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July/August 2017
For Business, Corporate Travel & Meeting Buyers & Arrangers

Guest column: Learning a valuable lesson

ATPI's chief commercial officer for energy, shipping and offshore, Gary Pearce, looks at how travel managers can gain from the way the energy and offshore sectors deal with tough times...

OVER THE LAST YEAR AND A HALF, the energy, shipping and offshore sector has faced challenges and undoubtedly this prolonged period of uncertainty has cast a spotlight on cost savings and efficiency.

As we know, regardless of the industry, when tough times come calling, travel policies and budgets are often the first areas to come under scrutiny. This does, however, also offer the opportunity for travel management companies (TMCs) and their clients to review practices in order to be in a good position to maintain optimum efficiency when times get better.

So, what are the key issues affecting travel policies in the marine and offshore sector? Moreover, what can travel buyers from other sectors learn from travel management in this arena?

COST SAVING

Energy and marine businesses cannot function without people moving around. While the travel cannot change, there are ways to ensure that costs, processes and risks are kept efficient. There are attractive fares from airlines available exclusively to the energy and marine sector. But it’s important to have a specialist managing your travel to take advantage of them.

Smarter spending based on detailed intelligence of what routes, projects or individual travellers are costing empowers a smarter travel policy. A specialist TMC can help benchmark travel costs against industry peers, and plan business around reducing unforeseen expenditure. Staying on top of the data really aids savings – one of our clients wiped over £2 million from their annual travel spend thanks to greater data intelligence.

THE WONDER OF TECHNOLOGY

A recent white paper from Amadeus, Marine and Offshore Travel: All Hands on Deck, correctly highlighted that “within the current demanding environment, technology developments continue apace, allowing agents to introduce efficiencies that save money and ensure prompt delivery of information and service. The more creative travel agencies are, the better chance they have of staying ahead of the game.”

Out of challenging times come fresh ideas and new approaches. Investing in technology that can greater integrate crew HR and travel systems is just one area in which travel management businesses are working to offer greater support to their clients in the shipping and energy sectors.

The data powerhouse created means that fewer layers of HR teams and rig or crew travel planning are needed in-house. While these are brave and tough decisions to make, they do reduce operating costs, and allow experts to focus on the areas where they deliver the most to the business.

Technology platforms such as ATPI’s Crew Link can cover every aspect of travel work flow, including checking that the right crew members with the right qualifications, safety certificates, and even visas and inoculations, are confirmed to ensure travel to the right place. Should one element change, then the technology system can also flag where other changes are needed. Data on travellers, crew rotations, visas and even vaccinations can also help drive down costs when organised and assessed correctly.

While it is important to take stock and review areas in need of greater efficiency, it is, of course, important to recognise where certain services must be maintained to the highest level.

Health and safety has always been business critical for the shipping and energy sectors, a trend that unfortunately other industry sectors are only now waking up to due to tragic terrorist events in what were thought of as ‘safe’ business travel destinations.

The nature of travelling offshore, or travelling to some destinations around the world that are large oil and gas producers, means an unavoidable level of risk. Over the years the sector has invested more and paid more attention to making great improvements.

DUTY-OF-CARE

This includes an integrated approach to risk management that incorporates a comprehensive travel policy and approach to travel planning. As one of the first sectors to implement a robust duty-of-care programme, it’s reassuring to see that these policies are being maintained throughout the downturn – an important lesson that other sectors should take note of.

So, while the last few years have taken their toll, it has forced the sector to review practices. This streamlined focus has not only created efficiencies, but perhaps, most importantly, it has ingrained the ethos of continuous improvement.

After all, when times come good this is when the benefits will really start to show – a lesson that all sectors can learn from, to achieve greater efficiency as part of a travel management programme.

Gary Pearce, is chief commercial officer – energy, shipping and offshore, at the ATPI Group. He has a wealth of experience in travel for the energy, marine and offshore industry, having previously held senior roles within the travel management sector. In 2013 he joined Griffin Travel, which later became part of the ATPI Group.

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