THE COMPANY DIME | SEPT 29, 2016
Getting Past The Travel Agent Workforce Crunch
Getting Past The Travel Agent Workforce Crunch
Start ups and small businesses can sometimes feel like an uphill battle. Getting off the ground, maintaining stable growth, and establishing a competitive advantage, it’s easy for smaller details to fall through the cracks. That’s exactly what a new study by Holiday Inn discovered regarding small businesses and booking travel. They found that small business travelers find it harder and more time consuming to book business travel than larger companies. In fact, travel in general is more stressful for this demographic.
The study was an online survey of 1,005 small business travelers. Most of the survey group found the process of traveling time-consuming and costly, though the majority (98 percent) found its benefits ultimately rewarding. The larger take-away is roughly a third of small businesses believe they have a harder time booking travel than larger companies. And in all honesty, they are probably right. Smaller companies tend to not have the backing of a corporate travel booking tool. They end up doing the booking themselves., spending excess time and possibly money with travel management.
Additionally, the small business travelers surveyed found their biggest issue is the stress involved in travel itself. And they are probably correct here as well. Without the support of a travel manager, auto-updated itineraries or reassurance should issues arise, travel itself can be nerve-wrecking.
Christopherson Business Travel is a corporate travel management company for busy businesses, big and small. With more than 60 years of experience, we specialize in top-of-the-line travel technology and consultative customer service. We’re here to take the stress off of travel, so your company can focus on what’s more important.
The news we’ve all been waiting for is here—Marriott International and Starwood have finally completed their $13 billion merger. With the sale originally announced almost a year and a half ago, the twists and turns surrounding the Marriott Starwood merger occasionally felt like a daytime soap opera. Through it all, the travel industry has been anxiously waiting to hear the details, especially how travelers and travel managers will make out in the end.
One of the biggest concerns about the merger have been regarding the loyalty programs. Both companies have their own loyalty programs. And as any frequent travelers knows, their perks often keep the customer loyal. Well, good news for any worried road warrior out there. Marriott has acknowledged the necessity of loyalty programs since the beginning of the merger. Arne Sorenson, CEO of Marriott, said integrating Starwood’s guest loyalty program was ‘central, strategic, rationale for the transaction.’
This week, Marriott announced the loyalty points will be linked and transferable. One Starwood Preferred Guest point will be worth three Marriott Reward points. This is yet another strategic tactic that many travelers wont be able to pass up. The process to connect your loyalty rewards is already set up and ready to go. Simply start at Marriott’s New Member page and follow the steps.
Passengers gathering at the gate prior to their boarding time is strange to me. My first thought is often, ‘why stand in line before you are called, cutting into time that could be used for work, a preflight meal, catching up on a phone call?’ But then I remember that these travelers, like me, are terrified of not finding a space for their bag on the plane. I pride myself on using the same international sized carry-on for every trip, no matter how long. In fact, I wrote a blog on my favorite packing tips a few years ago. Since I wrote this, I’ve continued traveling for business and leisure and know even more about packing light. I’ve discovered a few easy tips that are especially helpful as we move into the cooler months.
1) Invest in packing cubes. They not only help you separate your clothes, but they really do keep everything compact. They are especially useful for sweaters!
2) Boot season is upon us and while they look great, knee-high boots can take up an entire suitcase. If boots are part of your wardrobe, wear them on the plane to save space.
3) Try wearing items that you have packed a few times during the same trip. A scarf or tie can really transform an outfit, and nobody will even notice that you had worn it the previous day.
4) If you plan to use the hotel gym, invest in a good workout outfit that is made of nylon. This material gets really small when folded and you can even roll the items and store them inside your workout shoes.
5) If you buy your cosmetics from a mall department store, do so when you can get a promotional gift. The bags that come with these gifts are often the perfect size for travel and the samples are usually travel sized.
Overall, I’ve learned that even with the stressful pre-boarding line, carry-on luggage is the best option for plane travel. Especially if you have an established packing routine with usable tips and tricks.
Looking for more helpful tips on business travel packing? Check out our other blog posts:
Christopherson Business Travel is a corporate travel management company. We’ve worked passionately for more than 60 years to bring travel solutions to busy businesses. Learn more about our specialty travel technology or consultative services that save our clients time and money.
