A guest blog by David Coppens, EVP Operations Strategy at BCD Travel
I had the honor of introducing and participating in The Big Idea session at last year’s GBTA Europe Conference in Brussels. Participants debated how the industry can remain relevant and convey its value and purpose to those inside and outside of the industry. This discussion got me thinking about recruitment and retention in our industry as we kick off 2023.
The rapid return to travel has left the industry catching up to demands and adapting to meet the needs of business travelers. We’ve all seen the effects: long lines, reduced services and a new level of uncertainty in all travel and service-related segments.
I hear people say that these issues make the industry less attractive for new employees. But I believe it is exactly this everchanging environment that should be an attraction. Travel is exciting and has a natural appeal for many. It connects people, which is what attracted me into the industry years ago. BCD gained 2,453 new employees in 2022 alone, so it looks like that attraction is still there for many more.
What comes first: recruitment or retention?
The truth is that we can’t put one on hold to focus on the other. We must pledge time and resources to both. Few educational paths lead directly to the corporate travel industry. We need to find creative ways to get in front of the talent pool to educate them about careers in travel.
Corporate travel companies can attract newcomers by offering a place to gain a solid understanding of the industry and build out a career path. There are plenty of opportunities for growth. Corporate travel has careers in tech, research and innovation, account management, sales, operations, communications, risk and security, product development, design and more.
From a retention perspective, we need to ask ourselves if we’re putting people in an environment where they want to work. The travel industry has a continued opportunity to lean into digitization. What do our digital workplaces feel like? Is our software outdated or clunky for agents? We want employees to know they’re moving into the future. It’s important to show how we’re modernizing with things like API-first platforms and investing in digital environments like our proprietary AgentSource interface for travel counselors.
The Big Idea brought about 300 participants from all areas of business travel to discuss the retention and recruitment struggles we’re all experiencing. BCD developed the theme for session, “Travel and The Law of Attraction,” to get everyone together to brainstorm possible solutions around four core pillars: industry image; diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I); traveler wellbeing and technology. Participants included travel buyers, arrangers, suppliers, procurement, risk and security professionals, technologists, HR teams and meetings planners.
Traveler wellbeing and industry image were the two most discussed topics during our session. Traveler wellbeing is arguably the No. 1 area of interest in current conversations with our clients. That’s a big change from years past when budget was the focal point. With this shift in priorities, wellbeing needs to be at the forefront of our industry to demonstrate that we can provide safety and security to our customers and our employees. To boost the industry image, we need to reframe business travel’s value proposition as “travel for good,” accentuating benefits the sector brings to the economy and the flexibility, inclusivity and long-term career path potential. Business thrives on in-person connections, bringing people together in a smart and sustainable way and bringing some fun back to travel.