Tony D'Astolfo: Hi, and welcome to Zeno Live, the live video series from travel booking and expense management provider Serko, where we feature subject matter experts on various topics across the corporate travel industry. I'm Tony D'Astolfo and today I'm joined by Jennifer Steinke, global head of travel at PPD, and Michelle Grant, travel administration manager at Richie Brothers Auctioneers. Thank you both for joining.
Michelle Grant: Thanks for having us.
Jennifer Steinke: Yes, thanks Tony.
Tony D'Astolfo: Yeah, if you know these two – and I'm sure many of you do – in their day jobs they're both travel buyers extraordinaire, right? Been around the block... A couple of people that have been there and done that. But today I want to talk to them about their newly minted roles. That would be chairperson for Jenn and co-chair that would be Michelle for TAMS, the Travel and Meeting Society. So first off congratulations to both of you again, thanks for being here today, but also being able to give your time to what is totally a volunteer organization. So hats off number one. I want to note that. Thank you both for that.
Michelle Grant: Thank you.
Jennifer Steinke: No, thank you Tony.
Tony D'Astolfo: All right. I know you've both seen Zeno Live. You know it's fast paced. You got to jump right in. You got to get some questions... So first thing I want to do though, is I'd like to start by asking you to do a quick overview of TAMS, for our audience. I want to not sure everybody knows what it is since they might not be familiar with it. So give us a little background on that.
Jennifer Steinke: Sure. Tony, first of all, thank you again for having us and thanks for highlighting TAMS. So back in 2020, TAMS started as a group of volunteers that came together to develop industry standards for cleanliness and different things as we were kind of all trying to figure out what the heck was happening with COVID and how bad the industry was hit. And we published some standards which are still out there in our available on our website, but from there people were saying, "Well, what's next? What is the next thing that we should be doing?" And that's really how the Travel and Meeting Society got started. And so we're a group of like-minded individuals from all different aspects of the business travel and meeting space. And really our focus is on educating, disrupting and innovating in the business travel space. So it's strictly volunteers, lots of really great people. And what they do is they come together to solve problems for the industry.
Jennifer Steinke: So we've done everything from... We have an incubator for startups, right? We have a marketplace, we have travel tech evaluators, all different things. A sustainability handbook. So things where these individuals said, "Here's a problem. How are we going to solve it?" And then we put that content out into the world for free.
Tony D'Astolfo: Well, again, great endeavor, and it's very interesting the way you went about it. And thank you for sharing that. And at the end, we're going to tell people how they can join. So I noticed, because I've been watching, that you have these committees that you guys set up. And I think today you're up to about 12 of them and they cover a bunch of areas. Now, some of them now are very familiar, like data technology, sustainability, but you've also got some interesting things like community engagement training and development.
Tony D'Astolfo: Now some of these, like I said, are what you would expect, others are not. So how did you guys figure out what areas to create? How did you go about saying, "Yeah, we need something for this."
Michelle Grant: I think some of the committees came out of the original group when we started. So we had eight, I think we touched on eight verticals when we were talking about the travel and meeting standards, the SOS document. And so from that, some of those just evolved into continuing on and as committees. And then I think just interest and, the community grew very quickly and I think it just organically grew – grassroots. What someone had an idea and wanted to start something, they put their hand up. It's an open community, every voice matters – “better together.” And if you have an idea, bring it and they will follow. We have, to your point, I believe about 12 committees now. Some of the ones, Jenn or yourself, didn't touch on, we've got diversity and inclusion, professional development and training. Which is really important right now as we're coming out into opening up again and people are looking for work, people are hiring. So yeah, and we're open to more, if someone has an idea for something or there's a need or a gap to fill within our society or within the industry, we're open to starting a new committee.
Tony D'Astolfo: And so if someone's that interested, they might also be the committee chair?
Michelle Grant: They could be! Be careful what you wish for.
Tony D'Astolfo: No, it's true. I like, I love the approach because if you sit there and say collectively, a bunch of people think there's an interest in pursuing something this...
