Corporate Travel Reflections: Getting TMCs Back to Business

April 14, 2020

I was recently talking with one of my TMC partners about the challenges of today as well as what we think the future of business travel will look like.

“To be honest, Annette,” he said, “I don’t think anyone knows for sure. All I know is that what we will take out of this is more than business attributes. We will all become better human beings and take away what we are supposed to from all of this. There has to be more for us to learn.”

I thought about his words long after our conversation. It is easy to get consumed by the day-to-day challenges and stress. It’s harder to look forward when there’s so much uncertainty. His comments reflect so much of what I have come to know about the TMC community over my 33 years in the industry: TMCs are brilliant at their ability to weather the worst of times, re-invent themselves, and above all else, remain positive, hopeful and dedicated to taking care of business travelers.

Face-to-face or video business meetings

The way we view global business travel and travelers is forever changed. Prior to COVID-19, I traveled 50% of my week without much thought to corporate travel risks. I took so many things for granted around my safety and security. I was more concerned about what I wanted to accomplish on the trip than the air quality of the plane or if my room or car rental would be sanitized beyond a normal cleaning even if I had a sniffle or a cough.

Business travelers will start to travel again – that we all know. We are in the business of getting people together so they can collaborate and drive success. Can you sell your product or conduct a business review via video? Yes and no.

Technically you can do just about anything over video, but that doesn’t mean you will have the same result. Some of my strongest relationships and successful sales engagements were with customers I could spend time with over dinners, lunches and events. I got to know them and their families. That human interaction was invaluable and I didn’t realize how important it was until it wasn’t there.

Four questions to consider as enterprise travel restarts

As we get back to business, here are four insights to think about:  

1.     Will cost be important?

Yes. That will never change, however that balance between cost and traveler care will be weighed more heavily. This will manifest in new travel policies and guidelines bringing in even more complexity to an already complex transaction.

2.     Will my vendor relationships change?  

Yes, in that they will be more critical than ever as we rely on those vendors to help us all ensure our traveling community is safe and secure. It will also be important to remember how those vendors supported you now. A reflection of a true partner is one that supports you even when times are challenging.  

3.     Will travelers want to know more about the details of their trip?

Yes and so much more than they do today. We will all need to be sensitive to new things each person will consider important to their safety and security. Technology features, such as dynamic site messaging, will need to step in to help satisfy these concerns, and travelers may want more human interaction as they maneuver their way back to being on the road.

4.     Will business meetings continue to be done via video?

Yes. During previous crises, businesses did not have the technology to support connecting and working remotely. We no longer have those restrictions and, for many companies, they will continue to leverage video in the short term. This will help drive cost savings and accommodate the complexity of phased re-opening of cities. Long-term use of video as the default is less clear and will require further consideration for its long-term viability for business use.  

The TMC community is at the heart of business travel. We now have a tremendous opportunity to prove just how resilient we all are. We can take that with us as we move forward and be stronger together.

On behalf of everyone at Deem, I want to thank you all personally for all you do.

Author

Annette M. Cumming
VP, Channel Sales

Annette has spent her 30+ year career deeply involved in the travel industry. She is responsible for the strategy and growth of Deem’s travel agency channel and brings her technology and distribution expertise to Deem’s product innovation and go-to-market strategy.

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