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Business Travel Featured Travel Tips

Your Ultimate Car Rental Guide from Our Travel Experts

Renting a car is often considered the most convenient and independent way to get around on your business trip. But for first-time or inexperienced renters, the car rental process, with its potentially numerous add-on options and lengthy contracts, can feel a bit overwhelming. Luckily, Christopherson has years of experience managing car rental policies for corporations across the country. We can help you have the most efficient and cost-effective car rental policy. Below, we’ve compiled our top car rental tips for corporate travel.

9 Basics of Car Rentals

Start here for the basics of car rentals. If this is your first time renting, or it’s been a while, this review will come in handy when you show up at the rental counter or get behind the wheel.

Things to Know When Picking Up Your Rental

1. Airport vs Non-airport Location

– When traveling for business, it’s always most convenient to pick up your rental car at the airport. Be sure to verify that the company you’re renting with has an on-site location or a shuttle to their off-site facility. You don’t want to be stuck scrambling for a taxi or Lyft to take you to your rental car.

2. Insurance Coverage

— Your company’s corporate travel policy will outline how to handle car rental insurance. If your company does not have a policy or an agreement with preferred vendors, talk to your travel or HR team before traveling to know how you should handle car rental insurance.

3. Drivers under the age of 25

– If you are a business traveler under the age of 25, your company may have to pay extra. Check your company’s travel policy as young drivers can be negotiated in a contract and no additional fees will be added.

4. Extra drivers

– On occasion, two or more business travelers may share a rental. Consider designating one driver to keep costs low or consult with your travel manager on how to handle extra drivers.

5. Verify the return location

— Typically your return location will be the same place you picked up the car, but verify the drop-off, especially if you’re flying out of a different airport. It never hurts to double-check and you don’t want to get caught unaware as you’re trying to make your return flight.

6. Bring your own extras

– Most travelers can bypass the extras like GPS or satellite radio. After all, that’s what phones are for. Your corporate travel policy may also not allow these add-ons and you could end up paying for them personally.

Things to Know When Driving and Returning the Vehicle

7. Stay on the road

– It seems simple enough, but when the customer service agent reviews what you can and cannot do, pay attention. Most car rental companies prohibit the use of their cars on unpaved roads. Insurance could be voided by driving off-road.

8. Fuel up

– Fill the tank prior to your return. Car rental companies will ask if you want to purchase a full tank of gas prior to you returning it, but many times you don’t use a full tank of gas or can’t time it right to return the car on empty. As you leave the airport, pay attention to where the nearest gas station is so you can stop prior to your return. If you have opted to return the car full of gas but do not, the refuel rate can be two to three times as much as the price at a local gas station. And again, check your company’s travel policy. Some companies will not reimburse this charge as it is considered extra fees.

9. Plan ahead for tolls

– Many cities have toll roads and bridges. Most car rental companies provide electronic toll collection programs integrated into the vehicle, but charge you a per-day fee to use them in addition to the toll fees. These usually are not on the final bill and are charged later. As it can be difficult to find a receipt for expense reimbursement for tolls, make sure you know how the receipt will be delivered. If no electronic collection option is integrated, tolls will be charged to the license plate number, which is sent to the car rental company and will be tracked back to you or your company. In some states, this is the only way a toll is invoiced. When there is a toll booth, it’s best to have cash, but some accept credit cards.

10. Avoid syncing your phone to your rental car, if possible

— Though it’s convenient, syncing your phone to a rental car can leave your information exposed to the next renter. If you need to, be sure you know how to unsync it once you’ve returned it.

Travel Experts’ Tips for Saving Money on Your Next Car Rental

For frequent travelers, finding ways to cut costs each trip can mean significant savings in the long run. Just like hotels and airfare, there are ways to save money on rental cars — especially if you plan on regularly renting. Read below for some of the easiest ways to save money on rental cars. For more extensive trip budgeting or help planning an economical travel program, reach out to one of our team members for a consultation.

