The Rise Before the Fall By Elizabeth West / October 06, 2020 / Contact Reporter Share Total business travel spend for the largest 100 corporate travel programs measured by U.S.-booked travel volume rose again in 2019. U.S.-originating travel as estimated by BTN for these programs hit $11.8 billion, its highest point ever. Yet, the spend spread widened between the biggest programs on the list and the smallest ones. Deloitte again captured the top spot in BTN's annual list with $583.1 million in U.S.-originating air spend. Liberty Mutual closed out the bottom of the list at $36.8 million by the same measure. That's the lowest spending company to make it onto the list since BTN's 2010 CT100 issue, based on post-economic crash data from 2009. This year, there's some indication on the list that as the CT100's biggest programs (think: Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Deloitte and EY) largely spend more, the programs at the lower end of the CT100 are holding relatively steady or seeing travel levels drop. Going into 2020, however, it's clear that all CT100 companies are likely to see travel levels drop. Indeed, even some of the healthiest spenders may find 2019's decade-low $36 million threshold quite aspirational. Among the direst predictions for 2020, Intel predicted its 2019 $95 million in U.S. air volume would crater to just $10 million this year. Pfizer was similarly grim, projecting its $95.2 million spend in 2019 to barely reach $20 million for 2020. Merck, which spent more than $116 million in U.S. air tickets in 2019, said 2020 volume will look more like $25 million. And it's not just spend, Covid-19 is infecting travel policy decisions as well. Companies like Salesforce said 2020 was spent looking at how to change travel policy to address the Covid-19 environment, and as the company begins to consider traveling again, it will now decide which restrictions and behavior changes will need to be permanent. Cognizant, which according to public statements already had a big push from the top down to rein in its own travel spend, is now looking at how it can push its own technology solutions to clients to replace at least some percentage of their business travel. Altogether, the calculous for 2020 will be very different for business travel spend and only time will tell that story.For now, a few trends dappled this year's list of CT100 companies. Price assurance technologies continued to change the way even the largest programs sourced and implemented their hotel programs. Accenture, for one, negotiated dynamic hotel rates for the first time in 2019 and more companies expanded rate cap strategies to additional markets. Price assurance tools for airfares were a popular program addition last year as well. More companies also turned their attention to the tax implications of international travel in 2019. The number of days an employee works in a tax jurisdiction outside their home country has come under more regulatory scrutiny in the past couple of years, and companies like Boeing and Lockheed Martin are paying attention to potential financial risks there. On the other hand, companies are also looking at the financial benefits of reclaiming value added tax, which has become easier with machine learning behind turnkey solutions providers that have come into the market. What Will Travel Look Like When It Returns?There was just one trend other than managing through the Covid-19 crisis that dominated the psychology of Corporate Travel 100 companies in 2019 and 2020: How to make business travel more environmentally sustainable. Even for companies that significantly expanded their travel spend in 2019—like Deloitte and EY and Microsoft—the drive to reduce emissions was palpable among these large global corporations. EY is looking to cut net carbon emissions to zero by the end of 2020; the Covid-19 crisis and travel suspension will likely contribute handily to such goals for many companies. In a move toward sustainable travel, Oracle has implemented a stringent policy that limits employee travel to "business-critical" trips. Likewise, Dell's travel strategy also now puts a much heavier emphasis on meeting the company's longer-term sustainability goals. Siemens has gone down this road for a couple of years already, pushing webconferencing as the default for would-be internal travel. Despite that, the total U.S.-originating travel volume at that company ticked up a few dollars from 2018 to 2019, presumably based on increased trips to clients and business partners.Novartis is driving into its supply chain to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030. Citibank is implementing a similar initiative specifically for travel suppliers. It drafted sustainable travel supply chain policies in 2019 and continued discussions into 2020 on how best to implement those. Pfizer, for one, is pushing traveler education when it comes to sustainability. Its Travel Greener initiative, which it started in 2019, has continued to evolve in 2020 and will include new dashboards, customized mobile notifications and more for when business travel scales up in earnest. German enterprise software solutions provider SAP charges an internal carbon price for air travel in the majority of countries where employees travel and uses those funds to invest in emission offsets. The message from global companies is clear on the sustainability issue: Business travel may be largely suspended for now, but when it comes back, it's going to look different. The demands will be different—and not just from a health and safety perspective, but from a sustainability perspective as well. According to the efforts underway for Corporate Travel 100 companies, suppliers and intermediaries should be ready because sustainable travel is on fire even if actual travel is on the backburner for now.