Opinion: How did ATPI navigate the pandemic?
It was predicted that the travel industry lost over £4tn during the pandemic. From TMCs right through to airlines and hotels, this historically resilient industry took a huge hit overnight.
Now that normality has resumed, we speak to our very own Group Commercial Director, Katie Skitterall, on her thoughts of how ATPI and the wider industry has navigated a turbulent two years.
How did the corporate travel industry navigate the pandemic?
Honestly, it was tough.
Thankfully agencies around the world were able to use government support schemes such as furlough, however, the words redundancy and restructure still rippled across the industry. With so many wonderful people losing their jobs, there was no light at the end of the tunnel for many.
I think the saddest part is actually how much talent has probably now left the industry and will possibly never return. At ATPI we are somewhat fortunate that our business lines are so varied. You could say we aren’t your typical corporate TMC as many of our clients are from the marine, energy, mining or media sector who were mission critical and continued to work. For this I am so grateful as we did maintain a steady workforce with significant volumes still going through.
What were the challenges that your team faced and how did they adapt over the pandemic period?
One of the biggest challenges we faced was moving everyone to work from home within 24 hours. Luckily, we had access to tools such as Microsoft Azure and Teams but working from home was alien to so many staff. Secondly, it was managing the constant changing guidelines to ensure that our travellers had what they required to travel.
Then there was the motivational side. I am very much a people person and believe that our teams should always have a platform to speak as they are the engine room of the business. Therefore, it was critical they remained connected to allow us to work through those tough times. I must admit the Group WhatsApp chats were superb, if it was busy in the evening, our out of hours team would message in the group and without even asking, the teams would jump back online and support each other. I have never seen teamwork like it, our people were so kind to one another and to our clients who were travelling at such a difficult time.
I think personally, losing good people made the pandemic the hardest period of my career. People losing their jobs at such a difficult time was awful. I will never forget some of those conversations I had with people, although I am pleased to say many of these have now returned to ATPI as corporate travel has slowly made a comeback.
What are you predictions for the industry now that it is returning to normality?
I don’t think corporate travel will ever really be the same again. We still managed to get the job done working from home, and with sustainability and wellbeing sitting front and centre for the company, it would be odd to return to previous routines.
Life has changed for many of us and I believe that people will make different choices. At the moment the return to travel for commercial roles has been quite prominent as staff reconnect with clients, however I believe this will begin to tail off again once efficiency comes back into play.
What have you learnt from the changes in the industry?
It cares. As an industry we all came together, we looked out for one another. I see it constantly on LinkedIn, people helping one another get back to work, sharing positive stories. The Travel industry has always been known for its people and the pandemic has shown that standing together can make a real difference. The Business Travel Association have also been key to this with Clive Wratten at the helm, they really did connect us all together and should be so proud of themselves.
How has ATPI futureproofed itself?
As a global business we have a diverse set of clients allowing us to adapt and operate across a number of platforms.
The investments in technology to ensure that we have a consistent operation has been key as it has allowed the team to scale up or down when required. I never imagined that in 2021 our colleagues in Australia would be working for a UK client base but when they were in lockdown! Once we were bouncing back it was a really smooth process due to the tech structure we had in place!