Business travel seems to be one of those things that can become your responsibility without you even realising. Whilst companies with a big enough travel spend to justify it may have a dedicated travel manager, in smaller businesses ownership it often becomes added on to someone’s main role, such as HR, finance, facilities management, personal assistants or receptionists. If you’ve found yourself in this situation you may be wondering what skills are needed to be successful? Here are 5 important skills that every travel manager should have…
Being able to negotiate is crucial if you’re responsible for travel within your organisation. If you use a travel management company, you’ll have your contract to negotiate, which will usually include remuneration such as transaction fees or a management fee, service level agreements, payment terms to name a few. You may wish to negotiate discounts and/or added value with your travel suppliers too, although you can outsource this to your travel management company if you prefer.
It’s not all contract negotiations though, business travel is an emotional subject within most businesses and there are many stakeholders. With this in mind you’ll likely find yourself negotiating with travellers, bookers and various areas of the business that have a say in the way your organisation books and manages business travel.
Excellent communication skills have always been a prerequisite for travel managers, but an ability to engage with people is probably more relevant in today’s marketplace. In the past, travel managers enforced policies by telling travellers what to do, mandates were commonplace and there was little room for flexibility. Today however, the business travel landscape is very different especially since businesses have increased focus on employee engagement. Instead of forcing travellers to do what the business wants them to do, businesses are more inclined to persuade employees to do the right thing instead of forcing them to do so. Getting the buy in from your travellers and bookers will certainly this much easier and this is where your engagement skills will be invaluable.
#3 Business travel knowledge
Even if you’re completely new to business travel, there are lots of resources within the business travel industry to help you learn more about managing travel. Business Travel IQ is a great source for industry insight and intelligence through commentary, events, reports, bench-marking and analysis. The leading industry magazines Buying Business Travel and The Business Travel Magazine provide regular updates, features and advice to keep you up to date. The Business Travel Show and the Business Travel Conference feature lots of seminars and there are an abundance of networking events throughout the year where can meet like-minded people from who you can learn and share ideas with.
#4 Tech savvy
Technology plays a huge role in the management of business travel so it’s important that you know what’s available and what innovations are on the way so you can use it to your advantage. It’s not just online booking tools, real time data, traveller tracking and content distribution, technology also gives you a great opportunity to be creative about how you engage with your travellers. Keeping up to date with developments to travel technology is really important because changes may have an impact on your travel programme. Tnooz is a great source of the latest travel technology updates.
Data is crucial in maximising the efficiency of a business travel programme so an analytical mind is a great asset. Being able to spot trends and opportunities is critical to ensuring continual improvement. Looking at how travel is purchased and what influences the decisions that are made can often reveal cost savings that may not have been easy to see. These skills will also come in handy when looking into traveller satisfaction, data on staff retention of your business travellers, their sickness record and productivity levels will give you some insight into how your approach to business travel affects employee well being.
If you already manage business travel, what skills could you not live without? Share your thoughts in the comments below. If you’re new to business travel, check out our free ebook, ‘How to write a business travel policy’ with a free template to get you started.