Being a good travel manager is far from easy. It’s a position that enables others in the company to conduct their role better, but they themselves are often stretched thin across various activities. From negotiating supplier agreements and setting travel policies, to tracking travellers internationally – travel managers are responsible for multiple priorities at any given time.
Even with recent rapid technological developments, face-to-face meetings remain a business necessity that has resulted in an increased demand for controllable corporate travel.
However, with change comes new opportunities. For travel managers, this means assessing what they do today and showing where they can add value to their organisations. Crucially, it’s also determining what success in the role will look like in the future.
If you were to look at a travel manager’s key objectives today, their strategies would revolve around:
Some travel managers are naturally talented for the role, but our research has shown that people tend to fall into the position of travel manager, and must learn and develop the necessary skills to achieve their targets.
Whilst there are many skills that a travel manager requires, we believe that the following 5 are the most crucial attributes necessary to make the role of travel manager a success within their organisations.
The catalyst for success or failure of a travel manager is dependent on how well they have engaged with their internal stakeholders.
Each department within a business will have an involvement in the process of procuring, delivering, and paying for travel for their team members. Travel managers must ensure that they have the correct personnel involved from the beginning, and that they can identify what differing objectives they require to meet corporate targets, as it will encourage greater collaboration and compliance from their colleagues.
In a role as diverse and complex as a travel manager’s, the breadth of challenges facing them means that they must be well versed in all matters to enable them to compete in the ever-changing travel industry environment.
Being educated in the latest tools, services, practices, and processes will allow them to better overcome challenges, improve the efficiency of their programmes, and increase the safety of their corporate travellers.
An ability to negotiate and influence stakeholders, vendors, and suppliers will ensure that these dealings are beneficial to everyone involved.
Creating and enforcing travel policies is one of a travel managers’ key responsibilities. Unless they get the full support of senior managers to mete out the consequences of non-compliance, then leakage could become an escalating issue.By ensuring that they influence the key personnel from the beginning, the more likely that their hard work in creating travel policies will be rewarded.
When dealing with suppliers, effective negotiations can provide their travellers with better deals and more comfortable accommodation, resulting in better travel experiences. It will also lead to a higher satisfaction with you as their travel manager.
4. Analytical Decision Making
Today, the corporate travel environment is changing so fast, it has become increasingly volatile. Thus, travel managers must be ready to reconfigure their strategic priorities at speed, and with certainty. In order to make critical business decisions, they need to be able to mine the data and information at their disposal and drive rapid decision making.
As analytical experience grows, travel managers can optimise their travel processes over time, and learn to innovate and operate in ways that result in their key objectives becoming more achievable.
In a fast-paced environment, travel managers must be ready to adapt and react to external situations quickly. In considering the PESTLE framework (Political, Economic, Social, Technology, Legal, and Environmental) for potential challenges, travel managers should be aware of the impacts that each of these may cause, and how best to overcome them.
The Institute of Travel Management is the leading association for business travel buyers and suppliers. Representing over 3,500 members in the UK and Ireland, ITM has been the “go-to-place” for business travel professionals as a source of information, career progression, and toolkits for more than 60 years.