Travel manager Brad Seitz touched a nerve in his June 22 Op Ed cautioning travel suppliers not to blame corporate clients for failing to precisely project when and to what degree booking volumes would recover. In his response below, CWT chief customer officer Nick Vournakis doesn’t make excuses for insufficient TMC service. He knows providers around the industry can do better and says cooperation is the path forward.
I read Brad Seitz’s piece on the implosion of the travel industry and it was really hard not to be overly defensive in my reactions. As a travel management company constituent, I thought to myself, “Are we really placing blame for this catastrophe on our customers?”
On further reflection, I cannot argue Brad’s experience, but as a concerned party from the TMC community I’d like to apologize if Brad feels this way, that we are blaming our customers. Your sentiment will not be lost on me as we continue to work through these challenges each day. It will help inform the approach we take with each and every CWT customer.
By no means does the root of our issue lie in the hands of travel managers. By and large, this surge in travel demand is exactly what every TMC has been looking for, some kind of sustained lift in our transactional business model. We have indeed faced significant challenges to meet our original service levels — not because we wanted to, not because we were unprepared and not because you didn’t give us a better projection.
The simple fact of the matter is that this industry is still powered by people. Regardless of the improvements in the technology supply chain, travelers by and large still require travel counselor intervention to deal with disruption, make simple changes to itineraries and sometimes to get some important advice on how the landscape has changed as it relates to vaccination status, quarantine and documentation requirements. Calls are necessarily longer than before.
Couple that with a dynamic we have long discussed and never proactively addressed as an industry (especially in the United States): there is a material lack of new entrants into the travel industry. Experienced travel counselors are leaving the industry for many reasons. If there was anything catching us by surprise, it’s the massive attrition we are faced with.
So it’s time to step up and improve, find a way to make the travel industry attractive again and reinforce to this community that this industry can actually be both fun and rewarding.
There is a steep mountain to climb and we are ready for the challenge. Brad made a great point in his closing: “Now is the time for buyers and suppliers to work together.” Couldn’t agree more. We look forward to that collaboration to help us emerge stronger than ever.