Your job moved to 100 percent remote, which was a big change, but what else has changed for you in the past 24 months?
With the acquisition of a new company, what had been my nice managed program went poof. The acquired company’s travel program was highly fragmented, so we spent the pandemic consolidating from over 70 travel agencies to one.
What is your biggest opportunity, and how will you make the most Of it?
I also have meetings, and after 10 years working to determine where the ownership should lie, I got a budget to put some meetings technology in place. So that is taking up a lot of my time as well. We see a great opportunity to manage meetings, because it’s so highly fragmented.
Where are you starting with the meetings management strategy, and what are your goals?
We are starting with a meeting approval form and not a meeting request, as the program organization will stay in the hands of the meeting owners. Our goal is to get visibility into the various levels of activity. Understanding that volume will give us more negotiating leverage. Currently, we know the larger meetings are managed very well and have been for a long time. It’s the smaller and simpler meetings, which we believe make up about 70 percent of our total meetings spend, that could really use our help. We want to offer sourcing and budgeting support to help organizers spend budgets effectively, but we have to do it without creating too many limitations for the meeting owners.
That can be a challenge. do you work with any other colleagues dedicated to travel or meetings?
I sit in global procurement. We don’t have a travel or a meetings department. For the size of our program, there are two full-time people on travel. It makes it quite challenging. Even though I’m part of procurement, I have strategy and operations, where a lot of my counterparts just have strategy [while] the stakeholders and business own the supplier relationships. I get to do it all—but because of that, I’m not dealing with a whole other travel department that may see things a little differently. That said, I had more difficulty on the meetings side trying to convince the right people that it was the right investment.
In what ways have you become a greater resource to 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 we couldn’t produce before and can extend our discounts to a number folks in our global markets who never had access to them. There also are tools we want to roll out to our finance business partner so they can have access to the data. We want that to be more self-service and in greater detail.
What is your biggest upcoming challenge?
It’s managing the expectations of the travelers to 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 that escalates up to management because they want to know why we have challenges in our program. And then my other greatest challenge is managing costs.
How do you plan to work through those?
We are continuing to communicate and educate on the tools and resources available to the [travelers]. It’s not always about picking up a phone and talking to an agent for 20 minutes.
Our CEO put out a communication at the end of May raising awareness about the cost piece. He highly suggested reducing nonessential internal 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 about the same reduction spend over 2019. It was all that pent-up demand [coming out of the pandemic], and I know there were a lot of meetings going on in the company. That’s been scaled back now.
Have you been recognized or compensated for all these changes? Or is it part of the job?
It’s part of the job.