Michelle Grant: The thing is, it's bottom up. It's not top down. We, Jenn and I, and the leaders, the rest of the leaders in TAMS, we don't come up with the ideas or the initiatives. We open it up, we want people to be innovative and bring their own ideas and, just do it.
Tony D'Astolfo: Very cool. So with that said, where do you see interest among the members today? So what trends, what do you see in 2022 now we're coming out of a very difficult interesting time? What are the members saying or seeing? What trends? Are there new committees or are these are the top five committees everybody's jumping out this because they need that?
Michelle Grant: I think diversity, inclusion and equity for sure. Sustainability is what we're all talking about more now, it reminds me of the days where we started talking about Duty-of-care 10 years ago and look how long it took us to get there. I think we're moving a lot faster today though. And, Sustainability, I think is one committee… Sustainability and DE&I are probably one of, two of the, faster growing interest committees. Jenn, I don't know if you have anything to add there.
Jennifer Steinke: I think our verticals committee... What the verticals committee does, it was initially started as, "Let's tackle the different categories, and manage travel." And they have a really interesting approach to how they're delivering their content, really quick focus groups that bring people together, they record it sort of like we're doing here and they just talk about the topic. “How would we solve this problem?” Or “What are the problems of today?” Or “What's going on now we're moving into a post-COVID world?” and things like that. And so they're touching those hot topics, on a monthly basis and then putting that out there for everyone to see.
Jennifer Steinke: So I think that concept of just, bringing the community together in a networking environment, that then they can, try to solve real-world problems. I think that's been really of popular too as one of our committee outputs.
Tony D'Astolfo: Yeah. And you know, what's interesting is that you're not taking the traditional approach of saying, "We're going to talk about airlines, hotels, sourcing a travel agency, figuring out a form of payment..." Would it be safe to say that you guys are not going into those areas because those areas are so widely... There's information so widely available that you're going to take the stuff that really challenges people?
Jennifer Steinke: I think it's a combination. If there's a problem to be solved and the resources that we have within the TAMS community can deliver a solution or answer the questions that are needed are in those categories, that's fine too. So we're not restricting ourselves by any means. I think that's really important that we don't put barriers around anything that we do in TAMS other than if you're representing TAMS, we do the right things for our mission and our goal and stuff, but no topic is off the table. We're just approaching it differently.
Michelle Grant: And so, I don't know if we didn't touch on this at the beginning, but we are now a registered society if you didn't know that. So TAMS is a registered society and not for profit. So we're pretty excited about that.
Tony D'Astolfo: And I wasn't going to ask this, but funding for the... Anytime you have something registered, now you're going to deliver content. You've got people. I know tons of volunteers are providing most of the work, but you mentioned the website. So I assume you have expenses. So is it a sponsor? Is it a membership fee? How does the financing work?
Michelle Grant: Jenn do you want to take that one?
Jennifer Steinke: So, yes, we are funded, right? We have to be funded. We do have expenses. We have a couple of things. We are currently, our membership is free. However, we do have a membership task force that's going to be looking at what does membership mean in the TAMS society? And we've run campaigns and stuff. We have a Fill-The-Plane campaign that's been going on for a few months, and we do get sponsorships for like our webinars and things. But, I have to call this out, because we do have our founding partner initiative, which Zeno by Serko is a founding partner. So we appreciate that. And that gives different suppliers, the ability to actually, fund the work that TAMS is doing.
Tony D'Astolfo: Good stuff. All right. I'd be remiss not to talk to two such experienced travel professionals. What action... And so this is kind of a general question for the people that are watching. What actions, preps, changes... What should we be thinking about in a post-pandemic world? Michelle let's start with you and then we'll go to you Jenn.
