For corporate clients, combining transient and meetings travel can yield more benefits than just money. Even small travel agencies can help their corporate customers by focusing on the meetings side of the house.
That’s a little advice from George Odom, the head of the new integrated travel and meetings management practice being launched for corporate customers by BCD Travel’s consulting arm, Advito.
Odom, former meetings manager of Hewlett Packard and Eli Lilly, is a well-known figure in the meetings industry. The service that he and his team at Advito offer is designed to help companies that “want to dig a little deeper, do a little more analysis and benchmarking to find savings opportunities.”
More than savings
It’s not the same old approach to meetings, focusing on just the bottom line, though that’s important, of course. Two newer themes also resonate with corporate travel buyers these days – safety and security, and service.
Traditionally, when companies considered bringing their transient travel and meetings departments together, they talked about saving money by leverage buying power with airlines and hotels to get better rates.
But in a world where airport shooters and natural disasters compete for attention, customers are focusing more than ever on duty of care, Odom said. “They want to know where their folks are and how to get ahold of them in an emergency.”
In case of emergencies
Even when meeting attendees book their airline tickets through the corporate agency, that doesn’t offer much information in case of emergency. Their tickets may say they flew to San Diego, but the meeting may actually be in La Jolla. That information needs to be pulled into the risk management system.
The added service a travel department can offer to a meetings program also is a driving force these days, he noted.
In most companies the transient travel group also offers 24-hour customer service, while on the meetings side travelers who need assistance generally have to wait for business hours.
Opportunity for agents
Meetings consulting is a service even small travel agencies can offer corporate customers and small businesses, Odom said. Smaller travel agencies often have outstanding customer service; this is another opportunity to expand your services and help smaller groups.
“I’d say embrace this, get to understand it a little better, maximize your relationships in hotel and air,” he suggested.
Then when your existing customers have a board meeting or a sales meeting, reach out and offer to help by putting them in touch with an airline or hotel with which you have a relationship.
It works especially well in companies where the travel and meeting buyers have many other responsibilities, and appreciate any help they can get.
How many of your customers are in that category?