How to Expand Your Role as a Travel Manager
by Elliott McNamee, on May 19, 2022
Want to expand your role as a travel manager – take on more responsibilities, do cool new work, and advance your career? The “Reinventing the role: travel managers playing new parts” panel at the Business Travel Show Americas had some awesome advice that we’re excited to share with you.
AmTrav was a proud sponsor of the Business Travel Show Americas, and while we attended many interesting sessions,* the “Reinventing the role” panel stole the show.
BNY Mellon’s Mick Lee, founder of WINiT, kicked off with some great advice: don’t get stuck in your job title. Sure, you’re a Travel Manager or a Head of Travel & Meetings, but in that role you have and use operations skills, finance skills, organizational skills, leadership skills, communications and persuasion skills and more – you prove those every day!
Remember that leadership role you took, the organization and communication skills you used to get your travelers home and shut down your travel program in early 2020, then to safely resume travel in the following months and years? Your colleagues are trying to figure out how to re-open offices now, how and when to organize team gatherings to build remote company culture – and you’re an expert at building and executing these strategies! So network and communicate with your company peers, you’ll be ready to step up when opportunities arise.
Another example of an expanding role: Microsoft’s Eric Bailey has done such a great job with Microsoft’s travel sourcing that he’s now in charge of – wait for it – employee devices. What do airline contracts and employee laptops have in common? Well, Eric’s known for doing a great job managing travel spend and supplier contracts for 200,000 travelers across 100 countries, so his colleagues recognized that he can use those same skills to source and deploy devices for the same diverse group of internal customers across those 100 countries.
(Oh, and here’s a fun anecdote: even Microsoft is having trouble correctly estimating its travel budget right now! As Eric says: “I’ll be within a few million, but I can’t tell you if that’s a few million high or low.” So don’t stress if your budgeting is a bit off in the Covid recovery period – even mighty Microsoft can’t get it right!)
Michelle De Costa from Takeda Pharmaceuticals reinforced these points, calling on travel managers to identify how their travel program helps achieve company goals, from sales or service goals to environmental and safety goals. Travel managers are known for being people who help those goals, and are great problem solvers because they either have answers or know how to quickly find them.
To sum it up: think bigger. You have a really awesome set of skills that your leadership and colleagues already see and count on you for. Give some thought to what those skills are, then talk with your colleagues and position yourself for even bigger responsibilities – you can do it!
*Some other fun things we heard. How low did they go: Microsoft corporate travel dropped 98% at the early-2020 depths of the pandemic, engineering firm Bechtel dropped 75% and Takeda dropped 60%. Bob Brindley with Partnership Travel Consulting pointed out that leisure travel continues to be strong, gas prices are high and airlines are being conservative with capacity for operational, staffing and cost reasons – so fares and rates will stay high through at least the end of 2022. Then Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan shared that business travel was still down 36% vs. 2019 in the first quarter of 2022 but might fully recover by the end of 2022 (and also that starting wages for ramp agents have jumped from $13.50 to $20 from pre-pandemic to today – woah!).