With remote and hybrid working becoming the norm, TMCs are having to adjust to a new kind of business traveler. Or are they?
Working from home pre-dates the pandemic as a business trend, and TMCs have first-hand experience of this model with many TMC personnel already embracing flexible working models.
There’s a lot of talk about ‘purposeful travel’ – restricting travel to trips that have a pre-defined objective, usually income generation. We don’t see this as a new phenomenon. Most of our clients would say the majority of their trips had a definitive purpose before the crisis hastened adoption of Teams or Zoom, as an alternative to face-to-face.
‘Purposeful travel’ is a great buzz-phrase to get people confident in traveling once more and get them back onto planes, trains and automobiles. Seeing customers (and potential customers) is fundamental to any business. Even companies that are downsizing need to get staff together to build company culture.
People are traveling again, and although regular off-site meetings may not happen as frequently, they will still take place.
For TMCs, this increased focus on trip purpose simply means having the flexibility to support client companies who need to change their plans at short notice.
The same applies to employers looking to attract the best talent. Pre-Covid everyone was looking towards Silicon Valley who championed home working. Even those companies previously committed to office working have had to embrace flexible working models. TMCs have to have that same approach.
In the US, around 80% of reservations consultants were already home-working prior to the pandemic. Today, a lot of people want a different lifestyle. They don’t want to sit on the train for a two-hour commute. They love the idea of being flexible.
TMCs need to adjust to servicing home workers, having the ability to staff up when demand suddenly increases. If, for example, an emergency leads to multiple flight cancellations, a TMC needs to be able to upscale their service to meet the demand, securing refunds and re-booking quickly and effectively.
But where should a TMC’s responsibilities start and end? Let’s say a client wants to send a group from Chicago to New York for a meeting. Should the TMC simply fulfil the booking or query whether the meeting could be undertaken just as effectively virtually?
We believe it is the TMCs job to police the travel policy, but that the policy needs to make clear when a trip is permissible and when it is not.
TMCs need to make sure travel managers are fully aware of their responsibilities too. We can help them to articulate policy to their travelers to make sure that everything works out for them. If we can do this, we stand a good chance that we can get our industry back where it needs to be.