Steps To Take To Save Big on Your Next Rental

  • Have a membership – It’s easy to join a membership program for a car rental company. When you first sign-up, important information like a driver’s license number, contact information, insurance, etc., are filled out and completed ahead of time. Everything concerning your account will then be fully automated and ready to go next time you need to book a car. Additionally, being a member typically includes deals that keep your overall rates lower. This brings us to our next point…
  • Rent with your company’s preferred car rental company – If your company has a managed travel program, they will likely have a preferred car rental company. The three major U.S. car rental companies, each with two or more large brands, are Enterprise Holdings Inc. (Enterprise & National), Avis Budget Group, and Hertz. Christopherson can help you select the partner that’s right for you and negotiate a contract that meets your overall travel program goals.
  • Take 30 seconds to walk around the car and inspect it before renting. Every time a rental car is returned, it is inspected for damage, cleaned, and put back on the lot. Or at least it should. If there is damage to the car before you rent it, it likely hasn’t been seen or claimed yet. Meaning, you could be held responsible for the damage and its repair costs when you return the car. Car rental employees work hard, but small details can easily fall through the cracks. Be extra diligent about the state of the car before you take responsibility for it.
    • Also, check for errors inside the car. Make sure the gas tank is full and there are no warning lights on the dashboard, too. Note any damage to upholstery, finishes, and other interior surfaces.

Sneaky Surcharges You Should Know About

Rental car companies are well-known to have extensive surcharges and hidden fees, to drive up the initial “sticker” price of your rental. Be aware of the following fees, as well as ways to plan ahead to avoid them when possible:

  • Drop-Off Charges — An extra fee is usually charged if a car is returned to a different location than where it was picked up. This fee varies by location. In some instances there is no charge, however, you could pay more than $1,000 for picking a car up at LAX and dropping it off at JFK plus around $0.35 per mile. If your corporation has a car rental contract make sure it notes a “one-way” rate. The rates will be higher than your normal corporate rate but will save money in the long run.
  • The 24-Hour Clock — If you rent your car on Wednesday and return it on Thursday, most companies charge you one day only if you return it within 24 hours. Some companies will give you a 29-minute grace period before hourly charges kick in and after 90 – 120 minutes you may be charged for the full extra day. Some rental car companies are also now charging a late return fee of $10 per day. Make sure you check the terms and conditions in your rental documents.
  • One-Day Surcharges — Picking a car up only for one day will cost you more if those days are Monday through Thursday. Because of the yield management process, it is more expensive for the car rental company if you pick your car up in the morning on Monday through Thursday and return it the same day. It eliminates the possibility of another traveler needing that car for two or more days at a time. The one-day surcharges are $5 to $7 over the normal daily rate and are “hidden” in the rate so you will not recognize you are being charged extra. Corporations can sometimes get this fee reduced or waived when negotiating a car rental contract.

Hopefully, this list gave you a few additional tips for the next time you rent a car for business travel.

Car Rental Safety Tips

While business travelers are generally aware of air and hotel safety precautions, not many of us think about car safety. However, staying vigilant and cautious with your rental car can prevent crime or accident from derailing your next corporate trip. Here are 8 tips to remember:

Keep your keys safe.

Keep your car keys with you and out of sight at all times. Years ago, car rental companies eliminated their logos from the cars, as they became targets for theft. While this precaution is helpful, you can still spot travelers by their car rental keys. Usually the ring has both sets of keys on it and a big tag with the make, model, color, and license number on it. Since you are traveling, a thief will know your car may have valuables in it.

Choose your parking space wisely.

Be careful when parking at events where thieves will know you will be gone for a set period of time (such as sporting or entertainment). Park “trunk out.” If storing items in your trunk, this makes your trunk visible in an aisle where more people are apt to see suspicious activity. When parking on the street, choose a busy area, i.e. in front of a store, hotel entrance, under a street lamp, or a busy corner. If the street seems too vulnerable, park in a parking garage where the likelihood of being broken into is less. However, still be aware of your surroundings. Being in a place where people can’t see you leaves you open to other acts of violence.

Load and hide your stuff before you reach your destination.

Everything you plan on leaving in the car should be stowed and hidden before you arrive at your destination. If, upon arrival, you take the action of stowing your valuables, you are exposing your possessions for all to see.

Don’t leave any possessions visible in the car.

