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Sat 16 Feb 2008 04:00 AM

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Travel management

It is clear the key challenges facing the travel and meetings industries have at one point been experienced globally.

Having travelled all over the world hosting and attending Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) events, it has become increasingly clear to me that the key challenges facing the travel and meetings industries have at one point been experienced globally.

It seems that for the longest time, the arranging of travel, or the planning of meetings, has been seen as an 'easy job.' For this reason, many corporations have previously loaded these functions onto an employee with an existing job description, often secretaries or, at best, middle management staff.

The result is overworked staff who, more often than not, do not have the skills required for the additional specialised responsibilities given to them.

Thankfully, in most markets this trend has begun to change, which leads to another issue: a skills shortage.

Currently, there are not enough skilled corporate travel and meetings managers in the market, and secondly, those that do have the right skills often get headhunted away from the supplier sector into the corporate sector.

In the Middle East and African markets, where there is still a critical shortage of skilled travel and meetings managers, the solutions to address both of these issues go hand in hand.

Firstly, corporations need to fully understand how highly complex the world of travel and meetings management is and the numerous responsibilities this job entails. If companies want the benefits of cost savings and streamlined procedures that are universally sought after, they need to ensure that they have a full time internal travel or meetings manager in place who is able to build and implement an effective travel or meetings policy; the first step in working towards cost savings.

This is not to say that the travel or meetings manager must take the place of the travel agent or conference organiser. The specialised skills of external professionals should be used so corporations can focus on their core businesses.

However, in order to effectively manage travel and meetings, companies must ensure that they have a dedicated internal person with the correct skill set to manage these portfolios. If not, they run the risk of putting all the control over their travel and meetings spend into the hands of a third party.

Most corporations have a procurement manager in place, but again, travel and meetings management is a highly specialised field and does not remotely equate to the purchase of everyday commodities.

The training and education of these managers is vital in order to develop skill sets. With these industries constantly evolving, training and education needs to be a continuous process in order to keep informed of emerging trends and issues.

There are several travel and meetings management courses available, which will assist in providing a basis of education in these fields. Once this basic training is in place, companies can then stay abreast of changes and trends by using tools provided by organisations such as ACTE.

ACTE specialises in providing opportunities for education through local and global events, as well as providing access to benchmarking surveys, white papers and other tools specifically developed to assist in advancing the corporate travel and meetings industries.

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