One night over a business trip dinner, I met the ‘Thrifty Hotel Bandit’. He was a very seasoned salesman. on the back half of his career. Seemly a regular road warrior, like myself. But as we continued talking and the night drew on, he shared his dirty little secret with me. For years, his work took him on the road. Weekly, he would spend time away from home and in different hotels across the country. One of the main perks being the hotel toiletries and additional amenities.
Over the ‘years’ his obsession grew, and his haul of “free” hotel treasures reached epic proportions. He told me he hadn’t bought toiletries in years, and that his linen closet was overflowing with mini-shampoos, floss, and bars of soap. His towel collection — you guessed it, a never-ending selection of white, fluffy, hotel-issued cotton. As he laughed, he couldn’t quite put into words how embarrassed his adult children were of him. Now of course, he said that he only ever took what couldn’t be missed, and what would fit in his carry-on suitcase.
However, the thing that stuck with me the most was his comment that “all my guests love my closets!” A weird comment I thought, until I dug a bit deeper. On every trip, he would take one single wooden hanger home, and with as much of a road-warrior as he was, every one of his closets was now fully stocked with shiny, wooden hotel hangers!
It was an unusually unique dinner conversation, and one that I will always remember! The Thrifty Hotel Bandit was a clean-cut, healthy and happy man…but down deep, a crazy obsession drove his excitement for every new business trip!
Business travel is funny like that. You are put into situations you normally wouldn’t find yourself, talking to people you would otherwise never meet. I’m grateful for meeting the ‘Thrifty Hotel Bandit’, but think I will personally keep my hotel amenities shopping to a minimum.
Read next from our blog-
Unused Tickets Still Require (Micro) Management
As a frequent business traveler, I’m accustomed to the on-boarding and pre-flight protocol of the flight attendants. But this last week, I quickly noticed a new addition to the announcements about a specific smartphone. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently banned the new Samsung Galaxy Note 7s phone from being on during flights. The reason? The phones may explode if overheated.
Released August 19, 2016, the latest Samsung smartphone has already been recalled. In the last month since the release, these phones have been exploding, including in a man’s pocket. The issue stems from the lithium ion battery. Samsung admitted that during the manufacturing process, the layer of plastic separating the positive and negative sides of the battery may have punctured, causing an explosion when overheated. It appears this happens more frequently when it’s charging, but not always, hence the pocket incident.
Initially, the FAA was “strongly encouraging” people from using the phone during the flight. They have now elevated their statement to “ban” airline passengers from using or charging the device during flight. These phones are not allowed to be packed in checked luggage either. The FAA stated, ‘In light of recent incidents and concerns raised by Samsung about its Galaxy Note 7 devices, the Federal Aviation Administration strongly advises passengers not to turn on or charge these devices on board aircraft and not to stow them in any checked baggage.’
I saw last week that the airlines placed notices near check-in and boarding areas about the new FAA ruling. The cabin crew also added the message to their safety script. On this flight, each seat had an individual power station. While usually convenient, myself and the people around me were suddenly nervous of the possible repercussions. What if someone disobeyed? What can the airlines do to enforce the ban? Similar to asking that devices are placed in ‘airplane mode’, everyone trusts that the passengers abide by the rules. It’s currently a little nerve-wrecking to think about. Fortunately, Samsung will be providing replacement units later this month. I will certainly be relieved when these exchanges are complete, and the power stations can return to be the inculpable amenity I frequently enjoy.
We’ve said before that the cornerstone of an effective travel management program is the business travel policy. Travel policies that are practical and easy to understand have a higher compliance rate and save more money for the company. But where do you start? No business is the same, and neither is their travel policy. Whether you create your own travel policy or with the help of a travel management company, we developed this guide to familiarize professionals with the basics of creating business travel policies.
A business travel policy is a set of guidelines to be used by companies, travel managers and employees for travel and its related planning. The main objective of an effective travel policy is to keep travelers safe while also adhering to the company’s guidelines, including budget. If your policy is easy to understand, oversees traveler’s security, and up-to-date; compliance will likely be higher as well.
There are many advantages of utilizing a travel policy for your company. One of the most valuable is establishing clear guidelines. For example, your company might decide to allow business class seating, but only for international travel. This is then stated in the travel policy, so your present and future employees will understand its stipulations.