It takes a thief five seconds to smash the glass, grab your valuables, and be out of sight, even with the alarm sounding. Keep in mind, it’s not only valuables in plain sight that are a target, but any bag or box may have something valuable to a thief. Even if replaceable, you are left with a broken window, which now you must deal with the car rental company to report the damage.

Unload your stuff away from your parking space.

If you have to remove luggage or valuables out of the trunk, do so away from your parking space, if possible. Should a thief see you taking it out, he/she will know that you’ll likely return with it, leaving you vulnerable as a target.

Check for your valuables as soon as you return to your car.

If you have any suspicion, do a quick check of your items before leaving. A common tactic of thieves is to take a camera out of the camera bag but leave the bag. You are then long gone before you notice the missing item and can’t pinpoint when it might have been taken.

Take your time upon return.

Most major car rental companies have automatic check-in and readily available receipts from the rental return attendant. But take a moment and really check the car. Make sure you have all your belongings out of the consoles and compartments.

Contact Christopherson Business Travel to Drive Happy

Hopefully, these tips provide a starting point for helping you rent cars for business travel more easily and affordably in the future. To learn how Christopherson Business Travel can help you save money and time with your business travel program, contact our travel team today.

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Business Travel Featured Travel Tips Vacation Travel

Is a Corporate Travel Incentive Program Right for My Business?

Imagine yourself on the trip of a lifetime with a loved one or a friend. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to visit the beaches of Thailand or marvel at the beauty of Alaskan glaciers. Now imagine your company picking up the tab for the entire trip. That would be amazing, wouldn’t it? These types of employee rewards are often known as corporate travel incentive programs. Developing these programs, with the help of Andavo Meetings & Incentives (AMI), Christopherson Business Travel’s meetings, groups, and incentive travel division, can be a smart business move for several reasons. Keep reading to learn more!

What is Incentive Travel?

Businesses use a corporate travel incentive as a reward for accomplishing a goal. Incentive travel rewards work just like bonuses or other motivational tactics in the workplace. They drive up productivity and reward strong work ethics. For example, a business could offer a travel incentive once an employee hits a certain number of sales or achieves a specific goal. The trips could be purely for vacation or combined with a few company events for a fun work getaway.

Why Use Incentive Travel Programs

When it comes to rewarding your employees for their hard work, you could just give them cash or another type of gift. But vacations provide unique opportunities for employees and even benefits for the company. If you’re looking for some reasons to use corporate travel incentive programs, here are a few:

Perks for Employees

Offering business travel incentive programs to your employees can have a different effect than cash bonuses and gifts. One reason it’s a great choice is that an amazing trip is a special occasion for people. It gives employees something to look forward to. It also gives them an opportunity to travel to places they might not otherwise visit and make memories with a friend, family member, or co-workers.

Once they’ve earned a trip with their hard work, they’ll look back on these memories and can use them as motivation to work toward their next trip. Those winning employees also help motivate other team members who may not have won that particular trip but realize they want to try for a future incentive opportunity because they don’t want to miss out.

Benefits for the Company

Why should you spend time and money establishing corporate travel incentive programs for your employees? You may be surprised to know that establishing such a program can offer a multitude of benefits for your company on top of being a great perk for your employees.

Boost employee engagement – One of the first benefits of establishing a corporate travel incentive program is boosting employee engagement. Giving your employees experiences encourages excitement and can be a powerful way to motivate them.

Strengthen your company as a team – If employees earn a trip together, they are able to get excited about the trip and make plans together. It becomes a focal point and highlight for the year. Earned vacations generate discussion and interest that help to motivate employees.

Draw top talent for your company and retain employees – Employees participating in corporate travel incentive programs experience increased loyalty to their company and have a higher opinion of their workplace. Incentive travel photos are often shared on social media for others to see which enhances your company’s image. When you offer great rewards like these vacation experiences to employees, you establish yourself as a positive company to work for and can generate interest for potential employees. It’s also a great way to retain employees as they work towards their next trip.

Factors to Consider when Deciding on Incentive Travel Programs

When deciding on implementing corporate travel incentive programs, there are a few things to consider. You’ll want to establish a program that delivers on its goals, provides a return on investment, and draws interest and excitement. Consider these following factors when selecting an incentive travel program:

Ask your staff for feedback – Business travel incentive programs only work if your employees want to go on the trips you’ve planned. AMI can help you identify a business travel incentive program that your employees will want to achieve. You can also survey your team members to get ideas for destinations and activities that appeal to them.

