How to show up stronger as a business travel manager

In today’s business travel environment, many travel managers are feeling the pressure to show up stronger than ever. With risk and spend management high on the business agenda, the c-suite is paying attention to travel in a new way. The spotlight is now on how travel managers can juggle risk management and savings to create a successful, safety-conscious programme.

Seek out insight

Successful people have a few things in common; they listen and learn from subject matter experts, research and use data, and assimilate it to inform their decisions. It’s impossible to know everything, especially in these uncertain times. We’ve pulled together some suggestions to help you lead your organisation forward, grow your own expertise, and get you ready for when your travel programme is back in full swing.

Here are a few steps you can take:

  • Educate yourself on the travel industry as much as possible. Use webinars to soak up industry news and join your local travel organisations, like a GBTA chapter1, to get involved and build up connections
  • Find out if your travel management company (TMC) offers any online customer networking opportunities or shared learning events. For example, we offer the Egencia Connect Community, which helps travel managers find and share insights and knowledge with peers and industry experts.
  • Work closely with your internal stakeholders to ensure that their needs are covered. That could mean regular discussions with teams such as HR, in terms of health and safety, or finance in terms of travel costs and spending. Find more advice on how to approach this in the Relaunching business travel after COVID-19 webinar

Don’t be an island: Create a network of stakeholders that touch travel and health and safety, whether that be HR, facilities, exec leaders, etc. When you talk to HR, really think through the risks associated with travel in a COVID-19 era to ensure they’re acknowledged and mitigated where possible. You don’t want to publish some guidelines or a framework in the absence of information. And you really don’t want your travellers to find themselves in a situation where they need help and don’t know what to do.”   

— Caroline Strachan, managing partner, Festive Road

Ask the right questions

Consider the questions and answers you need to cover as you plan your programme redesign or work on your next executive presentation.

  • What does travel mean to your company, and how will you embed it into your growth and recovery strategy? Evaluate your business travel programme and policies to ensure they’ll meet your business’ objectives under the new normal
  • How will travellers be affected per function? Talk to department heads to share ideas on who needs to get back on the road and how they may need to be supported differently. Depending on your business, anyone from sales and HR to creatives and engineers will be affected by changes in travel, so it’s important to hear what kind of extra support they’ll need
  • How have you addressed your travellers’ anxieties? Talk to your travellers, whether directly or with company-wide surveys. IATA recently reported that 84 percent of travellers are afraid to travel until the virus is contained2. It’s essential to address your employees’ anxieties so, they can feel comfortable with travelling again, and you can provide them with the very best risk management support
  • How will your account manager help you? The account manager at your TMC is an expert on business travel and should provide you with invaluable support and information

Download our toolkit on how to redesign your business travel programme post COVID-19 for actionable advice on setting goals, analysing, and revising your corporate travel programme, and policies

Get sharing

Once you have your plan in place, the next step is to share it with your senior leadership team. Getting everyone around a virtual table is your first big hurdle, then comes preparing, and presenting.

  • Start small. Reach out to your manager first and leverage their support to escalate your concerns and initiatives to the right people
  • Focus on what you know and can control to influence decisions and minimise risk to travellers. You can’t predict the future, so make sure you address the things you’re doing now, and exactly how they’ll support your business and travellers

“Keep it short and simple. [Your leadership team] want to see the big picture without a ton of overwhelming information. Provide a couple of options, but always remember to put your recommendation first.”

— Whitni Willmore travel manager, Engineered Structures, Inc.

  • Breakdown your challenges into manageable chunks for sharing. Start with the main challenges and opportunities and then address how you’re meeting them to make sure the most urgent needs are heard and understood
  • Be confident and have your data on hand. But, remember to ask for feedback, there could be ideas in the room that you haven’t yet considered

“Don’t go in without doing your homework. Be concise and lead with facts and statistics.”

— Lisa Wilke, corporate travel manager, Nationwide.

Be confident

We’re living through unprecedented times. The demands and challenges of 2020 are poles apart from those we’ve all faced before. Trust yourself, do your research, leverage your stakeholder relationships, and put safety first. And if you still feel nervous about sharing your plans and ideas, take some tips from our blog Easy strategies to increase your executive presence, start with a deep breath, and a drink of water. You’ve got this.

And finally; work with great partners

At Egencia, we can help you action all of the hints and tips above. Our teams are always on hand to support you. Once you’ve gathered the feedback from your internal stakeholders and understand their new requirements, our expert account management and implementation teams will help your business to adjust its policies based on your needs.

We also have an excellent online resource in the Egencia Connect Community we mentioned above. The community is a safe space for travel managers to share best practices, get business travel tips and advice from travel experts and other peers, and earn points for completing fun challenges.

As an organisation that’s trusted to manage travel by over 9,000 companies around the world, we can help you become a stronger business travel manager for your organisation.

Check out the complete toolkit to redesigning your travel programme post COVID-19 to learn more about preparing for the next phase of travel.

1. “US Chapters.” GBTA. https://www.gbta.org/membership-and-communities/us-chapters
2. “IATA COVID-19 passenger survey.” International Air Transport Association (IATA). April 2020. https://www.iata.org/en/publications/covid-passengers-survey/