Juggling remote destinations, last-minute changes and the importance of on-time arrivals– organizing business travel for crew members working in the energy, resources and marine sectors (ERM) is not an easy task. In a Q&A, BCD’s Vice President of Global Business Development Ross Pratt and Vice President of Business Development Marine & Shipping Thorsten Kirkegaard Winther talk about BCD Travel’s growing focus on ERM travel and expanding services to support ERM business globally.
Why is ERM corporate travel management different from managing other sectors?
Kirkegaard Winther: Compared to traditional travel management, the booking and organization processes for these trips are much more complex. For example, to utilize specialty ERM fares, travelers must have appropriate documentation. Payment and accounting processes can be complex due to things like cash flows, need to spend funds in country, and the number of contractors who travel. Our task is to make this complexity as simple as possible for the customer.
Pratt: For travelers in the ERM sector, two-day journeys, which also require multiple changes of means of transport, are the norm. Whether engineer, roughneck or cook; they have to reach remote destinations such as offshore drilling platforms or mines on time in order to replace their colleagues there. They come from all over the world and work day and night shifts 365 days a year. And punctual crew changes are of the utmost importance for our clients’ successful operations. Because late arrival in this field of work is not simply a missed meeting – especially for technicians who have to arrive on time to repair an offshore conveyor system. A day’s downtime can quickly cost hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars.
Another unique feature is the last-mile component of their trip, which can be helicopter rides to offshore rigs or a three-hour bus ride to a mine site.
Which travel services are particularly important for ERM customers?
Kirkegaard Winther: It is particularly important that we provide crew members with all relevant travel information from a single source via our TripSource platform. The traveler needs a variety of different travel information and documents, which he receives from various sources: airline tickets, coupons for the hotel room at the airport until all travelers are driven to the meeting point, certificates for helicopter flights. We’re bringing that together.
Pratt: Traveler tracking is a big deal. At the push of a button, the location of an employee can be determined in order to organize help if necessary. Currently, we are also implementing a tool that supports travelers in changing their itinerary, reaching their destination quickly and safely and documenting the itinerary.
What technology is BCD using to serve its ERM customers?
Pratt: Our open IT platform SolutionSource, which enables the integration of third-party providers, is an important success factor on the market. It integrates both ERM-specific partners and corporate travel technologies. Our own technologies TripSource and DecisionSource also follow the platform-based approach, and have the ability to tailor processes and functionality by traveler type. This allows for the varying needs of both crew and corporate travelers to be met.
What additional qualifications should ERM travel managers have?
Pratt: Because crew members come from all over the world, travel managers need to know exactly which regions are critical and what the routes are. In some places, for example, there are only two flights a day, or planes take off only in certain months. The ability to find creative solutions is what distinguishes a good travel manager. They also need expertise in areas such as supplier contracts, specialty air and accommodation content for ERM customers, group travel, and chartered transportation to name a few.
ERM is not a new market for you. Why did BCD Travel start expanding ERM in 2019?
Pratt: We have been working locally and regionally for ERM companies for over 30 years. Over the years, we saw an opportunity to globalize our offering, by providing a platform that supports local, regional and global clients in these industries. On this basis, we are also supporting one of the world’s largest oilfield service providers.
Pratt: Our investment in the ERM space is a big step forward– especially from our customers’ point of view. We’ve heard a lot of positive feedback, including that our investment is helping revive the market. In the ERM sectors, business travel management is usually spread across a large number of different providers. These include TMC’s, providers of helicopters and charter flights, shipping agencies, and organizers of group trips. Planning is complex and is spread across travel and logistics teams. ERM companies are looking for any way to simplify this process, and service their travelers worldwide. This is exactly where we come in. As part of our expanded ERM travel program, we centralize these services. Thanks to our ERM centers in Houston, Rotterdam, and Singapore, we can serve ERM customers globally and standardize processes associated with travel planning. With a platform based approach, it’s easier to roll out a policy change, update carrier agreements, or add new business units to the program.
What role does the new partnership with BSM play in this respect?
Kirkegaard Winther: Our partnership creates a link between business travel management and the shipping industry that has never existed in the market before. It allows us to support the nuances within the marine and shipping sectors of ERM. BSM is a company with a long tradition. It has over 135 years of experience in the market. Thanks to our new partner, we are in a position to really integrate the marine sector into ERM travel planning worldwide. This means that we examine all processes for improvement potential for our customers, including the handling of travel formalities in the ports. We pay particular attention to the last mile. From the travel planner’s point of view, the route from the airport to the ship taking the crew to their destination is the most complex part.