Establish the goals of your program – In our exploratory phase, AMI will help you outline clear goals that you’d like the employees to reach in order to achieve the travel reward. Because travel reward programs are an investment, having clear goals allows you to identify and assess your ROI. Keeping employees updated on their progress toward these goals will help boost their motivation to work towards them.

Explore vendors to find the perfect fit – While plenty of incentive travel companies offer packages claiming to take away the hassle of corporate travel planning, not all offerings are the best option for your company’s needs. AMI’s connections around the world deliver access to best-in-class experiences and accommodations, and each incentive trip planned is unique to your goals and objectives.

Request a Corporate Travel Incentive Planning Meeting

AMI’s incentive travel planning begins and ends with your goals, and your people, in mind. Our strategic, personalized approach allows us to focus on the purpose behind your incentive trip and deliver an extraordinary experience your employees will never forget. Visit andavomeetings.com or speak with our planners today for more information.

 

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Business Travel Featured

How to Handle Flight Schedule Changes

As the COVID-19 pandemic stretches into its eighteenth month, one persnickety pain point for business travelers is the increased number of schedule changes airlines are now making.

It’s understandable—airlines remain in a constant state of revision as they try to anticipate traveler demand while working with reduced flight crews. Their guessing game is further exacerbated by the shifting effects of the virus’s variant, vaccine rollout, and ever-fluctuating restrictions from governments around the world. While the situation will most surely stabilize eventually, the increase in schedule changes is likely to continue through the coming months.

In order to protect business travelers’ rights and help them prepare for this possibility, here’s what corporate travel managers need to know and do:

Two Types of Flight Schedule Changes

There are two types of schedule changes: minor and major.

Minor schedule changes occur when an airline adjusts flight times by less than 30 minutes from the original time. Tickets, in these instances of minor change, simply need to be revalidated (as opposed to being reissued). Christopherson automatically does this for our customers and resends the updated itinerary. Travelers likely won’t need assistance from their corporate travel agent, but they are welcome to reach out if they have questions or do need assistance.

Major schedule changes occur when an airline adjusts flight times by more than 30 minutes from the original time, or when a minor schedule change causes a missed connection. In these cases, airlines require the ticket to be fully reissued. If the traveler does not get their ticket reissued, the airline can potentially deny boarding.

When a major schedule change affects an itinerary booked through any Christopherson booking method, our corporate travel agents and online support agents receive those changes from the airline. Those agents then provide travelers with the revised itinerary for confirmation and assistance in reissuing the ticket per each airlines’ guidelines. If an airline’s proposed new schedule doesn’t work, our agents can assist travelers in finding a flight that does meet their needs while still upholding your organization’s travel policies. When Christopherson assists with reissuing tickets for major schedule changes, those tickets remain integrated with our risk management technology so you can maintain your duty of care standards in spite of the schedule change and ticket reissue.

When a major schedule change occurs on the same day of travel—likely due to the airline’s crew availability or a change in aircraft—travelers can immediately reach out to their corporate travel agent for help. Travelers who monitor their flights in the days leading up to their trip and who check in 24 hours in advance are better equipped to be aware of those same-day changes. They are also able to lean on the expertise of Christopherson’s agents to remedy what can feel like a stressful situation.

What should a traveler do if their flight schedule is changed?

If a traveler experiences a flight schedule change, they can do one of three things:

  1. Nothing. If the new flight times work, they can accept the change and Christopherson will either revalidate or reissue the ticket, depending on the type of change it is.
  2. Find a different flight route. If the new schedule provided by the airline doesn’t work, travelers can work with Christopherson’s corporate travel agents to find a flight, route, and schedule that does meet their needs.
  3. Get a refund and start the booking over. For major changes where the flight time has been adjusted by more than 90 minutes from the original time, travelers are entitled to a full refund. Christopherson can help navigate the eligibility and process for getting a refund in these instances.

