10 April 2003 | David Arminas
British business travellers have put on a brave face during the Iraq conflict and continue to travel despite terrorist threats, according to the Institute of Travel Management (ITM).
A survey of 150 senior travel managers carried out just before hostilities started late last month found that 60 per cent of respondents would travel for business even if war broke out.
But half of respondents said they had contingency plans for disruptions to travel.
Only 10 per cent had placed restrictions on the number of colleagues travelling together.
A spokesperson for the ITM said it showed that travel managers have had a long time to fine-tune their policies for journeys during unsettled times.
"There was such a long lead-up time to the Iraq war that travel managers had taken into account all security measures they possibly could," he said.
But David Randall, a partner in the Corporate Travel Partnership consultancy, said the survey also showed that 40 per cent of businesses would not travel.
Randall, a former director of procurement at the Institute of Directors and a vice-president of procurement at Citibank, told SM: "I'm also surprised that the figure is so low. I would have thought that 65-70 per cent of businesses would cut back on travel."
Randall said terrorism in Northern Ireland and its spill-over to the mainland UK had made domestic flyers more phlegmatic about conflicts.
A survey of members of the Guild of Business Travel Agents (GBTA) carried out just before the war found that more than half reported no evidence of clients cutting back on travel.
But travel buyers face an uncertain year, according to Tom Stone, director of international travel at Universal Music Group. He said buyers were having to "play a waiting game" before signing new contracts.
"The issue for travel managers is to be very careful about the deals you strike with large airlines," he told SM. "If you are engaged with a carrier that may not be around by the end of the year, do you hope for the best or terminate and go somewhere else?"
Stone, who took over as chairman of the ITM last week, said the real problem was that no end was in sight to the fighting and that the airlines' financial problems would continue well after the end of the conflict.
Travel buyers' budgets were also threatened by the loss of rebates from airlines if they went bankrupt, he said.