contend with. Crises can range from lost, withheld or stolen passports to travellers getting locked out of the hotel they were staying in – or thought they were. These types of emergency take place all over the world. Keeping travellers calm and feeling that everything is under control (even when that is debatable) is the travel manager’s job. Those dealing with the situation not


only have to remain calm and focused, they need to know what to do, when and how; and if they don’t know, they need to know who does. This may involve contacting the TMC’s branch or partner in the country concerned, an embassy or even a fixer. Not that an embassy is always the answer. One

ANCELLED FLIGHTS BECAUSE OF EXTREME WEATHER are not the only negative events travel managers and TMCs have to

Ukrainian woman with a British passport was travelling in Ukraine on behalf of her company and had her passport withheld when trying to leave the country because a member of her family had used her name to borrow money and had not repaid it. The embassy would not help until the following week because it was a bank holiday weekend and she was not in danger. It took three weeks and the intervention of the organisation’s Ukrainian office to get her passport returned. Thorough cultural knowledge and understanding are also essential. It helps to negotiate with bureaucracy and gives insight into when money needs to change hands – and how to do it may be crucial to the process and, therefore, the outcome. While moving mountains to ensure

the fastest and most appropriate response, travel managers and their teams also have to stay in constant touch with the travellers

at the centre of the storm, plus their families and/or partners. The counselling role is as important as the administration and negotiation. Missions impossible raise multitasking to an art form. As Denise Fraser, director and general

manager of Cresta World Travel, says of a client caught in the chaos surrounding the bombing at Brussels Zaventem airport (see panel, p62): “We had lots of tools at our fingertips to locate him and get him out of there, but it was more about reassuring him, guiding him through the chaos and getting him out of the airport and away from the city without too much stress. The human factor was more important than anything else.” Travel managers and TMCs, it seems,

have to be swans at all times: calm and serene on top, while paddling furiously underneath. Here, our experts share their mission impossible case studies.

NAME:Travel buyer for an aerospace manufacturer DATE: April 2010

MISSION: My biggest mission was during the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland, which sent out a huge ash cloud over northern Europe. For about a week the most impossible tasks were getting hold of suppliers – airlines, hotels, cars, ferries, travel agents, anything; it was every man for himself. People were all over the place. One man flew from Manchester to Hamburg on the day the ash cloud spread. He was wearing a suit and had a laptop and wallet with him. When he got to Hamburg, he quickly realised it was going to be impossible to fly home. He phoned me at various times for advice. I was getting a lot of phone calls from stranded travellers, but this guy was one of the hardest hit because everybody else at least had a suitcase with them.

He spent a night in Hamburg then got a train to a port in the Netherlands, which took him most of Friday into

Saturday. Meanwhile, we were trying to book him on a ferry, which was proving fruitless. He needed some cash but his credit card was eaten by an ATM. When he got to the ferry terminal, he phoned me with the ferry agent next to him so that we could pay for his ticket. He arrived in Hull on Sunday night and had to wait until Monday morning for a train from Hull back to Manchester; I can’t remember how he paid for that. While on the train, his laptop was stolen. He eventually arrived home, near Chester, at lunchtime on Monday with no credit card, no laptop, in just the suit he’d been wearing for five days. He phoned me on Monday afternoon to thank me for my help. The worst thing was that it was his son’s graduation on the Monday morning, and he had missed it.

STATUS: Mission accomplished (well, almost!)


BBT July/August 2018


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