 

In addition to these three courses of action, travelers should also do the following:

Be Aware and Prepare
Travelers should periodically monitor their flights via their airline’s website or app, and more regularly in the days leading up to travel. The earlier you are aware of a flight change, the easier it is to handle. We also encourage travelers to check in 24-hours before their flight so they have a bit of lead time in case there are same-day or last minute changes that dramatically affect the trip. Travelers can also reconfirm (or revise, if needed) travel plans with their corporate travel agent. If travelers are given a minor or major schedule change, they need to be sure the ticket has been revalidated or reissued respectively.

Complete the Travel Profile
It is imperative that business travelers include their cell phone number in their travel profile. Having a cell phone number listed gives the airline and Christopherson the ability to communicate with you in the event that a schedule change occurs en route.

Rely on the Expertise of Corporate Travel Agents
Whether a schedule change occurs prior to a trip or en route, travelers can reach out to their corporate travel agent to ensure the changes don’t cause missed connections or affect their hotel and rental car reservations. If the airline’s newly-proposed flight times don’t work for the traveler, corporate travel agents will be able to provide the consultative expertise to work with the airline to fix the flight. They can also help you get a refund from the airline depending on eligibility.

How Much Do Schedule Changes Cost?

Airlines do not charge or refund any difference in fares for schedule changes. Because airlines require tickets to be reissued for major schedule changes, which are out of the control of travel management companies, service fees may apply to reissue those tickets.

If a major schedule change is greater than 90 minutes, travelers are entitled to a full refund. Christopherson can assist travelers with that refund process. Upon refund, travelers can then rebook with an airline that offers better flight times.

In rare instances, when neither a refund nor the new schedule are an option, an organization may decide to deposit the value of the first ticket into their unused ticket bank to use against future travel and then purchase a new ticket on an airline with a more amenable schedule.

What Can Corporate Travel Managers Do to Avoid Potential Schedule Changes?

Keep in mind that when you book farther in advance, there is a greater potential for your flight to be affected by a schedule change, possibly more than once. Until the airlines’ current schedule change situation resolves, organizations that book 60+ days in advance might consider temporarily booking closer to their travel dates. Of course, this option needs to be weighed against the possibility of reduced routes and limited seat capacity.

Corporate travel managers can consult with their travel management company to determine their best course of action understand the pros and cons of the options available.

The Bottom Line

The good news is that the current flight change situation will settle as the pandemic approaches its end and airlines are able to increase hiring and plan more stable schedules. Fortunately, organizations and their business travelers do have options in the meantime. And despite the challenges, Christopherson’s relationships with the airlines ensures that we have the information and resources you need to successfully navigate these schedule changes.

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Business Travel Featured

Client Success Story: Implementing New Travelers & Online Booking Adoption

Christopherson values each of our client partnerships. We appreciate the opportunity we have to consult and assist corporate travel managers as they hit goals, achieve objectives, and support their business travelers. We are pleased to share these stories in our new blog series of Client Success Stories. 

. . .

Medical Solutions, a Christopherson client since 2013, is a nationally-recognized medical staffing company. Their tremendous growth has led to both unique opportunities and challenges. After an acquisition, they needed to quickly implement travel for their newly-acquired employees and transition from using full-service corporate travel agents to an online booking tool.

CHALLENGES

  • Acquisition of another company necessitated implementation of a new group of travelers.
  • Medical Solutions made the choice to move from an on-site travel advisor to using an online booking tool (OBT) as their primary travel booking method.

 

SOLUTIONS AND RESULTS

Changes required implementation for the acquired travelers, as well as implementation and training for everyone using the OBT. The online adoption has been exceptional, reaching 91% online adoption within the first year.

Christopherson also conducted an expedited implementation in order to have the client’s former TMC release the existing Concur site to us for the additional travelers. The acquired company was up and running in only two weeks.

During this time, we also evaluated each aspect of the travel program and configuration, including structure, reportable fields, vendors, reporting, payment methods, etc. to optimize the travel program.

