My top 5 learnings from thrive Conference 2020.
Last week the Institute of Travel Management (ITM) launched thrive Conference. This 2 day conference was due to take place in the sunny southerly seaside town of Brighton as it had done the previous year. It’s an event fuelled by networking, a bustling exhibition hall, face to face meetings, engaging speakers and an extremely memorable night out! This year - a completely different story, but not in the way you might think. Instead of cancelling or postponing, the ITM team went full steam ahead with the conference virtually on the planned dates and it did not disappoint. I have to admit it’s so refreshing to see an independent organisation overcoming the odds and not letting the C-word disrupt more than it has already.
If your organisation has previously had any requirement for business travel: be it employees travelling by plane, train, taxi, staying in a hotel, or simply attending an external meeting, then you’re probably wondering too - what’s next? What will the rest of the year hold for the anticipated return of business travel? Spoiler alert! - Thrive Conference didn’t reveal exactly what’s going to happen, because no one knows, but what it did share was some expert insights across all the sessions. Here’s my top 5…
1. Travel with Purpose
We know business travel will not be the same as before, but it’s important to have goals around your purpose, but more importantly putting that purpose into action. As told by Karen Hutchings, Global Head of Travel at EY, “Let’s not bounce back, let's look into the future.” We need to utilise this time to create or strengthen habits around cost saving, the environment and well-being. Sustainability and employee engagement shouldn't be forgotten during the crisis. What can you do in your company to drive this on?
2. Authenticity is king
The travel industry may have to reset, with fewer people on planes there may be a period where we feel like we’re in the 1960’s with a potential capitalism turning point ahead. Ben Page, CEO at Ipsos, noted that understanding human needs and personalising services will become paramount. Authenticity, community focus and industries pulling together is what’s needed to get business travel back on track.
3. Travel Responsibly
Update your travel policy; use this as an opportunity to sharpen your travel program or create one to make sure your employees are safe going forward. Reach out to suppliers and vendors you're working with, or indeed not working with, to see what they are doing to make travel safer - what does “safe & clean'' mean to your business? As Becky Burton-Stevens from American Airlines put it, “Let’s not waste a good crisis” and take a phased approach now at proactively ensuring processes are improved. Things will undoubtedly be different - Peter Glover, MD at TripBAM delivering the hard blow that it may be the “end of the breakfast buffet” at hotels as we know it! Start thinking about the specifics.
4. F2F will always win
A theme throughout the conference was that people will travel again, because no Zoom meeting will ever replace the vitality of real-life interaction (even if you invest in Zoom Pro!). Innovation, creativity, loyalty, long term relationships and trust are not built online, as Paul Abott, CEO of AmEx Global Business Travel highlighted. Virtual meeting platforms might hurt business travel in the short term - At the moment they are helping us to survive, but in the long run, it’s the face to face meetings that will make us thrive. My favourite quote from the Conference was from SBR Consulting's MD Alan Morton on how you read the text in the image below, "Opportunity is no where" or "Opportunity is now here".
5. You’re only human
We really must remember this, especially in these times. Caroline Strachan of Festive Road, presented us with the I’m only human life grid: a self-check chart to make sure we don’t lose sight of what is important to us. With author and keynote speaker, Bella Mackie, echoing the relevance of this. Share the load if you're feeling any strain on your mental health and don’t downplay your worries. Talk to your colleagues and managers, we’re all in this together.
The conference finished up with the announcement of Alison Rogan, Director of Travel & Expense at Barclays, as their incoming Chairperson, along with some virtual zoom drinks with all the attendees. While I get great enjoyment out of seeing my own colleagues on Zoom, it was fantastic to see such a mix of people from the industry in that setting! And not just people - Brian, a much loved goat from overlands joined in the fun. All in all, very well done to ITM for going above and beyond, to deliver such an engaging virtual conference.
Taking all of these key points into consideration in relation to the return of business travel; I'll take advantage of a shameless plug to tie it all together! Download our Webinar on-demand on controlling costs, while managing duty of care within ground transportation here.
If your company has any employee in Ireland, the UK or across Europe who takes taxis for business travel and you want to tighten up cost control and employee safety, then it would be great to connect.