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Training: Time for an upgrade?

Time for upgrade

Boosting your knowledge and plugging those skills gaps has never been easier with increasing digital and face-to-face training options

With an ever growing annual calendar of seminars, conferences, workshops and forums – not to mention online training – it can be difficult for travel buyers to know where to find the most relevant training and education to help them advance their careers.

After all, buyers have busy working lives and need time to “do their day jobs” no matter how interesting or seemingly useful a particular seminar or webinar may be. Here’s a round-up of some of the best educational and training opportunities from major business travel associations and groups, as well as leading suppliers across the industry

Online training

The world of online training for those working in corporate travel is expanding with educational webinars and more formal e-learning courses. Their big advantage is that they can be completed at your desk or even on the move these days, thanks to course platforms now being optimised for smartphones and tablets.

One new player in the market, Travilearn, has been set up to offer a global online learning platform catering for buyers as well as staff from TMCs and other business travel service suppliers. Its courses include Corporate Travel Management 101, Role of the Travel Manager, Travel Risk Management and NDC (New Distribution Capability).

Karen McKenna, Travilearn’s head of education, says: “Strong global growth has increased the demand for staff and good management, so organisations are struggling to attract candidates with the right sets of skills.

“Those already in the industry also need to have on-demand access to the type of training that provides them with the knowledge for career advancement and personal development.”

Travilearn’s courses, which can be accessed at travilearn.com, make use of a mix of videos, infographics and audio in each module, with interactive quizzes allowing participants to test their knowledge as they go along. Modules also feature case studies and tips to show their practical day-to-day relevance. Travilearn has partnered with the GTMC to offer buyers a certified Corporate Travel Professional in Travel Management Diploma.

And the GTMC itself is planning to launch a series of business travel online training courses this autumn with certification which it hopes will become “an industry standard for the sector”.

The courses will be available across desktop computers, tablets and smartphones so can be completed anywhere. There will be four levels catering for industry newcomers up to experienced business travel professionals.

GTMC chief executive Adrian Parkes says: “The e-courses bolster our wider academic focus for the industry and build upon the work that we are doing to encourage people to consider business travel as a career choice, including internships and apprenticeships for young talent.” 

Webinars
Many of the global organisations, such as GBTA and ACTE, hold regular online discussions or training events, generally known as webinars. The advantage of webinars is that they are normally recorded so can be accessed online at the buyer’s convenience.

Webinars generally tend to be more ad-hoc rather than more formal online training courses – GBTA recently ran a session on The Stress-Free Hotel RFP, while others have focused on subjects such as business continuity and risk management, virtual cards and the impact of GDPR. Find out more at gbta.org/research-and-tools

ACTE, meanwhile, has been using webinars as part of its strategy of trying to help buyers to become the “Travel Programme CEO” – effectively a way of giving advice to buyers so they can elevate their status within their organisations by aligning the travel programme with their company’s overall business goals, and finding ways to better engage with travellers.

Suppliers also often hold online events which can be useful to buyers – TMC Clarity, for example, runs a series of fortnightly audio podcasts under the Absolute Clarity banner (claritybusinesstravel.com/podcasts) in which special guests from the industry discuss topical subjects, such as traveller risk and safety and whether procurement is “the problem or solution” for travel management. Season two of these podcasts was launched in August and they are available through several platforms including iTunes, Stitcher and Soundcloud.

Maiden Voyage, which specialises in giving advice to female business travellers, also runs a series of webinars covering topics such as ways to reduce stress while travelling, tips for beating the effects of jetlag and staying healthy, and dealing with different cultures when on the road. Maiden Voyage also offers five in-depth e-learning modules to help female travellers stay safe – each 20-minute module includes case studies and tips.

BBT Forum
While online learning has its place, some buyers prefer to talk face-to-face so they can share common experiences and suggest ways to overcome universal travel management problems and challenges.

The BBT Forum series (bbtforum.com), held in association with ACTE, has been a staple of the business travel calendar for nearly 20 years and follows a tried-and-tested formula that gives buyers the chance to discuss the most topical and pressing issues alongside their peers.

There is a strict cap on the numbers of attendees of 80-100 people, with a 50-50 split between buyers and suppliers that allows plenty of opportunity for everybody to have their say. Unlike most industry events, there is also a ban on presentations. Instead, panels of industry experts lead discussions on the day’s three key topics, before the debate is thrown open to the floor for buyers to express their views.

The next BBT Forum takes place at One Whitehall Place, London on Thursday, 8 November, with sessions covering how to expand a travel programme to make it people-friendly, sourcing strategy and NDC.

The forum continues to offer a winning formula with 100 per cent of attendees at May’s event saying it was either “excellent” or “good”, with 63 per cent agreeing the relevance of session topics was “excellent” and the other 37 per cent saying they were “good”.

Workshops
For those buyers after a more intensive learning experience, there is the option of taking one of the annual workshops run by GBTA, which are offered through the ITM in the UK. This year the topics are Fundamentals of Business Travel Management and Advanced Principles of Business Travel Management – see gbta.org/professional-development

Each workshop takes place over one-and-a-half days with the Fundamentals course aimed at newcomers to business travel. It offers an overview of travel management and looks at issues including supplier relationship management, security and risk, and the basics of travel technology.

The Advanced Principles course caters to the experienced travel buyer by focusing on subjects including strategic planning, buyer and supplier relationships, programme administration and data analysis.

One buyer who attended a recent GBTA workshop told BBT that due to the small group size, they were able to “express our opinions and link them in with the course content and our day-to-day jobs… it was informative and worked well”.

“We were such a diverse group from buyers to suppliers – and many had much more experience than others – but this did not affect how the group was taught.”

Each course is held once a year in London – this year’s Advanced Principles course was held earlier in September with the Fundamentals course on 11-12 October. The Advanced Principles course is also held in Berlin on 26-27 November. Dates for 2019’s courses are due to be announced shortly.

The recruiter’s view: Career prospects
As well as enhancing your knowledge and improving the way you work, can putting in the extra hours’ training boost your recruitment potential?

On your CV, displaying that initiative to grow your skillset for your next job will be picked up by recruitment companies – but neither should lacking the required technical training deter you from applying.

Keyvan Nasehi, executive headhunter and specialist recruiter at Skypath, says in this business, general experience of the travel industry is often desirable, with companies prepared to invest in more in-depth training courses for the right person.

“For example, say a company is looking for an implementation coordinator to implement an online booking tool – such as Concur. If a candidate comes along with a strong profile but only with experience of use of Sabre, Evolvi and KDS, for example, then the employer would subscribe to Concur’s own courses. This can fix a problem for those companies – but companies will have to pay for it.”

Skypath focuses on travel technology recruitment and in this niche, many courses tend not to be the panacea for these specialist roles, which often require candidates to have many years’ experience. The type of requirements we get, such as project management, data roles and software development, are very much IT-focused. When companies hire these types of people, they are required to have the technical skills,” he adds.

Overall, Nasehi believes additional training courses can be more suitable for travel consultants, and make a difference for those using online booking tools. Knowledge of Amadeus Cytric, for example, is in particular demand.

But in many cases, company culture will often come into play: “Some companies are happy to take on people from outside of travel, but other companies and hiring managers want travel knowledge, so they know their landscapes, their infrastructure.”

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