CLIENT FEEDBACK

“Our account manager has made it abundantly clear how much she values me, my team, and my company; she always makes me feel like I’m a top priority whenever I need her. She took over our account at a delicate time with our integrations really being underway and our investors pushing for a potential change in our travel management company based solely on cost savings. She took my brutal honesty and direct questions and has worked endlessly to show why Christopherson is so amazing and what value they bring to us.” –Stacie P., Medical Solutions

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Featured

Executive Q&A: Christopherson’s CSO Talks Strategy

Next up in our Executive Q&A series is an interview with Christopherson’s Chief Strategy Officer, Josh Cameron. Josh shared insight on how Christopherson’s strategy has changed over the years and how the company is preparing for the future. 

Q: Can you perhaps set the stage for us and share how Christopherson’s strategy has changed or evolved in recent years? 

A: Christopherson has been in business since 1953. To stay in business successfully for nearly seventy years you’ve got to do more than a few things right and it requires a continuous commitment to development, growth, and evolution. Different eras of our business required different focus, but in recent years, I’d say our strategy is focused on creating equilibrium between the human side of service and the digital side of technology solutions.

Christopherson has always had a stellar reputation for customer service. We’ve also been known for our commitment to innovating and developing corporate travel technologies that solve problems. As we move forward, we’re looking for smarter ways to combine those two aspects of our solution in a more complimentary way. That will require what I’m calling the “productization of Christopherson”—in other words, finding ways to transform and enhance our customer-centric approach to service with or through technology, while also enriching our technology to allow for even better service.

Q: What was the catalyst or “the why” behind this new approach?

A: Businesses need to be able to solve customers’ problems more rapidly and how you do that matters. Everything we’re working on now and planning for the future is because we want to provide instantaneous resolution and instantaneous information so customers can make the best decisions for their business or perform the necessary task in that moment.

Q: How does that then affect what Christopherson’s working on now? 

A: Right now we’re spending significant time and resources evaluating our core technologies, layering or redeveloping where necessary, and making sure we’ve effectively centralized the digital and human interactions between our travel agents, our clients’ travel managers, and the business travelers themselves. That’s the foundation.

We’re also making a shift in how we meet the needs of all those customers. In the past, we’ve been hyper-focused on corporate travel managers, helping them do their jobs faster, easier, and better. But as we move into this new phase of strategy, we’re also building for the business travelers and corporate travel agents as well.

We also have a renewed focus on customer-centric product development through design thinking. Every tool is measured against our strict standard of being useful, elegant, and intuitive. Every service interaction is measured against our consultative standard. Ensuring this strong core will allow us to amplify our customer-centric approach in a way that we’ve never seen as a business.

Q: Can you tell us more about the equilibrium Christopherson is working to achieve between those human and digital interactions?

A: The beautiful thing about technology is that it can solve users’ problems in the most efficient manner. What’s exciting, to me, is that as we streamline our ability to meet the needs of countless customers through technology, we free up resources, which we can then invest back into solving new problems and different needs.

That said, we’re not looking to replace people with technology. The first of our two core values is that we value people, and humans have an innate, intuitive ability to navigate both nuance and complexity that can’t be replicated digitally. The question for us is how we can make those customer interactions as efficient and personalized as possible. Because when we can do that—deliver instantaneous resolution and instantaneous information in a consultative, personalized way—it allows us to ultimately do more with less.

Q: How do you see this refocused strategy positioning Christopherson for the future?

A: When we look back on our company’s history, the years we experienced our highest growth were the years when our innovation was at its peak. As we move into this next phase of innovation with a clear vision of our renewed strategy, we feel confident it will spur an acceleration of growth, widen the differentiation between us and our competitors, and strengthen the value we create for our customers.

Q: Thank you for your time today, Josh. One last question, just for fun, what’s the best business trip you’ve ever taken?

A: Well off the top of my head, I don’t know if I’ve ever been on a trip that wasn’t a business trip because I’m always traveling with Mike. But I did really enjoy the BCD Travel meetings in Cancun a few years ago, as well as their event at the Ritz-Carlton in Tahoe. I brought my wife along with me on that one and it was fun to be together. Although I’m realizing it may have been memorable because it was our last trip alone before we had kids.

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Executive Q and A Featured

Executive Q&A: Christopherson’s CFO Shares Details on How the Company Financially Navigated the Pandemic

Next up in our Executive Q&A series is an interview with Christopherson’s Chief Financial Officer, Heather Young. Heather shared insight on how Christopherson financially navigated the COVID-19 pandemic and where the company stands now as travel restarts. 

