Travel managers in Europe are paid significantly less than their North American counterparts, according to a new report released on Thursday (1 June) by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) and meetings specialist Cvent.
The report, based on a survey of 263 travel buyers in the US, Canada and Europe, found that travel managers in the EU (excluding the UK) expect to earn a median salary package of €70,000 this year, representing a 1.9 per cent pay increase from 2022, while travel managers in North America will likely earn a median compensation package of $117,500 (approximately €109,300), marking a 3.5 per cent increase from last year.
European salary estimates published in the report are based on travel managers who reported compensation in Euros, Swedish Krona and Danish Krone. Respondents who are compensated in British Pounds and Norwegian Krone were excluded as, according to the report, the sample size from these groups was insufficient to calculate median compensation. Overall, travel managers from Europe made up 35 per cent of survey respondents.
The findings are similar to a 2022 salary benchmarking survey conducted by ITM that revealed the median base salary for travel managers in the UK is £65,000 (approx. €75,600). However, with the inclusion of bonuses and benefits the total median package jumps to £80,000 (approx. €93,000), according to the ITM study.
Meanwhile, BTN’s 39th annual Travel Manager Survey revealed a slightly higher remuneration trend for US-based travel managers in 2022, with an overall average of $128,439 – including salary, bonuses and incentives – to reflect the expanded role of travel managers post pandemic.
According to the GBTA-Cvent report, travel manager salaries in both North America and Europe are “unlikely to keep pace with inflation”, which has increased 6 per cent and up to 8.5 per cent, respectively in the 12 months to February 2023. As a result, travel managers will likely see “a fairly substantial decline in purchasing power”, the report said.
Despite the pay disparity, job satisfaction levels are similar across the transatlantic. Nine in ten North America-based travel managers (90 per cent) “like” or “love” working in the field, compared 88 per cent of Europe-based travel managers (including those based in the UK).
Commenting on the report, GBTA CEO, Suzanne Neufang, said: “The past few years have required navigating unprecedented changes and a new landscape for business travel, and that includes for our industry’s workforce. So, it’s essential for us to examine how travel managers fit into this forever-changed world.”
The report also identified the opportunity to increase representation
of racial and ethnic minorities in travel management. Of the survey
respondents, one in ten (11 per cent) identified as an underrepresented
racial or ethnic minority, including 14 per cent in North America and 3
per cent in Europe.
Almost three-quarters (74 per cent) of travel
managers surveyed identified as women. This included 75 per cent in
North America and 71 per cent in Europe.
However, female representation narrows further up the pay scale as annual GBTA survey data from 2005 to 2019 reveals a persistent gender pay gap for travel managers in the US.
In 2019, women made up 74 per cent of travel managers who responded to the survey, however the average salary for men ($125,000) was 11 per cent higher than the average salary reported for women ($112,000).
The latest GBTA-Cvent survey was unable to draw definite conclusions due to “an insufficient number of male respondents”, however men appear to be overrepresented at high-travel spend companies, where the likelihood of a higher salary is greater.
While only one-quarter of all travel managers (24 per cent) are men, two out of five travel managers (39 per cent) who work at large programmes with an annual travel spend of at least $30 million are men. This suggests a gender pay gap still exists, however the report cautioned the topic warrants further study.
Regardless of region, travel managers are largely happy with their work-life balance, with 85 per cent of Europe-based travel managers reporting they have a “great” or “decent” work-life balance, compared to 80 per cent of North America-based travel managers.
However, European respondents (54 per cent) are more likely than their North American counterparts (43 per cent) to say they “definitely” or “probably” would consider leaving their current job to work as a travel manager at a different company.
The report also found that travel programmes are less valued in Europe. Two in five (41 per cent) of travel managers in the region said senior leaders do not understand the value of their programme, compared to only 26 per cent of North America-based travel managers.
A possible reason behind this, says the report, is the fact that travel programmes in European companies are more often housed in human resources (24 per cent) and procurement departments (45 per cent), while in the US and Canada corporate travel management is more widely spread across procurement (36 per cent), finance and accounting (20 per cent) and shared services (16 per cent), where a chief financial officer might have more pulling power with the CEO than a human resources head.
Additional findings highlighted regional differences when it comes to the responsibilities that travel managers most enjoy.
Almost one-third of Europe-based travel managers (29 per cent) said implementing sustainability-related practices/policies is among their most favoured responsibilities. This compares to only 5 per cent of North America-based travel managers.
Data analysis and reporting (41 per cent) and implementing or managing technology (39 per cent) complete the top three most enjoyable responsibilities of European travel buyers, while in North America, overseeing the TMC relationship (54 per cent), traveller communication (38 per cent) and data analysis (30 per cent) are preferred.