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What’s top of mind for travel managers in 2019

September 4, 2019 / Canada

Much like a business trip, being a travel manager is largely about the journey, perhaps because the industry keeps changing and so does your proverbial destination. Thankfully, GBTA Convention brings everyone together to discuss what’s most important.

This year’s event was no different, and travel managers are taking on new responsibilities in their journey to improve their travel program and adapt to meet the needs of their travelers. Read on for our top 4 takeaways from GBTA Convention 2019.

1. There’s no one path for all travelers

Travel managers are no strangers to variety since they’re responsible for navigating the demands of all types of travelers. Recent years have seen changes in how travel managers are adapting their programs. They’re now including more options for travelers to book the ways they want to.

For Suzanne Boyan, Travel Operations Coordinator at ZS Associates, that means listening to her travelers. In her session, “Leakage ROI: New Approach to ‘Managing’ vs. ‘Solving’ Off-Channel Activity,” she talked about incorporating a new online booking tool, then testing a pilot program with a select set of travelers.

“About 50% said it made them more productive, and [the other] 50% said that it made them feel taken care of,” said Boyan. “One hundred percent said that they wanted us to roll it out to everyone else because they wanted that online experience.”

To the audience’s surprise, Miriam Moscovici, Senior Director of Research and Innovation at BCD Travel, shared that the source of the difference isn’t due to the great millennial divide. In fact, she said, there’s a lot of variation even within the generations. “I don’t know that it’s necessarily the year you were born. I think it’s the lifestyle you’re in. Whether that’s having a family, a partner, volunteer responsibilities,” said Moscovici in the session “Tech Trends 2019.”

Beth Clicquennoi-Mansure, Senior Manager Global Travel Operations at Dell EMC, agreed: “Millennials aren’t more rogue than others.” Clicquennoi-Mansure’s program introduces additional granularity, carving out space specifically for road warriors and her VPs that complements her general travel program.

2. Data is a travel manager’s best friend

Including more options in your travel program has another huge benefit to the travel manager: reduced information leakage. As fewer travelers go outside of your platforms, you retain more data related to your company’s travel habits. “As you grow and scale, there are going to be bigger implications,” said Brian Beard, President at Data Visualization Intelligence Inc. “If you have a lack of data from people booking outside of the program, you lose some of the ability to negotiate [contracts with vendors].”

Beard recommended that travel managers come to renewal discussions with their own data set: “We’re trying to turn the tables and level the playing field by letting you source your own data that you can compare to your supplier data.” Cynthia Shumate agreed. Her motto is: the management of the program lets you measure, which lets you make decisions.

3. The role of a travel manager continues to expand

After all this talk about the importance of data, it’s clear that the role of a travel manager includes a broad spectrum of responsibilities, compounded by the kinds of travelers you need to accommodate.

In fact, you’re probably working broadly across teams to get buy-in and support. In the session “#FOMO: What Companies Who Prioritize Traveler Satisfaction Know… and You Don’t,” Hannah Jaffee, Research Analyst at GBTA, presented the findings from her survey on corporate traveler satisfaction programs. “We see that multiple departments are involved in decision making,” said Jaffee.

Much was made of the impact travel managers can have on important aspects of the business outside of travel. Jaffee highlighted that traveler satisfaction programs not only reduce the number of disgruntled emails in your inbox but also can actually improve employee retention.

Clicquennoi-Mansure sees an opportunity to leverage her expertise and contacts within the hospitality space to improve overall benefits: “We’re trying to enhance their experience and are working closely with HR. We’re looking for what [travelers and employees] need, like gym memberships.”

4. Travel managers have the potential to affect the world—for the better

Your impact doesn’t have to end at improving the booking phase for your travelers. In fact, you have the potential to make the world a better place with your decisions and by creating a culture of innovation and collective responsibility.

Amanda Armstrong, Assistant Vice President at Enterprise Holdings Inc., thinks that in order to keep travelers safe, you need to foster a culture where colleagues watch out for one another. “I think technology can solve many problems, but we can also solve it by talking to our peers on the road,” she said. “It’s about taking care of each other and walking your colleague home, if they feel unsafe,” said Armstrong in “What’s a Woman to Do? Addressing Traveler Safety for Women on the Road.”

In the session “Expose Full Potential of Travel in Your Company’s Sustainability Program,” Lisa Young, Corporate Travel Manager at Yum! Brands, highlighted the opportunity for travel managers to partner with their company’s sustainability team to develop a more eco-friendly travel program.

“I went through our org chart and found the sustainability manager and reached out to him to partner. He was excited because not a lot of people reach out,” said Young. “We talked for an hour, and I discovered all of these sustainability initiatives.” Young partnered with him, tying her work to larger company goals and helping drive a greater overall impact on the environment.

Summing up

If it feels like the role of the travel manager is changing, then that means you’re paying attention. Travel managers are supporting more and more types of travelers as workplaces become more diverse and millennials enter new stages of life.

Data can be an asset in measuring your travel program’s areas of strength, as well as areas for improvement. What’s exciting is that it’s largely up to you to assess your organization’s needs and decide how you can have the greatest impact. Your broad exposure to many departments means that these changes can include the booking phase to company culture and everything in between.

To learn more about where the industry is headed and how you can prepare for the changes, tap the button below to download our guide, “The Future of Travel Management.”

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