Your work moved 100 percent remotely, which was a big change, but what else has changed for you in the last 24 months?
With the acquisition of a new company, what had been my well-managed program went awry. The acquired company’s travel program was very fragmented, so we weathered the pandemic by consolidating from over 70 travel agencies into one.
What is your biggest opportunity and how will you make the most of it?
I also have meetings and after 10 years of working to determine where the ownership should be, I got a budget to put in some meeting technology. So it’s taking me a lot of time too. We see a great opportunity to manage meetings because it’s so fragmented.
Where are you starting with your meeting management strategy and what are your goals?
We are starting with a meeting approval form rather than a meeting request, as the organization of the program will rest in the hands of the meeting owners. Our goal is to have visibility at different levels of activity. Understanding this volume will give us more negotiating leverage. Currently, we know that larger meetings are very well managed and have been for a long time. It’s the smaller, simpler meetings, which we believe make up about 70 percent of our total meeting spend, that can really use our help. We want to provide resource and budget support to help organizers spend budgets effectively, but we need to do this without creating too many constraints on meeting owners.
This can be a challenge. do you work with any other travel or dating colleagues?
I sit in global procurement. We do not have a travel or dating department. For the size of our program, that’s two full-time people on the trip. It makes it quite challenging. Even though I’m part of procurement, I have strategy and operations, where many of my counterparts just have strategy [while] stakeholders and the business own the supplier relationship. I can do it all – but because of that, I’m not dealing with another travel department that might see things a little differently. That said, I had more difficulty on the dating side trying to convince the right people that it was the right investment.
In what ways have you become a greater resource for your company?
Travelers are excited to use new technology platforms [that came with the travel program consolidation]. On the management side, we now have all this consolidated data that we couldn’t produce before, and we can extend our discounts to a number of people in our global markets who have never had access to it. There are also tools that we want to distribute to our financial business partner so that they can access the data. We want this to be more self-service and in-depth.
What is your next biggest challenge?
It is managing travelers’ expectations towards the reality of how the world is today. It’s digging deep and finding the patience to explain and remind people that a corporate travel program is no different than a leisure travel experience in the disruptions that are happening. … Then it escalates to management because they want to know why we have challenges in our program. And then my next biggest challenge is cost management.
How do you plan to work through them?
We are continuing to communicate and educate about the tools and resources available [travelers]. It’s not always about picking up the phone and talking to an agent for 20 minutes.
Our CEO made a communication in late May raising awareness of the cost share. He strongly suggested reducing non-essential domestic travel. In May, we had a 26 percent increase over 2019 in volume and an even greater increase in costs. In June, we saw a 26 percent reduction in volume and the same reduction in spending over 2019. It was all that pent-up demand. [coming out of the pandemic], and I know there were a lot of company meetings. This has now been reduced.
Have you been recognized or compensated for all these changes? Or is it part of the job?
It’s part of the job.