AA, United Name New Global Sales VPs, Signal New Strategies
American Airlines and United have each appointed new vice presidents to oversee global sales. The carriers also tweaked corporate sales strategies to emphasize total brand value as they prepare for demand recovery.

American promoted Kyle Mabry to the global sales VP role, reporting to chief customer officer Alison Taylor. Previously head of AA’s western division, he now leads a 1,000-person sales team.

AA has renegotiated many corporate contracts despite low demand. “It’s about flexible negotiations,” Taylor said during a February interview. “We are looking at items to include, other than key results. It’s a more holistic approach to our RFP contracting with corporates.”

AA also promoted Hank Benedetti to global head of corporate sales, including small and medium-sized accounts. The small business segment is showing more signs of life than larger corporates, according to AA execs.

United’s new SVP of worldwide sales is Doreen Burse. She worked in hospitality for 30 years, most recently as a Marriott International VP of global sales. According to United CEO Scott Kirby, the airline will try to mimic hospitality and win customers on brand value rather than price.

Amex GBT Picks Up Ovation, Short’s Goes To Direct
The year started with two notable acquisitions in corporate travel, with more agency consolidation likely coming. When this occurs, clients of the involved TMCs typically stick around.

In January, American Express Global Business Travel bought New York-based Ovation Travel Group, a high-touch agency active in the professional services, finance, entertainment and legal sectors. It facilitates lots of high-yield, transatlantic business, giving GBT even more clout with suppliers.

“We may move some business from GBT into Ovation because we think they will be better managed there,” said GBT chief commercial officer Drew Crawley. “And we will also look at how we can promote Ovation’s super high-touch service to the C-suite of all of our bigger customers.”

A provider to mainly small and medium-sized customers, Direct Travel acquired Short’s Travel Management’s corporate portfolio. (Short’s retained its athletic travel management business.)

Direct CFO John Coffman worked on 175 such agency transactions during his career. “Most customers are worried” after their provider gets sold, Coffman said during an October teleconference hosted by The Company Dime. “It is a relationship business and they love the people they’ve been working with for five, 10, 15 or 30 years. As long as you’re not disrupting a lot of that, the customers usually are quite happy.”

Lodging Use Cases Emerge For Small Meetings, Remote Workforces
Companies have reason to use lodging in new ways. These include using hotel space for small meetings and as studios for participating in virtual events. Should workforces become more distributed, regional team-building events may become more prominent. When offices are closed, businesspeople need places to get together. Hybrid in-person/virtual events are becoming the norm.

“There is no such thing as just an in-person meeting anymore,” said Microsoft global travel, meetings and events procurement director Eric Bailey during an EY webinar on Jan. 29. “If technology is seamless at hotels, people will say they get a better experience by going in there. If technology is easier at home, they'll do it at home.”

Accor is among the latest hotel chains to announce hybrid meeting initiatives. It will use Microsoft's Teams collaboration system at properties throughout its portfolio. The new concept spans all brands and focuses on meetings with up to 50 physical participants.

“I forecast that we're going to see an increase in our domestic travel as a result of greater human distribution,” said Tido Pesenti, Airbnb director of global real estate and finance operations, during a February Bay Area Business Travel Association webinar. “There is also likely a greater need for off-site, event-type spaces, where people can come together periodically and spend time as a group.”

On-demand office space for individuals is another hotel use case. An owner/operator of about 20 properties in Europe and the US, CitizenM wrapped that in with overnight accommodation as part of a subscription program for those who no longer live near the employer's office.

“It is scary stuff for revenue managers, but it's time to start new relationships,” said CitizenM chief commercial officer Lennert de Jong during an Oct. 29 GBTA webinar. “We're starting with B2C but already have been approached by a few companies to buy subscriptions.”

Most Employers Won't Require Traveler Vaccinations
According to surveys and commentary by travel managers, very few companies will require employees generally, or travelers specifically, to get COVID vaccinations. Some said they won’t institute such requirements, and many more weren’t sure. In a lot of cases, the decision is the client’s rather than the employer’s.

In a January GBTA poll, 1 percent of surveyed travel managers and buyers said their organizations already required travelers to get vaccinated. Eight percent said they planned to require it, and 26 percent said they didn’t. The rest didn’t know.

In GBTA’s February poll, about half of travel managers agreed that employer requests that employees get vaccinated before business travel was a “good policy.” The most-cited reason for that view was that it would “help resume business travel.”

Guidance from the US federal government allows companies to mandate vaccinations for employees, with some exceptions. Doing so would raise questions about the vaccine’s availability and whether any incurred cost is reimbursable. Some companies are offering incentives to workers who get the shots.

Day Trips On The Chopping Block As Part Of EY Sustainability Drive
Several among the growing number of companies publicizing new targets for protecting the environment announced specific business travel goals. To achieve them, these companies are looking to fly less, find more efficient ways to move their people, and contribute to carbon offset and reduction programs.

One of the world’s largest business travel spenders, EY, aims to be carbon negative this year by removing and offsetting more carbon than it emits. Business air travel accounted for 75 percent of its total 2019 global carbon emissions. Against that baseline, the firm targeted a 35 percent reduction in all business travel emissions by 2025.

“This gives us an opportunity to pause, reset and evaluate what is important,” said EY global travel, meetings and events leader Karen Hutchings during the company’s webinar. “Eight percent of emissions was linked to day trips. We have been able to do our business without doing any day trips. That's sort of an easy target to remove.” EY also is scrutinizing trip purpose and limiting the number of employees on the same trip.

Another Look At Outsourcing
In a November paper, McKinsey & Co. made the case for travel procurement as a good candidate for outsourcing. The idea tends to get more attention whenever companies face cost pressure, as many do now. “Travel and entertainment is not a strategic activity or part of the core capabilities for most organizations,” McKinsey wrote. “Because many third-party firms specialize in the function, outsourcing this category can be cost-effective.”

Whether travel is of strategic importance to an organization depends on many variables, and outsourcing presents several possible benefits and risks. According to industry pros, benefits are access to administrative resources, process improvements, economies of scale, better discounts and improved compliance. Risks include conflicts of interest, an overemphasis on cost, loss of control, cultural mismatches and pandemic-driven volatility in available resources.