FCM's leaders take on the year ahead

FCM's leaders take on the year ahead 

Fireworks coming from the sky tower

New Zealand’s corporate travel industry will be supercharged in 2023 - ignited by the rising demand for domestic and long-haul travel, more discerning travel buyers and TMCs willing to get their hands dirty (for customers and the planet!). Looking ahead industry suppliers can expect a flurry of activity in the corporate travel sales space, while FCM customers can expect a slew of new tech enhancements and a heightened focus on value creation for travel programs.

Have a read of what our Kiwi corporate travel experts have to say about the year ahead …

Keeley Alton

Keeley Alton, General Manager, New Zealand

 

What surprised you most about corporate travel in 2022?

The speed at which our customers returned to the skies once borders opened. The pent-up demand was very real, and it was powerful watching our people manage the complexities of international travel and helping customers navigate continually changing government and airline restrictions.

What are the emerging trends for corporate travel in 2023?

I think business travellers will be undertaking more multi-stop trips and combining leisure travel with their business travel in support of responsible travel.

What's your corporate travel resolution for 2023?

Incorporate exercise and wellbeing when I travel.

Personal New Year's resolution for 2023?

Be kind, be strong and be bold!

Kelly Thomas

Kelly Thomas, Head of Sales and Customer Success, New Zealand

 

How has the role of sales changed in the past year, and what’s ahead?

Here at FCM we look to solve problems for customers, and connect them with the right people, solutions and technology. Our prospective customers are looking to our sales team for advice and to be an industry advisor they can trust. During the past 12 months as the travel industry and corporate sector moved out of the pandemic and faced a new set of hurdles, the trend of the TMC being a trusted industry advisor has been consistently reinforced.  

Customers that have put market reviews on hold during the industry uncertainty of the past 3 years will no doubt look to review in 2023 where their contracts allow them to. So we’re expecting a flurry of activity in this space, which is exciting for FCM and our people.

Procurement managers are looking to work with suppliers capable of creating a true partnership, where business cultures and company values align, and where they can see a clear and strategic approach to achieving their travel program objectives. Additionally, businesses want to work with a TMC that can enhance and enrich their environmental, social or corporate governance (ESG) or corporate social responsibility (CSR) journey. We believe this will remain a key part of the travel buyer strategy in 2023.

It would be remiss of me also, not to mention the economic outlook that casts a shadow over New Zealand in 2023 - we expect this could impact our buyers in that they will want a clear return on investment for their spend on corporate travel, as well as value creation across entire travel programs. Our team will be focusing on this for customers because we know it’s a priority.  

What should businesses keep in mind when going to RFP in 2023?

The last few years have been a reminder that the world is unpredictable. It's important to choose a travel partner that has the scale and scope to weather whatever a storm may bring. That they can offer you a robust business model that’s sharply focused on the customer experience. Buyers need to ensure they feel comfortable that a potential travel provider can demonstrate their ability and experience in this space. Additionally, businesses should pay particular attention to the innovation and technology projects TMCs are deploying or working on, despite the challenges of the past few years. You want your travel program and traveller experience to always be moving forward and improving for all stakeholders, whether it’s your travel bookers, the travellers themselves, procurement managers or company executives. This is what truly will set TMCs apart from each other in the coming years. Businesses that partner with a TMC that invests heavily in the future of travel, not just the right now, will no doubt have greater success in their programs.

What will FCM’s account management bring to the table in 2023?

FCM’s account management team is gearing up for 2023 and should see the investments of 2021 and 2022 delivered to their customer portfolios. We've worked through rebuilding what travel programs need post pandemic, so now and in the face of any similar events, new technology, and enhancements to existing technology will be deployed to our customers. This will mean greater online booking, change and cancellation functionality, a new and improved mobile app, an exciting travel program portal in FCM Platform, enhanced sustainability visibility through the booking process, carbon offsetting integration, greater pre-trip approval capability and of course, access to our new reporting suite. While our Account Managers are responsible for the strategic direction of customer travel programs, future-proofing those programs is a key part of this strategy through the deployment of market leading tools and technology. Our account management team will guide our customers through these enhancements, ensuring optimal engagement and value. Our customers also look to our Account Managers to keep travel programs moving forward, and drive value, so we'll continue to work on business plans that achieve these objectives, and importantly deliver return on investment.

How does the human support of account management fit into an increasingly automated world?

While we're all able these days to get what we need at the touch of a button (online reporting for example) and make travel bookings without human intervention (online booking) the role of the account manager is really to bring all elements of the travel program together into a clear goal-oriented strategic plan that delivers on determined objectives. This can't be automated. Our account managers coach our customers on opportunities that will help them achieve their goals and enhance the experience of their travellers. Account Managers are also responsible for finding the story in a customer’s travel data and bring the numbers to life in a way that makes sense to all stakeholders. When you're working on a category as complicated as travel - where there’s a very personal and human experience element to it, it's vital that as a travel supplier, we approach our customer partnerships and deliver customer service that’s highly personal also – this has to be supported by dedicated account managers. We love automation at FCM, and we use it in all the right areas, but it will always be one element of our offering, and really the supporting act to the stars of the show - our people.

 

Jarrod Patterson

Jarrod Patterson, Customer Experience Leader, New Zealand

 

What are the most significant changes you’ve witnessed in corporate travel since the start of COVID-19?

From an operational perspective, I think the most significant changes in corporate travel has been the increase in pricing as airlines, hotels and car rental suppliers pass on inflationary increases, as well as wear the impact of classic supply/demand constraints, and other factors outside their control (e.g. - fuel prices, staffing issues, wage costs). This has been amplified by the pandemic’s impact on the entire travel eco-system.

Much is spoken about ‘the new normal’. What does this mean for you and the business travel managers in your team?

I don't believe there is a ‘new normal’. Things over the last few years have continually changed in response to waves of illness, weather events, inventory issues and other disruptions. As new problems requiring new solutions arise, we need to continue to evolve. It will be interesting to see what patterns emerge over the next few years to see if sustainability practices will become a normal part of a travel booking conversation, and if pricing and inventory improve.

What's your corporate travel resolution for 2023?

My personal corporate travel has gone from almost fortnightly to none, so I'd say my resolution would be to make the most of any opportunities that come my way!

Personal New Year's resolution for 2023?

Enjoy the sunshine more!

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