Sherry Mansor, Travel Manager, APAC Region at Halliburton, works with BCD Travel to support the oil and energy company’s travelers in the region. BCD manages 16 markets across APAC, combining in-market servicing with a multinational service center in Sri Lanka. Sherry, who is based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, spoke candidly about onboarding Halliburton’s program at the start of the pandemic; the challenges currently facing the industry; and what’s on her business plan as travel recovers.
COVID-19 has provided challenges and disruptions for travel managers globally. What are your priorities, and how do you manage to keep these in view?
Sherry: COVID-19 hit us in the early months of onboarding BCD at Halliburton. The main priority then was getting travelers affected by flight interruptions safely to their destinations; that included crew travelers reporting for duty offshore and those returning home to their families and loved ones. Once they were safe, we reassessed our travel needs and decided who within the organization would continue to travel.
Our second priority was managing the government-imposed quarantine measures at selected hotels to ensure there were no or minimal interruptions to crew change at the oilfields.
How have your supplier conversations changed during the pandemic?
Sherry: Our suppliers have been supportive, asking, “How can we assist you during the pandemic?” They want to know if our Essential Travel only policy is changing as government policies change. The airlines and hotels assist us in our travel requirements and do all possible to ensure safe and smooth journeys and stays for our travelers.
What’s the one thing you think travel managers need to do differently as business travel recovers?
Sherry: We need to be certain that travelers are well informed and have access to all the information they need – in the way they’d like to receive it – before, during and after a trip. BCD and our suppliers help us manage through the unexpected and unpredictable.
Has the pandemic changed the way you work with BCD?
Sherry: Yes. As flight capacity shifts, schedules change, and governments enforce restrictions on travel from certain countries, it becomes more challenging to research trip options and accurately identify the lowest logical fare. With country border closures and airport restrictions, travel consultants need to be aware of all rules when proposing the flight options. I think the BCD APAC travel consultants have the eyes for this attention to detail.
BCD also helps keep us updated about apps and health passports as the various governments and suppliers begin to use these more widely.
Travel consultants also need more information about travelers beyond what’s shared in their profile. When it comes to finding assistance, travelers aren’t using online services as much. They want to speak to someone.
Has the pandemic highlighted any gaps in your travel security strategy? Any lessons learned?
Sherry: We’re adhering to Corporate Security and Essential Travel policies. Early in the pandemic, we had cases of denied boarding. Now, travelers are conditioned to follow differing safety and security rules in their origin, destination and transit countries, and at airports.
Travel consultants now call the airlines directly to clear up ambiguity in the booking system rules; they want 200% confirmation of facts!
What strategies are you employing in this area?
Sherry: Savings is always a priority for Halliburton, but not if it means compromising on safety of the travelers. Analytics is key to know where we are and to assess our positions. It provides direction and show key areas of improvements and enhancement to the travel program.
Post pandemic, how do you see your hotel program evolving?
Sherry: I would like to see a more dynamic approach to our APAC hotel program, where we may have a growing list of cost-effective rates. COVID has shown us that we need alternatives in case a hotel is moved into a quarantine program or government rules dictate capacity limits.
Finally, can you share with us why you work in travel?
Sherry: I love the word ‘travel’ itself. What travel means to me? Travel opens up your mind to think from different perspectives when you see and experience new things at new places. It has this unique proposition where, even when one travels for work, the experience of the journey itself is personal.
Interested in working with BCD Travel? Contact us.