Michelle Grant: Sure. I think, the world is opening up faster than we're ready for, many of us. I'm talking specifically maybe about the suppliers and I believe, patience and understanding and kindness are going to go a long way in the short term as the world opens up and everyone starts traveling again. I think higher airfares, higher fare fees all around. I believe that is something that we have to budget for and expect. And I believe there's still going to be an issue with staffing up hotels, flights, airports, like all of that. So I just think we need to be prepared for that. And I don't want to say lower expectations because I certainly don't want anyone to lower expectations, but I think just understanding that the world isn't quite ready for the floodgate to open and we just need to be patient.
Tony D'Astolfo: Yeah, I read this morning that one of the airlines who will remain nameless was doing a $10,000 bonus to get ground staff signed up because there's a shortage of staff. And I said “Okay, that's more than I made my whole first year!" But to your point, I think you're absolutely right. We see that, that even though you might be staying in a hotel that's full service, it might not be full service. The bar might be closed. The certain elements of what we're coming back to. Thanks for sharing that Michelle. Jenn, how about you?
Jennifer Steinke: So I think as we look at our own travel patterns within our organizations, we're going to see that change slightly. Now that we're in a much more remote workforce, we have a new traveler that we need to start thinking about planning for. And that's the person that used to be sitting at headquarters and would collaborate with their peers in a conference room and now things are geographically spread out over potentially the world. And when they want to collaborate now they have to travel. And so we need to take that type of new traveler into consideration. I think just how they are going to travel, how can we be more thoughtful in the way we travel. We're just not going to be hopping on planes as much as we used to.
Jennifer Steinke: And so just taking that into consideration, and then understanding the impact that has on your supplier partners, I think we really need to be having those thoughtful conversations with our suppliers and say, "We know it's not going to look the same, but here's what we're seeing and preparing for." Because it's going to be challenging moving forward because CEOs have been salivating on all the money that they've saved by not having to travel. Just opening those floodgates. Well, it's going to come fast, it's probably not going to look the same. So we just need to prepare for that.
Tony D'Astolfo: I think the concept of the working nomad should be a committee at TAMS. I'm not…
Michelle Grant: Come on over Tony. You can head it.
Tony D'Astolfo: All right. Let get back to TAMS. Because I want to move you into the Zeno zone, but one last question before we go on from TAMS…
Jennifer Steinke: It's a great idea.
Tony D'Astolfo: Well, there you go. Now we just have to get a volunteer to man the committee. But one last thing before we go on from TAMS, for people who do want to get involved and haven't been involved here, what's the best way to do it?
Michelle Grant: Visit our website for sure.
Tony D'Astolfo: Which is just tams.com?
Michelle Grant: Tamstravel.org
Tony D'Astolfo: Tamstravel.org?
Michelle Grant: Yes.
Tony D'Astolfo: Okay.
Michelle Grant: And in there you'll find some... Sorry. In there you'll find some resources and a link to get involved. Yeah. And join our LinkedIn community.
Tony D'Astolfo: LinkedIn, tamstravel.org, you heard it here. Make sure you get in. I want everybody volunteering. I want to say a big upswell. As in of the Zeno Live audience. All right ladies, I know you have probably seen one of these before. So now you know that I'm going to move you into the Zeno Zone. The Zeno Zone is designed to be very quick. Some questions that are going to give us some insights about Jenn and Michelle, the person.
Michelle Grant: Oh no. I'm scared.
Tony D'Astolfo: No, don't be scared. This should be top of mind. Be very simple to do. All right, so I'm going to start with Michelle. You have a major business decision to make and you get to make one phone call who gets the call?
Michelle Grant: I would probably call one of my company's old, not as an age, but older/past CEOs. I think he's got a brilliant mind and he's very successful and smart. Very, very smart and very calm. He'd be my first call.
Tony D'Astolfo: Okay. Very good. Jenn, your call? And I think Jenn, we might be having some trouble with Jenn's audio and video. She seems like she's freezing.
Michelle Grant: I don't know if she can turn her video off, maybe. Stopping the camera might help. I don't know, but who would Jenn call?
Tony D'Astolfo: Well, I was going to say make it easy and should just call you.
Michelle Grant: Okay. There we go. Is it a business decision about TAMS then I would call Jenn.
