The need for skilled travel counselors is at an all-time high for travel management companies because they are dealing with a loss of skilled workers who left during the pandemic. At the same time, there is a heightened need for support and service.
Belinda Hindmarsh, executive vice president and chief growth officer at CWT (No. 5 on Travel Weekly’s 2022 Power List), and John Morhous, chief experience officer at Flight Centre Travel Group (No. 7 on the Power List), discussed these and other challenges facing the business travel sector during the “Executive Panel: (Un)usual Business” session at the Phocuswright Conference.
“Trips are getting much more complex,” Hindmarsh says. “There’s a lot more need for safety and security.”
Morhous says he thinks about “what happens when the flight gets canceled and it’s the last flight back to your city and you’ve been on business trip for three days.”
“You don’t want to talk to a chatbot. You want to talk to a person who can actually do something for you,” according to Morhous.
He’s seeing a “renaissance of the travel consultant” and high demand for those who can provide empathy and expertise to the level that customers expect.
At the same time, Morhous says Flight Centre Travel Group is transacting above 2019 levels with 60% to 70% of its pre-pandemic staff thanks largely to innovation in automation.
“When we set off on a project, to put a new product out to market, to build an enhancement, a lot of what we work on is trying to very specifically find where that integration works best to balance the human element and the robotic element,” he added.
Sustainability is also a critical issue. Hindmarsh says large companies are setting goals, and CWT helps them by using advanced analytics and building in the capability to “make informed decisions at point of sale.” In March, CWT integrated carbon emissions data into its platform.
“The way we think about it is it’s our job to help them with both the education part and also measuring the goals and getting to the goals,” she said.
The will is there, Hindmarsh added. In a recent survey of CWT customers, two-thirds said sustainability is more important now than it was pre-pandemic.
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