professionals represented organizations with a wide range of travel expenditures from a broad sampling of industries. Manufacturing (15 percent), finance/insurance (11 percent), technology (11 percent) and pharmaceuticals/medical (7 percent) were the most heavily represented sectors. About 31 percent indicated their 2011 spending on U.S.-booked air travel was less than $2 million while 18 percent reported that it was more than $20 million. About 36 percent of respondents pegged their organizations' U.S. air spending between $2 million and $12 million.

BTN used SurveyMonkey to collect and tabulate responses.

This report originally appeared in the July 23, 2012, issue of Business Travel News. 

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