Q: It’s no secret that the last year and a half has been brutal on the travel industry. From your perspective as CFO, how did Christopherson’s financial philosophies protect the company through the pandemic?

A: Our owners, Mike and Camille Cameron, have taken a conservative approach to running and growing our company over the past 31 years. Additionally, at the beginning of March 2020, they had just paid off our corporate office building. This meant that as the COVID-19 pandemic began, Christopherson was in a great financial situation with good liquidity and very little debt.

As a company, we also rely on data to drive decisions. Because we review our ticketing information everyday through our data visualization dashboards, we could see travel bookings begin to decline in the weeks that led up to the pandemic being declared. By seeing that change early, our executive team was able to come together quickly and make a solid plan to weather this storm. We have been able to make important decisions throughout the pandemic, faster than many, because we track that key data in real-time.

Q: So as we see the pandemic coming to a close, where does Christopherson now stand in terms of financial stability?

A: We are in extremely good financial shape. We began the pandemic with sharp focus on protecting our cash, our people, our clients, and our clients’ customer experience. By the end of 2020, we were able to shift our focus back to investing in our future, particularly through a human and digital transformation. 

Even though sales are still below pre-pandemic levels, we are currently tracking higher than the rest of the industry. We are strategically investing in areas that will allow us to continue being a leader in travel. We are able to make these investments because of our conservative fiscal approaches. We have also utilized the government’s COVID relief programs to aid our stability. Our cash reserves remain strong and we have the financial ability to make these investments for our future.

Q: You mentioned you do a daily review of travel bookings. What are you seeing in terms of business picking up? Is business travel on the upswing? 

A: We are definitely seeing business pick up. We said all along that leisure travel would lead the way, followed by business travel. This is exactly what we are seeing. Our leisure travel division’s bookings began increasing in early 2021. That is now being followed with more business travel bookings as well as meetings and groups. We also implemented numerous new clients throughout the pandemic and have been excited to see these new customers begin traveling this summer.

Q: Part of Christopherson’s plan to weather the storm was protecting its people. How has Christopherson been able to support its team members over the last 18 months?

A: We kept a sharp focus on our two company values—1) We create value. 2) We value people.—in all our decisions over the last 18 months. At the beginning of the pandemic, we all experienced the difficulty of making the sacrifices needed to preserve our financial stability and allow us to keep as many people employed as possible. We are happy to report that we were able to reinstate our 401(k) match and restore any pay reductions even before we returned to profitability. We’ve retained much of our staff and have also been able to hire back many of our previous employees as business continues to ramp up this year.   

Protecting our teams’ mental health was also important to us during the pandemic, so we made sure our employees had access to programs that provided unlimited access to professional help with stress, depression, financial concerns, family difficulties, and more. We also enhanced our employee benefit package by adding paid short-term disability in 2021, paid bereavement leave, and COVID-related paid leave. We continue to evaluate our benefit offerings for competitiveness in the market and ensure our decisions demonstrate that we value people.

Q: So having gone through the last 18 months, how would you say Christopherson is doing now?

A: COVID gave us an opportunity to make difficult decisions and we have emerged stronger. We spent that first month looking through all our expenses with a fine tooth comb, cancelling or negotiating better terms on anything we could. We learned who our real business partners were—those who were willing to work with us as we navigated through this very unique time. And while business was certainly slower, we used that time to strategize how to increase the value we bring to our clients and the industry.

We are being even more deliberate with where our money is being invested. We are hyper-focused on the design and delivery of our service model and are expanding our product development team. We have an ambitious roadmap of enhancements planned that combine the human and digital experience in a transformative way and will allow us to lead the future of business travel.

Q: Just for fun, do you prefer …

  • Window or aisle? Aisle—I hate feeling trapped and I try to stay hydrated while traveling 😉
  • Beach, mountain, or city travel? I’m a beach person at heart.
  • Salty or sweet travel snack? Sweets.
  • Where are you looking forward to traveling next? My husband and I had an anniversary trip to Portugal booked for the fall of 2020 that was cancelled due to COVID. We are looking forward to rescheduling that soon.