Travel buyer Q&A: Yvonne Moya, Unilever

Yvonne Moya is director of global travel, event and fleet services for Unilever, and is a member of the ACTE European Council. She talks to Bob Papworth

How long have you been with Unilever and when did you begin your current role? What is your professional background?

I have been with Unilever for more than six years and in my current role for just over two. Before joining Unilever, I worked with IBM managing the EMEA travel agency and corporate card section. My career started with American Express but I have also worked with Deutsche Telekom and Goodyear Dunlop Tyres.

How many travellers and trips does your programme cover, and how many events?

We have around 35,000 regular travellers out of about 90,000 who have a profile. They make approximately 300,000 trips a year in total – a lot of them are domestic, but London, New York, Singapore and Bangalore are our main international destinations.

Our team also manages around 4,500 off-site events a year, most of which are in the UK.

How have Unilever’s travel and events patterns changed in recent years, and what trends do you see in the years to come?

It has changed in terms of budgets being much more strict, policies being much more tight, while the focus on travel and event spend has been enormously increased.

But within this, we have also had the opportunity to innovate and change some of the fundamentals in our sector. So the pattern, in terms of destinations, hasn’t changed, but the average ticket price has gone down dramatically and, broadly speaking, demand has reduced over the years.

Is it possible to create a truly global travel policy, or will there always be regional or national variations?

I think it is possible to create a global policy but – as much as we want to implement a “one size fits all” approach – we can’t.

There will always be adaptations to the global policy. But this is now happening in a managed way and we will know about it.

Do your travellers understand and appreciate the importance of travel policies? What compliance levels do you achieve, and how?

They do now. We found out that people don’t purposely want to do the wrong thing – they simply didn’t know better.

Of course, we still struggle with personal preferences here and there, but by opening up the programme (for example in the hotel area) and getting closer to the travellers and their needs, we managed to achieve 90 per cent compliance broadly. We aren’t so good in some areas, but we have realised the root cause and are working on it.

To what extent do you think technology drives change in business travel? Do you use teleconferencing for example

– to what extent?

I think the digital journey has just started. We have invested extensively in technology and try to substitute travel as much as possible.

But does this mean travel will stop happening? No. I still believe we will travel, but what will change is the way we travel end-to-end, the digital journey, the processes and, of course, also the freedom of choice (in a managed way) for the travellers.

What do you see as the biggest challenges in the sector?

I think we need to realise and accept that the world has changed, and we need to adapt. We cannot just sit back and relax, and think everything will work as it has done for the past 20 years.

We are no longer the travel experts as a stand-alone function – we are now team managers, marketing experts, finance people, business case creators, stakeholder managers and part of a digital workforce. So we had better get prepared for this and start to deliver brilliant basics.

ANGLO-DUTCH MULTINATIONAL UNILEVER is one of the world’s largest consumer goods companies, with more than 400 brands – 13 of which have annual sales of more than €1 billion each – including Persil/Omo and Surf, Lynx/Axe, Sunsilk and Dove, and Knorr, Lipton and Hellman’s.

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