When Covid-19 hamstrung business travel, “it got quiet, and when things get quiet, other things get louder,” said Susan Lichtenstein, senior vice president of global travel strategies for Partnership Travel Consulting and a founder of the Travel and Meetings Society, an industry task force that examined diversity issues, among others.
“When it got quieter in the travel field, the social voices rose up, including in our industry,” Lichtenstein said, noting TAMS’ efforts coincided with the Floyd protests. ” And this gave companies an opportunity to look at other things in their companies. Like, what are we doing? How are we doing? … Because those opportunities started to rise up, those conversations are now changing.”
Some of those changes are impacting travel sourcing strategies. According to an April BTN survey of 163 business travel buyers, about 59 percent agreed or strongly agreed that their organization considers potential partners’ DEI initiatives when considering doing business with them. TCG Consulting managing director Desiree French said her experience is roughly similar, and though some clients look to apply basic diversity and procurement principles to the process—determining travel suppliers that can be classified as woman- or minority-owned, questioning suppliers in RFPs, and deploying mechanisms to track and collate their answers—others have taken the next steps to a more sophisticated process.
“Some of them will have kind of a standard question,” French said, but others have progressed to asking questions that reflect deeper relationships with suppliers on the topic. “How are you promoting [diversity efforts] within? How will you partner with us to promote it? If we’re truly going into a partnership, how are we going to manage it together?”
French cited one client who during the sourcing process requested one supplier to partner with the organization on an internal week-long DE&I event for employees. “One got involved with them and came to their corporation … and talked about what they’re doing and how they’re handling their customers when they’re coming on board. They literally went and took the time and attended this event to promote it within the client organization as well.”