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Maximizing the value of combined travel and meetings & events programs

March 15, 2022


By Gill Day
Senior Director, Global Business Development, CWT Meetings & Events

We’ve seen all too recently the devastating impact of world events and the effect they have on people and their movement. Whether the crises are a result of a global pandemic, natural disaster or a political conflict, organizations have a duty of care to know where their employees are to be able to support them in any kind of force majeure situation. Add to that today’s model of hybrid and remote working and it raises profound questions about an organization's approach to employee travel, when and where to bring people together - and why it should be done in the first place.

But aside from the obvious wellbeing and duty of care practicalities, there are other benefits to maximizing the value of integrated travel, meetings and events programs. According to Cirium, business travel is expected to accelerate in 2022 driven by an increase in meetings & events, with companies already having increased their business travel spend.

Why combine travel with meetings & events?

Professional development

Combining business travel with meetings & events is an opportunity for those managing travel programs to move into broader, more strategic roles as employee collaboration or mobility managers. In addition to benefiting the organization, the influence of the travel function and its team expands.

Strategic sourcing

Joint sourcing is one super-strategic benefit. By combining your travel and meetings & events program, you will get more transparency into total spend from both areas, not to mention enhanced supplier negotiations and risk mitigation, driving adoption and compliance.

In addition, consolidating with one supplier to manage both delivers better policy control, helps to optimize your supplier deals and simultaneously provides the ability to track travelers. In conjunction with this, it is our experience that thoughtful and well-communicated policies, that embrace all areas of travel, can support travelers' engagement, wellbeing and employee retention.

Defining program inclusion

Though there are many advantages, there are also stark contrasts. Travel is often to attend meetings, but not necessarily events. Events aren’t always for employees. Why do we differentiate? A meeting may be internally at another office, or it may be with one or two customers at their office locations, but any way you look at it, it’s all Travel & Expense spend that the organization needs to optimize.

If we rewind two years, organizations saw their travel program as a fait-accompli or deemed meetings & events as ‘just too complicated’ to even attempt to tackle. In most instances they simply had too much already on their plates to even try to take an additional category under their wing. The pause in travel resulting from the pandemic may have caused a re-think, but also provided the breathing space to do it.

Even before Covid, we had seen a trend towards Travel Managers and Procurement starting to look at meetings & events in more detail, some with a view to gaining visibility, others having to report cost and spend to leadership, or to meet duty of care obligations. We’ve also seen the merging of mature meetings and travel programs, as innovative leaders from both areas have sought further improvements - together going beyond their historically separate areas of responsibility. Although there are some hurdles to overcome along the way, there are huge potential benefits to program integration. Let’s take a look at some of them now…

More benefits of an integrated approach

  • Greater visibility across travel and M&E spend can support supplier negotiations,
  • Management reporting captures all spend, not just the transient elements.
  • Drives adoption and compliance if managed centrally and continuously communicated.
  • Supports travel policy and duty of care:
    • Consolidation to one supplier for management of both travel management and meetings & events programs provides policy control, optimizes supplier deals, and simultaneously provides traveler tracking capabilities.
  • Virtual and hybrid events are on the rise and should be written into policies moving forwards. Working with a supplier that understand both worlds removes complexity and boosts ROI.
  • Increased use of virtual and hybrid events also reduces carbon footprint, contributing to sustainability goals which are now front and center for an increasing number of organizations.
  • Use of small meetings tools like CWT easy meetings bridges the gap that historically has been very hard to capture and manage, offering an easy-to-use option for meeting planners.
  • Reducing the number of suppliers across travel and meetings & events offers opportunities to save and negotiate via a strategic approach. The ‘triangle’ between the customer, travel management and meetings & events company and other partners drives innovation and efficiencies across an integrated program.
  • Improved meetings & events analytics, spend data capture and ultimately ROI
  • Consistent service delivery across the entire integrated program, from specialist teams in both transient travel and meetings & events.
  • A carefully considered and communicated policy covering all areas of travel can support employee engagement, staff retention and wellbeing – and become a real differentiator in today’s highly competitive recruitment marketplace.

The challenges to be overcome in taking programs to this next, integrated level include working with a diverse range of stakeholders with interests right across the travel, meetings & events spectrum. So it’s key to effectively engage with these groups from the outset and build successful relationships through timely, targeted communication with different audiences. With careful planning, and targeted communication, the 'new normal' for employee travel can reach previously unattainable heights - for travelers, attendees and employers alike.


For more information, visit CWT Meetings & Events


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