On the move and ready to reconnect

Milton Rivera, vice president global business development, global client group & APAC region, meetings & events, American Express Global Business Travel, talks about how meetings and events professionals have to think very differently to cater to multiple attendee profiles, as well as their role in helping to rebuild confidence in travel

There is no replacement for face-to-face engagement but virtual meetings

As governments across Asia-Pacific ease border and travel restrictions, meetings and events professionals are looking forward to liberating suitcases from wardrobes.

If we’ve learned anything from recent months, it’s that travel is a force for good. It facilitates growth and creates jobs. This knowledge has only strengthened our resolve in the American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) Meetings & Events team to get people moving again.

There is no replacement for face-to-face engagement but virtual meetings would have to do for now

The past few months have also confirmed two important universal human traits: our need to connect in-person and our adaptability under pressure.

Set against a backdrop of extreme global separation, people around the world have challenged themselves to maintain connections with each other as much as possible. This has led to the enormous growth in video conferencing, a vital channel of communication for medical professionals and essential workers, colleagues, family and friends.

This unique set of circumstances has put previously under-utilised meeting platforms front and centre. Meetings and events professionals have quickly acted on the opportunity to deliver new and potentially broader experiences to an instantly tech-receptive audience, open to alternative ways of engaging.

And while there is no replacement for face-to-face engagement, we must creatively apply technology, such as virtual meetings, mobile apps, and artificial intelligence, to protect the safety of travellers and attendees.

Meeting and event professionals, as well as their technology and hotel partners, have been integrating these new platforms into their attendee engagement strategies. As an example, our GBT Meetings & Events team recently used an over-arching mobile app to supplement a series of virtual customer conversations. Using these technologies in partnership helped drive more personal connectivity that might traditionally have happened during a welcome reception or over lunch.

These virtual events are built upon an enhanced creative mindset on the part of meeting planners and new exciting technologies that are creating a new level engagement for all types of attendees. There is also the added opportunity to extend our clients’ reach to more participants, regardless of geography. We are in the early demand phase and are finding great benefit bringing speakers and moderators together in one spot, say a hotel venue, and broadcasting out to broader audience groups or hybrid hubs.

Professionalism is key, though. If you’re putting your company brand out there you want a reliable end-to-end solution that caters to the larger audience and delivers an engaging experience.

For meetings and events professionals around the world, this is a time to excel and lead like never before. We must inspire confidence in our industry again, and act as a conduit of information to help our clients meet their duty of care obligations. This, and consistent standards across airlines, airports, hotels and event venues, will be critical to building the confidence of travellers and attendees.

For companies, every meeting and trip will be an event. This will likely offer challenges in their ability to adapt quickly to changing circumstances. While there will be some consistency in travel protocols, it is likely that different countries will have specific requirements such as only allowing travellers from certain countries, where you’re allowed to transit through, or what safety protocols must be observed.

In the same way, transport, venue and accommodation suppliers will have different safety policies which could change at a moment’s notice. What both planners and travellers will be faced with is the task of deciphering these requirements and distilling them into a single source of truth.

In these times, digital communication channels, such as apps and instant messaging, will be the go-to sources for the traveller on the road. They will rely on these channels to get quick, updated and detailed information on what to expect, what is expected of them, and what’s changed on the way to their destination.

This environment has truly underscored the importance of combining your travel and meetings programme with a proven, innovative supplier that has the resources and stability to support your travellers, attendees and meeting objectives.

Many organisations are critically assessing the current state of their travel and meetings suppliers and their readiness to support employees. This is where travel management and meetings and events companies will prove their worth. Our focus is to support our clients’ duty-of-care objectives and help them drive policy compliance. It is this approach, coupled with the right technologies and services, that will inspire confidence in travel and meetings programmes.

Milton Rivera leads global consultative teams that are responsible for the strategy development and solution design of meeting programmes for customers of all sizes. He develops and leads marketing strategy and supplier enablement execution to bring optimal value to clients and suppliers across the globe.

Rivera has over 30 years of travel and meetings related experience. He joined American Express in 1986 and has held leadership roles in multiple areas; including service delivery, client services, sales, consulting and his current role in meetings and events.

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