Case Study: When Travel Management Is More Than Convenience

Over the years, business travel management has evolved, although perception has remained the same. The common perception is that travel management is an auxiliary role for the executives that rely on it.

However, this past year revived the travel management industry, highlighting that travel management goes beyond convenience. Instead, it is a vital component of managing an operation in remote destinations. In the following case study, we expand on how we’ve adapted to recent events and established travel management as more than a convenient service to being a critical one.

Analysis, Strategy, and Advocacy: The Cornerstones of Managing A Changing Landscape

Catastrophes don’t lessen the need for business travel to remote locations, especially in industries – like mining – where requisite operations occur in isolated areas.

In mining, evaluation of KPIs and accurate reporting on local operations are fundamental to successful operations management.
What any executive knows is that critical business does not stop during times of crises.

Therefore, c-level executives and senior managers turn to us to oversee their travel. Our primary objective as travel experts for the mining industry is to ensure travel does not disrupt business processes.

But, the ever-changing environment presented by the pandemic – including restrictions, testing, and border closures – challenged our core competencies. Additionally, it highlighted the necessity of three vital functions that underpin a successful mining travel service: analysis, strategy, and advocacy.

Challenge:

August 2020, during the first peak of COVID-19 infections, many countries resorted to closing borders and banning commercial flights to halt the rampant spread. These arrangements had far-reaching repercussions, disrupting the travel plans and work commitments for many in the mining industry. The uncertainty regarding when the restrictions would end increased the urgency with which many clients wanted to return home.

The challenge wasn’t helping clients return home, but navigating a changing environment with finite resources at our disposal. One particularly challenging case required us to return a mining client from the DRC to his home in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

At the time, the DRC had banned commercial flights, and only charter or repatriation flights remained. Malaysia had banned almost all commercial flights to the country and was only accepting Malaysian nationals back into the country.

Resolution:

We had two dilemmas on our hands: find a reliable – and available flight path – back to Kuala Lumpur, then – although we didn’t know it at the time – get supporting documentation to board the flight to Malaysia.

Each of these dilemmas required a strategic and calculated approach.

Our strategy began with a thorough analysis of the circumstance. Not only do we need to find a flight out of the DRC, but also one that will repatriate to a country that won’t delay our client from reaching his final destination.

For this client, we determined repatriation to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, was the judicious choice. It enabled him to take a connecting flight to Frankfurt and then board a flight on Qatar Airways – the only commercial airline operating to Malaysia at the time.

After booking the flights and starting the client on his journey, we ran into a delay in Frankfurt. By the time our client landed in Frankfurt, regulations for returning travellers had changed, now Malaysian authorities required approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration approval for non-nationals to enter the country. As an Algerian national with permanent residency in Malaysia – and a Malaysian wife and family – reaching Malaysia was crucial.

To expedite the process, we spoke directly to the Consulate to ensure he would receive the two documents he needed and could board a flight to Malaysia within the 24-hour window he was permitted to be in Frankfurt. These documents usually take three weeks to process, but because of round-the-clock dedication and advocacy, we could get the documents to him just as he boarded his flight the following day.

Principal Demands:

Our starting point was an all-but stranded passenger in a country with limited resources; the result would be to ensure his speedy return to his family and life in Kuala Lumpur. But the convergence of all the events between point a and point b is what necessitated relying on our expertise and unique understanding of high-stakes travelling.

This demanding situation required that we tackle it in three phases:

  • Phase 1: Analyze The Circumstances
    In tense conditions, analysis is crucial. Before we create an action plan, book flights, accommodation, COVID-19 tests, we need to ascertain the program that will have advantageous results for our client. This was a time-sensitive situation that was rapidly changing. Therefore, our first conclusion determined that waiting would only exacerbate the uncertainty and possibly make repatriation impossible. A thorough analysis resolved that the immediate obstacle was to get him out of the DRC and into the far more advanced and forthcoming Ethiopia.
  • Phase 2: Develop A Strategy
    Once our principal demand was established, our strategy and execution would ensure that we avoid delays, reduce wasteful expenditure, and limit inconveniences for our client. In this case, the strategy entailed using available resources to remove our client from the DRC before any further restrictions were imposed, followed by finding a flight that entered into Malaysia.
  • Phase 3: Establish Communication and Advocate Where Necessary
    Phase three is an ongoing part of operating a successful travel management company. But during precarious situations, establishing communication with authorities and advocates is essential. As our clients first-point of contact we are sure to advocate for their best interests, in this case, dealing with the Consulate to expedite documents that would ensure his safe return to his family and home.

The pandemic has underlined the role of travel management in navigating complex travel arrangements, whether that’s travel to a high-risk country or travelling during a pandemic. These recent events prove that the purpose of effective travel management services is to go beyond convenience to save management hours and ensure a client’s business operations continue uninterrupted. At Approver Travel, we do this by conducting a three-phase approach regardless of the circumstances. This philosophy has enabled us to establish superior and reliable services for travellers in the mining industry.