Tony D'Astolfo: There you go. All right. Good. All right. So we're going to hope Jenn gets back in the interim. I'm going to move on to our second Zeno Zone question, which is... Michelle you have three dinner guests. They can be anybody that are alive. Who's at Michelle's table?
Michelle Grant: The first person or people that popped into my head was the Kardashians. But that would be crazy.
Tony D'Astolfo: I love it because that's the way... That's what I want to capture, that spontaneous, because that sounds like it'd be a fun dinner. But okay.
Michelle Grant: Could be, it would be extravagant. Let's see. How about Marilyn Monroe, Michelle Obama?
Tony D'Astolfo: Okay.
Michelle Grant: And Gwen Stefani.
Tony D'Astolfo: Wow. That's a cross section. I like it.
Michelle Grant: Right?
Tony D'Astolfo: Good one. Yeah. I like it. That'd be very interesting. All right. Next question, I always ask is, are you ladies and I think I know the answer to this, but are you ladies fine dining? Or are you in a dive bar?
Michelle Grant: If we could find a fusion restaurant that was a cross between a dive bar and a fine dining. That would be perfect.
Tony D'Astolfo: Well, going back... Do you think the Kardashians would be in a dive bar or…? All right. Good. Well, thank you. That last question I always ask our guest here is, give us a prediction, something you think going to happen in our industry in the next, 12 to 18 months, Michelle.
Michelle Grant: I think we're going to continue to see lots of mergers and acquisitions. And maybe with that happening then more startups will probably pop up. That's what I see happening. It's exciting a little bit in the industry right now to see this stuff happening. Like I just read WestJet bought Sunwing. Like every day, there's something new happening. So I see that continuing and then, which gives opportunity for new startups. And I'll just shout out our incubator. I believe there's a second cohort happening and anyone wanting information on that could also reach out to that committee. So that's what I think. Hey Jenn, you're back.
Jennifer Steinke: Hi. Sorry. The thing didn't like me, this is what live is all about, right?
Tony D'Astolfo: Absolutely – I want to get back to the question was I going to say I don't know, you have a major business decision. Who gets the call from Jenn?
Jennifer Steinke: That's a good question. Oh my gosh. That's too hard to answer. Probably an old boss of mine, an old boss of mine that I think was probably the best person I'd ever worked for. And I would call him.
Tony D'Astolfo: Well, there you go. You guys are not coached. It's clear because Michelle said the same thing and I suggested that maybe you just call each other. But anyway, let's move on to question number two, three dinner guests that are alive, dead, anybody – who's at Jenn's table?
Jennifer Steinke: Ronald Reagan, Abraham Lincoln and my grandmother.
Michelle Grant: Wow.
Tony D'Astolfo: Now I have to ask, is that because grandmother loved those two people or just because you miss her or just because she'd be a hoot?
Jennifer Steinke: Because she'd be a hoot. And I think the four of us together would have quite the engaging conversation.
Tony D'Astolfo: I love it. I love it. I love it. So just for a recap Michelle had Marilyn Monroe, Michel Obama and Gwen Stefani. And now the last question I ask is, are you guys fine dining or in a dive bar?
Jennifer Steinke: Dive bar.
Tony D'Astolfo: There we go. Well, Michelle would be fine dining. So I think you guys have to work something out for that next TAMS meeting. Last question, going to ask Jenn. I did the same thing with Michelle. Give us a prediction Jenn, you've been around a long time. What do you think? Something that's going to happen in our industry in the next 12 months?
Jennifer Steinke: We're going to see some new technology players out there that are going to really turn things upside down.
Tony D'Astolfo: All right. I like it. Well, look, that's all the time we have for today. I want to thank you both for joining. You've been super giving us all the information on TAMS and then having little fun at the end. So I want to thank you both for joining. I also thank everybody who joined us live today and we hope you'll join us again on our next installment of Zeno Live. Until the next time, this is Tony D signing off. Ladies, been a pleasure.
Jennifer Steinke: Thanks Tony.
Michelle Grant: Thank you.
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