Travel policies also regulate cost control and savings for your budget. By regulating your traveler’s travel, you can have a better understanding of your budget and where to save moving forward. For example, just by outlining when business class tickets should be used can positively affect your travel budget! Additionally, duty of care responsibilities and safety protocols can be established and outlined. In case of an emergency, these protocols can be immediately adhered and followed.
No. Every business travel policy should be created specifically for the company’s needs. No two companies are exactly the same, and neither should be their travel policy. Actually, some companies find they don’t even need a defined travel policy. How often employees travel and who pays for the travel are two important factors. If only one employee travels a couple times a year, you may be able to budget and communicate effectively without needing a full travel policy. Or, if your clients are billed for travel, budget may not be a large concern for your business model. Take a look at your company as a whole and see if it makes sense to create a travel policy. If you find you don’t need one, it’s still important to outline duty of care and safety procedures.
Policies should be comprehensive and consistent, but also consider cultural nuances. This is done by differentiating between global and local policies. As the Business Travel Buyer’s Handbook 2016 said, ‘The global policy should rule, and local policies should be stricter.’ If your company is worldwide, you will have conditions that apply to everyone. Then, consider local laws and constraints for travelers in different locations. What works best for people in the U.S. may be less advisable for people in Asian markets. You can try creating regional travel policies for countries with similar travel management needs.
Policy rules often depend on the level of control your company wishes to exercise. For example, some companies stipulate that the cheapest ticket must always be purchased, as long as a layover does not exceed three hours. This policy is focused on cost savings, but pretty strict. Other companies decide not to drill down as harshly. Consider what is most important to the company and the best way to accomplish that objective. Be aware that overly strict policies can hinder compliance and even your traveler’s happiness. If your frequent business travelers have three hour layovers multiple times a week, how will that affect their productivity and job satisfaction? Consider your company culture and its future before implementing a strict policy.
This depends on your objectives and scope of control. Below are common items often listed in travel policies:
Input from every department works the best. Having input from a CEO or stakeholder often speeds up the process, as their approval is usually needed anyway. Discuss with HR, accounting, IT and heads of other departments to ensure their cooperation and input. Also, discuss the needs and experiences of current travelers and road warriors. What they consider important may be different than the stakeholders.
Travel policies should cover everyone who travels on behalf of your company. Additionally, and this may be the most important tip – keep the policy brief and clear so everyone is covered and understands the policies. Compliance will go out the window if no one understands what’s in the policy.
Specific details can be outlined for individuals or departments. Some companies differentiate policy guidelines with special consideration for high ranking execs. You probably won’t have interns flying first class, but you also aren’t going to make the CEO fly coach either. Some companies mitigate potential disaster by not allowing more than two or three executives to fly on the same plane should disaster strike. These particular policies are often drafted in an executive level policy, so they are not known to lower level employees.
Road warriors often have their own stipulations. You can specify mileage, reimbursement, or overnight stay threshold within the travel policy too.
Customized and personalized experiences are becoming more important to travelers. Mobile devices and apps are being used more frequently, catering to specific experiences. If you want compliance to stay high, make it as easy as possible to comply with your policy. Using mobile apps or alternative communication often increases compliance.
Read next from our corporate travel blog:
Luggage lost by the airlines has to end up somewhere, right? I don’t know about you, but this is a question that pops up out of nowhere in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep. Or, as I’m anxiously waiting at the carousel in baggage claim while the bags are circling. The thought of possibly having my checked baggage lost or delayed while traveling on business often leads me to just bring a carry-on. While I’m sure I’ll always have that fear, at least now I know where the luggage may possibly end up.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, only 3.68 bags of every 1,000 pieces of luggage goes unclaimed. Of those, nearly 98 percent of the luggage finds its owner within the next week. Within the next three months, half of the remaining luggage is returned. After the 90-period, the tiny remaining fraction of luggage legally becomes the property of the airlines. By this time, claims have been filed on the lost luggage and the flyer is compensated. So, what does the airline do with the luggage? They sell it!
The Unclaimed Baggage Center (UBC), located in Scottsboro, Alabama buys the lost luggage and then unpacks, cleans, organizes and sells the contents to shoppers. Jewelry and artwork are appraised and electronic devices are wiped clean. Even with appraisals, a few great finds have been found over the years. Including a painting priced at $60, but actually worth $20,000 and rare relics and oddities.
