Jacinthe Ladouceur
Jacinthe Ladouceur, Vice President and General Manager of American Express Global Business Travel Canada

“We continue to see the enduring value of business travel”: Amex GBT

Jacinthe LadouceurDespite tumultuous times for corporate travel, it’s been a busy year for American Express Global Business Travel. And Canadian business travellers are travelling further than ever before, says Jacinthe Ladouceur, Vice President and General Manager of American Express Global Business Travel Canada, in this edition of Friday 5.

1. How are sales faring out of Canada this year, for American Express Global Business Travel?

Similar to many industries across Canada, GBT has felt the impact of the economic challenges faced by many of our western Canadian customers earlier this year. When hard times hit, travel budgets are often in jeopardy but at the same time, travel fuels business growth. During these times, it’s imperative to create efficiencies that allow for smart, cost effective travel. This requires a deep understanding of total trip costs, beyond individual segments, and smart supplier and policy management. This is what we help customers with everyday.

Our 2016 Top Destinations data released earlier this year, revealed that our Canadian business travellers are actually travelling further than ever before. According to data collected from American Express Global Business Travel Canadian customers between July 2015-June 2016, Hong Kong actually made the list ranking as the fourth most popular international business travel destination for Canadian business travellers. Although a handful of destinations like Alberta saw less activity than in previous years, we continue to see the enduring value of business travel and face-to-face meetings, even for the most tech-savvy travellers.

2. In a landmark deal, American Express Global Business Travel recently announced it had signed a referral agreement with Airbnb. Why did GBT decide to be a trailblazer with a company and booking model that most agencies view as competition?

Today’s business travellers want more freedom and choices when selecting their accommodations and alignment between their personal and professional tastes. Aligning with Airbnb allows us to expand the options we give to our business customers and their travellers.

This agreement adds content which is complimentary to that which we were already sourcing for our customers, so for some companies this was a way to bring travellers back into their companies’ managed travel programs. As our customers’ needs change we will continue to evolve the type of content we offer. This affiliation is not a one size fits all. It’s simply an additional option for our customers who are interested in booking on Airbnb, some of which are already doing so today. Ultimately, it is each company’s decision.

3. American Express Global Business Travel released its ‘FIRST’ premium travel management platform to its Canadian clientele this past spring. What are the advantages of FIRST?

As a premium travel management platform, FIRST offers personalized, 24/7 service from a dedicated team of travel experts. The solution offers end-to-end proactive travel management, including immediate caller recognition, personalized business trip planning with comprehensive supplier benefits, continuous monitoring and anticipation of their needs, and proactive care while travelling.

Ultimately, no matter where in the world a traveller may be, the team behind FIRST takes the stress off their shoulders.  FIRST offers customers a significant return on investment by encompassing the incremental fees and costs often incurred by travellers on the road.

4. Over the past couple of years corporate travel agencies have had to come up to speed very quickly on new levels of risk management and duty of care. How is American Express Global Business Travel handling this challenging new travel environment?

Today’s business travellers are faced with an unprecedented level of uncertainty from weather delays to political demonstrations to terrorist incidents. We are seeing an increased interest from companies of all sizes in tools that keep their employees safe on the road.

EXPERT CARE is GBT’s  traveller care solution, which enables our customers to quickly locate travellers in times of need and communicate with them to keep them safe. Travel managers are able to visually pinpoint impacted travellers on a map and communicate with them quickly via multiple channels and prioritize aid to those travellers with the greatest need during a disruption. Recent American Express® Corporate Card transaction data can also be pulled into the environment to help verify a traveller’s location in an emergency.

Through our partnership with iJET, our customers have access to a full spectrum of travel risk management services from planning and risk assessment to traveller evacuation.

5. Looking ahead, what can you tell us about American Express Global Business Travel’s initiatives in 2017?

It’s all about the traveller experience. We are in the unique position to evolve the entire traveller and travel manager experience from door to destination and back again, driven by progressive, native technologies that simplify those experiences.

We believe that the traveller should never be inconvenienced with solvable problems and should always have clarity in times of chaos on the road. The experience should be free of pain points. It’s an ambitious goal but we have been investing in products and services that make this a reality.

A key component to the traveller experience is mobile and you will see new functionality added to our mobile app throughout next year. We will also continue to invest heavily on our infrastructure transformation as well as furthering our larger technology roadmap.  Finally, we will also continue to focus on strategic acquisitions that strengthen our global footprint and scale of services we provide to our customers.

Within Canada specifically, the mining and energy industries continue to seek out efficient travel and accommodation management solutions. Our partnership with Gemstone Logistics addresses the uniquely challenging needs of Canada’s large-scale, remote operations to improve planning and booking, while helping to ensure the compliance of travellers and stakeholders.