Five Tips for Savvy Board Travel Planning
BY Ralph Ward
First, let? s accept that corporate travel gets more and more frustrating hassle every year. Next, let? s acknowledge that arranging travel for board meetings is a high-stakes game, with your company? s VIPs often jetting in from around the country. Every corporate travel manager or secretary can tell horror stories of board meeting plans gone wrong, but a few steps can increase your odds for a boardroom full of happy travelers:
Paperwork rules. Draw up checklists for every step from when board directors get on a plane to when they touch down there again on return. ? We try to make a paper trail so that everything is documented,? says Vanessa Merchant, who arranges board and corporate meetings for Capital Travel in Minnesota. Know who the contact person is at every step -- travel bureau, airline, airport transport, hotel. ? Make a contact on the inside, stay in touch with them, and always make nice. It works to your advantage.?
Know everything you can about your directors. ? We put together a registration that includes name, e-mail, fax, food needs, allergies, preferences, and put this into a database for each traveler,? says Merchant. Your corporate secretary? s office would find this director file enormously helpful (as an added feature, include all director pager and cell phone numbers, plus full contact info for the board member? s own staff).
International companies, or those moving board meetings around to different countries, face additional headaches. ? Make sure directors have documentation to travel abroad and for every step of their trip,? says Merchant. Maybe you got the director from her home to your board meeting just fine, but if the next step of her trip, to Botswana, falls apart, guess who gets the blame? ? We sent a group of directors to Spain, but it turned out that four of them needed visas, so we had to send them back.?
Rolf Shellenberger, senior travel planner for business travel firm Runzheimer, notes that one of the least considered links in the director? s itinerary (and one of the most commonly fumbled) is airport transport. "The director can just jump into a taxi, but that can get expensive? (and create hassles).
Shellenberger suggests a meet-and-greet approach, where a driver picks up the director at the airport. There is nothing more reassuring to a weary business traveler than to see someone at the airport holding a sign with his or her name. This approach helps on the return route too and may be even more needed, because foul-ups seem to happen more often on the trip home.
Shellenberger notes that major cities often have destination management companies that send a traveling concierge to the airport to hand-deliver the VIP to the driver and keep track of every step of the process. ? People should anticipate every movement.?
As directors become a more strategic part of the company, more firms are upgrading directors' travel options. Runzheimer figures show that 34% of corporate travel managers now allow board members special travel privileges (first-class air, lodging upgrades, full-size rental cars), up from 23% in 1992.