The Niagara Falls event provides delegates with insights, tools and strategies to optimize travel and meetings spend
NIAGARA FALLS—The sun shown and the temperature stayed at summer highs in Ontario’s wine country as delegates gathered for the inaugural Travel Procurement Symposium. With attendance at 118 delegates, the symposium offered attendees a getaway experience along with the chance to learn about the growing synergy between meetings and events, travel management and procurement.
The event, held at the Fallsview Casino Resort in Niagara Falls on September 18 and 19, provided insights, tools and strategies to optimize travel and meetings spend. The symposium—held by PurchasingB2B magazine in partnership with GBTA Canada—also provided delegates the chance to network with peers.
The two-day event—featuring the slogan The Next Level!—kicked off the evening of September 18 with a gala reception entitled Jet Setting The Globe. The evening featured entertainment by illusionist Sam Pearce, who circulated among attendees.
The following day, keynote speaker Philippe Gadbois, chairperson of the Hotel Association of Canada and senior vice-president of operations at Atlific Hotels, gave attendees an inside view of the state of the hotel industry. Gadbois presented a “steady as she goes” view of the industry, noting that prices in the industry tend to increase rather than drop. Therefore, when the industry charges more it’s simply to keep an even keel. Amenities like internet connectivity can add to prices.
Brands and hotels must differentiate themselves, he noted, and no one wins if everything is generic. Since Canada is a large and diverse country, the product will be—and should be—different depending on which city guests are staying in.
Next on the agenda, Ben Scott, VP of marketing and strategy at CWT Solutions Group, Carlson Wagonlit Travel Americas, spoke about ways to harness additional savings within a travel program. There are more people travelling than ever, he noted, with the global population hitting an estimated 9.2 billion.
“It’s just going to continue to grow,” he said, adding that digital interactions—and the expectation of customization—will also increase. The digital age provides ease-of-use, instant access and personalization, Scott said.
And while ease-of-use is exciting, he said, it also presents the challenge of more outside influence on travellers—for example, more shopping for flights means less productivity. In turn, that means compliance becomes an issue. But don’t use overly rigid tactics to increase compliance, he warned. Rather, gamification can encourage travellers to comply with travel policies. Rewarding travellers for choosing a less expensive option means those employees are more likely to make choices that benefit the company, Scott said.
During the next session, Christina Wornchak, VP of business development for American Express Global Business Travel, led a panel discussion on expense management for procurement. One change in the field is process speed, said panelist Yvonne Kerns, senior category manager, corporate sourcing, corporate services, CIBC. Those processes are now electronic with drop downs available of what the expenses are and descriptions of what the charge should be. Approval is electronic and can be done within seconds. As well, Kerns noted, the data is clean and much more can be done with that information.
“You’ve got better data for senior management to work with,” she said.
In terms of implementation, fellow panelist Jim Moore, manager, administration and travel, strategic procurement services, Rogers Communications, said that communication is critical. As well, Heather Groetsch, regional sales executive, Concur Technologies, said that executive buy in was needed to ensure a program would be successful. The IT department must be committed to the project and it must also be a priority for the organization. Keep the configuration simple, she advised.
Keeping fit and having fun
Delegates were able to get their blood flowing during the noon hour, when Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod took the stage for the lunchtime keynote address. The duo, known for the BodyBreak commercials and as a competing couple on season one of The Amazing Race Canada, discussed not only their adventures over the past 26 years but also offered tips for healthy and active travel.
McLeod said that many people claim to be too busy to exercise. But she encouraged delegates to try to fit activity into their routines. With autumn starting, for example, communities have fall exercise programs that can help.
And while activity is important, nutrition is also key to healthy living both on the road and at home, said Johnson. Watch for “landmines” when making food choices, such as foods typically thought of as healthy that actually have high calorie counts. Sugar is inflammatory, so men should eat 102tsp or less a day and women shouldn’t exceed 10tsp.
The symposium’s first afternoon session, entitled Wrangling Maverick Travellers, looked at challenges organizations faced in dealing with renegades in current corporate travel programs. Panelist Carol McDowell, manager of corporate travel services, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), noted most travellers want to do the right thing but don’t know what that is. Organizations should look at their travel policy to see where leaks are. As well, ask travellers what works and what doesn’t, she recommended. She recommended sending surveys to employees in order to get that information.
The day’s final session addressed travel risk management. Panelist David Hyde, owner and principal consultant, David Hyde and Associates, said that duty of care has several dimensions and is, at its root, a legal standard. It essentially means to exercise due diligence and take all reasonable steps to protect travellers from foreseeable harm. Duty of care is becoming more enshrined in legislation, Hyde noted, and employers have that duty whether employees are working at their office or while on the road. Occupational health and safety laws have expanded in Canada, and employees can refuse unsafe work.
Overall, the event provided discussion of a broad range of travel procurement topics, best practices for improving travel programs and ample opportunities to network. Delegates were able to take home tips to help them take their programs to The Next Level! while enjoying all that the Niagara Falls region had to offer.