The UBC started in 1970 by a man named Doyle Owens. He had the ingenious idea to borrow a pickup truck, drive to Washington D.C. and took out a $300 loan to buy his first load of unclaimed luggage from airlines. Since that first truckload, the business has forged relationships with many different airlines, and hauls luggage from all across America. The Unclaimed Baggage Center building is the size of a city block and has over a million visitors every year. It also claims to be one of the top tourist attractions in Alabama.
Unfortunately, don’t expect to turn to them for your lost luggage. In regards to the question on their website, they say ‘Regrettably, “No”. . . After this point, claims have been paid out and the items are sent with no identifying information to Unclaimed Baggage to be repurposed or sold.’ So feel free to go shopping at the UBC (aka, my new bucket list addition), but don’t get your hopes up in finding your own bag.
Read next from our blog:
Finally, Refunds For Delayed Checked Baggage
Every year, Christopherson Business Travel sponsors a group of employees to participate in a humanitarian excursion with Choice Humanitarian. As a corporate partner with this international non-profit organization, we engage and volunteer whenever possible. This amazing organization assists villages across the globe in extreme poverty by providing self-sustaining techniques to improve their community from within. This year, the group assisted in the Polochic region of Guatemala. Secluded in the hills of Northern Guatemala near Cobán, they helped build stoves and paint the community center.
As I boarded my flight to Guatemala City, I knew I would be seeing firsthand what extreme poverty would look like. Once I arrived, and began our four-hour bus ride (which really took seven hours until our first stop), I was amazed at the beauty of the country, the colorful but poorly constructed buildings, heavily congested roadways and traffic. Trash also seemed to be a huge problem, as it was strewn everywhere!
Once out of the big city, I saw another side of Guatemala. The landscape was still beautiful and colorful, and the people seemed pleasant and genuinely happy. I think overall, they accepted their way of life and appreciated the things they had.
My next five nights spent in a Q’eqchi’ village was the best experience. The landscape was like the movie Jurassic Park! I thought I’d really see a dinosaur come tromping through the trees! Of course I never did … but I did see a couple of lizards!
Our living arrangements were similar to primitive camping. We all brought our sleeping bags and air mattresses. CHOICE provided and prepared all the food. All of our meals were delicious! Even the daily homemade tortillas were a treat!
I was overwhelmed with the children’s eagerness to learn and help. I never once saw a child in tears or angry. Even the adults were curious of our presence. I was always reminded of this at our meal time! There was always an audience of villagers watching our every move.
Our project in the village was to assist with building cinder block stoves and painting the inside and outside of their community center. Our purpose was NOT to change their way of life, but to enhance and/or minimize their daily tasks. These people were proud of their way of life and their traditional heritage.
I’m still processing everything that I experienced and would go back in a heartbeat! “Laain Sa Lin Ch’ool!” (Q’eqchi’ for: I am fine, happy in my heart.)
Stay tuned for stories from our other adventurers. Check out our Facebook photos from this trip and past expeditions. Chirstopherson Business Travel is an award-winning corporate travel management company with 60 years of experience.
I recently attended a presentation by the author David Sturt, who spoke on the subject of creating great work as opposed to good work. David Sturt is an executive vice president of the O.C. Tanner Institute and author of The New York Times best-selling book, Great Work. This difference between good and great work is how people make a difference others love. He focused on how inspired employees rise above and contribute more than expected.
Though Sturt’s career began in market research, he enlisted two PhDs from Harvard and Cambridge to help him design a research study for the book. They first reviewed 10,000 samples of award-winning work. To gain further insight into what makes work great, rather than just good, they also conducted 200 one-on-one interviews. In the process, patterns that influenced the great work emerged and they organized them into five consistent skills. He summarized the common success factors into the following five skills:
The takeaway from his presentation and book is clear – everyone is capable of great work. They just need the environment and skills to ideate, innovate and deliver their product. If you are looking to be inspired, or create passion in your workplace, I recommend this book.
Christopherson Business Travel is an award-winning corporate travel management company with more than 60 years of experience. We are proud to be independently-owned, with more that 300 employees nationawide. Learn more about our own company philosophy or our unique travel management services.
