A travel buyer’s job is to ensure that corporate employees safely travel where they’re needed at a reasonable cost. But it’s much more than that. Importantly, these travel buyers are looking to balance corporate security and budgets with the individual traveler’s preferences and convenience.
A panel of experienced travel buyers told GBTA attendees from Center Stage that successful corporate travel buyers must work hand-in-hand with human resources to help increase employee retention and recruitment. In these days of low unemployment, they recognize their role in helping keep employees happy.
“How do we make travel an attractive part of getting people on board, keeping them there and having them do what they’re supposed to do?” said Stephen Gheerow, travel buyer with the Ford Foundation.
Isabelle Donovan senior manager of global travel at The Boeing Co. revealed that they are also working to improve the experience for their 80,000 travelers. She’d like to “deploy all the fun stuff with AI, machine learning, and chatbots” as well as increase self-service.
“We want to make the travelers really efficient on the road and self-serviced and…have the more expensive agent interaction kept for when something really blows up,” Donovan said.
New York Life Insurance Co. Corp. V.P., CSD Ray Greeve credited technology with helping to integrate various data streams to better forecast costs and identify waste and improper expense reporting. “You can see who’s renting a car and who is submitting taxi receipts at the same time,” he said.
Technology, while increasing traveler convenience and providing data for better cost controls, can be the source of headaches too.
The panelists agreed that the sheer volume of new technologies is a challenge. Each technology investment “must provide a value add,” Donovan explained.
Corporations must also ensure a new app or other technology is secure before they adopt it. These types of security reviews are sometimes “long and drawn out,” said Greeve.
Keeping travelers—particularly technology-adept Millenials—happy while managing security risks and travel costs aren’t easy. Often these priorities clash.
“Our next generation of our travelers…grew up with tablets, phones in their hands,” said Denise Truso, travel services manager with Abbott. “They want to use the apps they love in their personal lives for business, which proves problematic for travel managers” who are concerned about security and safety.
Gheerow agreed, explaining that Ford Foundation wants to give employees access to a Ford app store so they can use some of their favorite apps in a secure way.