Destinations Europe—the inaugural Virtual Travel and Expense Summit for Finance and Travel Management Professionals hosted by TripActions—took place on March 23, 2021. Hundreds of travel, finance, procurement, HR, and risk leaders from across Europe came together to explore the future of the industry and the role that modern travel and spend management plays in building resilient organizations and processes for the future.
The event kicked off with the host, Ciara Govern, Chief Customer Officer at TripActions, highlighting how bookings continue to grow by double digits week-over-week since the beginning of 2020. The team expects that growth to only gather momentum as Europe accelerates its vaccine rollout.
There was also a special appearance by the new TripActions VP of EMEA Marketing Simone Buckley who recently joined the organization as part of its momentous growth across Europe. This growth comes as part of TripActions’ substantial investments in its EMEA product offering including the expansion of its EU rail, air, hotel and car inventory, along with language localization, sustainability controls and carbon impact reporting.
Now let’s dive into the five main takeaways from Destinations Europe:
1. Customers are Preparing for a Safe Return to Business Travel
TripActions Senior Manager of Customer Success Carina Brasil da Cunha was joined by the heads of travel and procurement at Springer Nature, Unit4, Nilfisk, and Varonis to discuss how each organization is planning to get back to travel. They are thinking about how to make those trips more meaningful in the future, why visibility is more important than ever, and the importance of booking flows including improvals and travel tracking.
“Travel managers need to be more agile and hands-on. They need to know their travel program very well so they can deal with emergencies and crisis management. They need to know the whole booking process journey, content, payments, suppliers, rates,” said Sammit Khanndeparkar, Global Head of Travel at Springer Nature.
“I really feel corporations need to consolidate now under a single global platform. One size doesn't fit all, but there are many tools, and that's why we've gone to TripActions to make it a seamless and a single approach, a single look and feel.”
“Given that we've learned that we can operate in this hybrid model, when we do travel and when we do meet in person, it's going to be focused on much more meaningful interactions. So not just jumping on a plane for the sake of having a meeting and flying back, but really thinking about how you want to properly engage with your leaders and team and making those trips much more meaningful,” said Jonny Bryan, Chief of Staff at Unit4.
2. Sustainable Travel is Key to a Successful Future
The shift towards more sustainable travel and operations as a whole is here to stay and will have a tremendous impact on the travel industry. Marilyn Johnson, Senior Director of Global Sustainability at Clarivate, is a seasoned sustainability professional who built her career championing sustainability initiatives. And she’s seen the field grow ten-fold.
“Our CEO has been talking with a lot of investors and they’re all talking about ESG. It's music to my ears, because I've been waiting for that driver. We're starting to see colleagues’ perspectives shift and they’re looking for sustainable companies, companies with purpose with metrics to measure this and be a positive force in the world. I think it's in today's world of business imperative and I do not see it going away,” said Marilyn in the Destinations Europe sustainability panel.
“In my opinion, sustainability is going to be the key driver in the future,” remarked Michael Burke. Head of Strategic Customer and Project Management at DB Vertrieb GmbH.
Zoran Kovacevic, Director of Product Management at TripActions, led the panel and touched on the importance of measuring these initiatives.
“It starts with measurement having a real-time access to the data of what you're emitting with a high enough accuracy. Only then you can set your goals. One of the things we're adding at TripActions is a carbon budget in the tool so you can track how you're performing against that budget to come.”
3. The Right Technology is Vital on the Path to Business Recovery
Jim Lundy, the founder, CEO, and lead analyst at Aragon Research hosted a conversation with Chris Krammer, CAO at Okta, and David Wieseneck, former VP of Finance at Letgo that examined the current environment. They specifically discussed how advancements in payment technology and fintech have converged with market changes and user expectations for a seminal moment.
The panelists not only shared their observations, but on-the-ground insights on how modern travel and spend management have transformed their business and given their teams a new level of productivity and insights.
“We took the approach early on that we don’t want our employees to spend their own money. We don’t want them spending time booking or doing expense reports on the back end. We want them to do their job so we looked for a platform and process that would be extremely fast and modern,” says David.
“The more time that I can give back to the accounting and finance team, the more time they work on analysis and not just the reconciliation process.”
4. Managing Your T&E Budget in a Recession
TripActions EVP of Finance Ram Bartov hosted a roundtable of finance leaders who shared their insights, opinions and experiences on managing a T&E budget effectively to reduce cost and optimize spend as teams return to travel.
“I fundamentally believe that there will be a competitive advantage to traveling and meeting people face to face. Those companies that understand how to use travel as a travel in the near future are going to have outsized returns in terms of sales teams, relationships, and partnerships. I’m looking forward to guiding my companies and other CFOs on that concept,” said Jim Cook, CFO of Orbital Insight.
5. Team Work Makes the Dream Work
Survivalist and TV presenter Bear Grylls joined Destinations Europe to share his perspective on making it through tough periods and turning challenges into opportunities. He spoke about how he's learned to deal with failure, the importance of how we react to the tests of life, and how to access the fire within.
“Tough times make for tough people. No storm event lasts forever. It is the storms of life that we all go through that make us strong,” said Bear.
He ended with a single acronym that will serve our industry well as business travel returns in a new way: “NGU: Never give up.”
TripActions is becoming the solution-of-choice for Europe-based companies seeking modernized, global corporate travel solutions. Watch all the video sessions from Destinations Europe here.