In case you haven’t noticed, the Millennial generation have recently become the butt of jokes at conferences, twitter chats, and professional gatherings. Millennials, or Generation Ys, are the most recent generation to enter the workforce. Currently in their early 20s – early 30s, they are putting the traditional workforce into a spin with their differing work styles and priorities. Whether you are from the camp believing they have a productive work ethic or they are self-entitled children, we as a society need to learn how to adjust our work environments to productively work with them. As Carolyn A. Martin and Bruce Tulgan, authors of the book ‘Managing Generation Y’ said “Organizations that can’t – or won’t customize training, career paths, incentives, and work responsibilities need a wake up call.”
Regarding travel management, Millennials have the highest rate of non-compliance. According to Tim Hines, the presenter at a Rocky Mountain Business Travel Association luncheon, they average 46% compliance. Compared to Baby Boomers, who are on average 80% compliant, the difference is concerning. If Millennials are always connected, why are they so bad at reporting their travel expenses? Well, the devil may be in the details here. Often the reporting process is lengthy or slow. For a group that expects results instantaneously, this can be a giant hurdle. If you need something done, it should have a quick and easy approach.
At Christopherson Business Travel, we strive to continually develop travel technology that effortlessly eases travel and travel management headaches. We’ve learned that while an engaging and useable platform is necessary, quick analysis and actionable take-aways are becoming crucial components to our clients. That’s why we further developed our AirPortal 360 technology to include actionable intelligence. We provide actionable items that your team can run with immediately in addition to our existing technology.
AirPortal includes many tools that help travel managers and travelers. Travel managers can keep tabs on various aspects of their travel programs. We have always focused on creating tools that are elegant and easy to use. Now with actionable intelligence, we take it one step further by reaching into the various products and retrieving the items that actually need attention. This helps ensure that important items do not slip through the cracks. This give travel managers the confidence that they are supporting both their travelers and their managed travel program.
Additionally, we make sure travelers have their own dashboard to view their itinerary and documents. With our My Travel dashboard, they can quickly access their travel information in one place. Here they can effectively communicate their hotel plans, unused tickets and additional items, further completing compliance and duty of care responsibilities.
AirPortal users receive a daily digest email with a list of their action items. The user can choose the time of day they would like their daily digest delivered. From the email they login into AirPortal Actionable Intelligence Dashboard and handle the items that require their attention.
To learn more about our new AirPortal 360 Dashboard, contact your Christopherson Business Travel Account Manager or fill our the contact form on this page. Want to learn more? Read our company philosophy or additional travel technology solutions.
One of the key differentiating factors for Christopherson Business Travel is our SAP Concur Preferred Partner status. Though this is one of our most beneficial components, it is often overlooked by prospective travel managers or business travelers. Working closely with the leading spend management provider allows us to further provide our clients with easy and affordable online travel management solutions. Their cloud-based services allows for updates and upgrades automatically. Combine that with our top-of-the-line integrations to our own travel technology means our clients are always supported, no matter the situation.
We were one of the first SAP Concur Preferred Partners, an exclusive membership that includes only 25 partners worldwide. SAP Concur Preferred Partners achieve the platform benefits of full, open technological integration. This enables us to offer our clients comprehensive service and the ability to evolve with the industry and our client’s growing travel needs. We currently manage more than 800 sites for more than 650 companies using SAP Concur.
Christopherson is a longtime direct reseller of SAP Concur, our clients are assured of high-quality service, responsive interaction, and an on-time implementation and transition. Most importantly, Christopherson has two specialized teams to build, customize, and maintain our client booking sites. These teams are ready to provide prompt and insightful assistance to travelers with navigational and system questions via phone or email.
“Christopherson Business Travel was one of our original TMC Partners to earn the Preferred Partner designation. This is due primarily to their leading edge in-house technical capabilities and their ability to successfully build out an API to Concur which allows for a robust data exchange process. Christopherson was also one of the first agencies to be TripLink certified and they are an active participant on our Preferred Partner Advisory Board. Their Executive team from the CEO down are some of the finest and well respected professionals in the industry and I truly enjoy working with them as a Concur TMC Preferred Partner.” —Will Elliott, Senior Alliance Manager, Concur