Updated: Sep 26
Unmatched value in the Age of AI
Four decades ago, I embarked on my business travel career as a humble messenger for a well-respected local Travel Management Company (TMC). Tasked with obtaining visas from various embassies across London, I quickly learned the art of avoiding daredevil despatch riders, heavily laden Evening Standard vans, and the unstoppable Consular cars enjoying diplomatic immunity.
Stepping Back to Look Forward
After a year, I received a coveted invitation to join the TMC's team as a travel consultant. The senior members of the small but formidable team left me in awe of their knowledge, expertise, and lightning-fast efficiency. Not only did they possess an encyclopedic understanding of the best travel routes, but they also knew which airports offered seamless connections and which ones were better off avoided, regardless of the advertised minimum connecting time.
They were well-versed in visa requirements, including the procurement time and potential for expedited processing. Their expertise extended to suggesting the ideal hotel floors and providing comprehensive comparisons of premium classes offered by different airlines, going as far as providing seat pitch and width details.
Beyond their extensive travel management knowledge, I discovered just how meticulous and discerning their frequent travellers were, particularly the C-suite executives. Witnessing the dedication of the team in accommodating very precise and exacting preferences of these travellers and how they skilfully cleared waitlisted flights was nothing short of remarkable. Building strong relationships with industry partners played a crucial role in obtaining waivers and securing favours to ensure the smoothest travel experiences.
Fast Forward to Today's Travel Consultant
The buzz surrounding Artificial Intelligence (AI) suggests an imminent revolution in the travel industry, potentially posing an existential threat to traditional TMC consultants. However, I remain skeptical. When a CEO finds themselves stranded at an airport due to unforeseen circumstances and urgently needs to reach their intended destination, do they truly desire a response from a cold, impersonal bot? Or would they prefer to speak to a seasoned consultant armed with years of experience in deftly managing such crises?
Reflecting on the evolution of the industry, it's hard to fathom the stark contrasts that have emerged over the years. In my early days, airfares and schedules were meticulously published in voluminous catalogues delivered monthly, long before the advent of the internet. Low-cost carriers were yet to enter the scene, Eurostar was a distant dream, and only a handful of countries imposed departure taxes. The role of the consultant, even then, was not without its challenges. However, with the introduction of new technologies and the unexpected curveball of a global pandemic, the complexity and demands on their expertise have reached unprecedented levels.
Simplifying the Complex (in corporate travel management)
My journey eventually led me to Blue Cube, a TMC I joined in the midst of the pandemic. It didn't take long for me to witness the distinctive approach of our Reservations Team, setting us apart from other agencies. While competitors hurriedly launched convoluted "covid portals" that were little more than links to perplexing government websites, our team took a refreshingly simple approach by providing clients with precise, actionable information. It was a familiar feeling, personalised travel services reminiscent of the expertise and dedication I encountered four decades ago.
Building and maintaining an exceptional reservations team in this ever-changing landscape is no small feat, especially when young talent is increasingly hesitant to pursue careers in business travel and many experienced professionals were forced to leave the industry during the pandemic.
Blue Cube has adopted a holistic strategy to address this challenge. Our commitment goes beyond offering above-average compensation to attract the best staff. We have forged long-standing partnerships with local colleges, investing in and nurturing young talent to ensure a pipeline of future "Blue Cubers." These apprentices undergo training from our inimitable reservation team in providing the quality of service they have become renowned for.
In conclusion, building and maintaining an exceptional reservations team and personalised travel services, goes beyond industry knowledge and expertise. At Blue Cube, we understand that creating a pleasant, fun, and engaging workplace environment is crucial to our success. Our team comes together for social events each month, and our dedicated personal trainer keeps everyone energised and motivated every Tuesday.
It's always a source of amusement for me, to witness the variety of items in our weekly office Tesco order, a far cry from the simple provision of tea and coffee four decades ago. From Nutella and honey, fresh mangoes, strawberries, to peppermint tea, and sourdough, we embrace the little joys that make our workplace vibrant and pleasurable.
As our industry continues to undergo rapid changes and technological advancements, the value of a talented and experienced reservations team remains paramount. Businesses that thrive on human connection recognise the profound impact our team can make. From navigating complex travel scenarios to providing personalised and empathetic service, our consultants possess the skills and expertise to deliver exceptional experiences.
So, as we forge ahead into the future, let us celebrate the enduring significance of human connections in an ever-evolving travel landscape. May the dedication, knowledge, and unwavering commitment of our reservations team continue to bring value and enrich the journeys of our clients.
Phone: +44(0) 208 948 8188
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