Photo: Corporate Traveller Groups Team at Flight Centre Global Ball welcome function, Singapore

Vanessa Armstrong, Business Leader Corporate Groups and Conference Team has been a great supporter of Fusion Marketing partners and Corporate Traveller has grown enormously over recent years. I sat down with Vanessa to pick her brain about the trends and challenges of our meetings & events business…enjoy the read!

MJD: How long have you been with Corporate Traveller Groups? Tell us a little about your role & company.
VA: I have worked in the groups division of the company for 13 years. Wow that’s a long time! My role as the Business Leader is focused on thee key areas, client relations, business growth, and team leadership.  I’ve stayed with the company for many years  because every day and every client is different. Corporate Traveller offers a niche solution with peace of mind of a large company being part of the Flight Centre Travel Group. We take pride in offering each client a solution that is tailored to their needs.

MJD: How did you get your start in the meetings & events industry?
VA: My education is a Bachelor of Commerce in Hotel and Food Administration, and from University, I worked for the Sheraton Centre in Toronto, a 1372 room hotel and conference centre. I loved the pace and vibe of the hotel driven by the conference business. From Canada, I moved to Australia and was looking for a company that was Global and would offer me a challenge. I now work on the other side of the supply chain, which is a great compliment to my experience as I know what can be done from the hotel side, so I work closely with venues like to achieve the best outcome for our clients.

MJD: What do you think are the exciting new destination ‘hot spots’ & products for group travel?
VA: We are finding Canada is offering great value for our clients who would normally look to the USA. The Canadian dollar is on par with the Aussie dollar, representing great value compared to the USA. I have been trying for years to get our clients to Canada and now they understand the value, the beauty and wow factor it represents.

MJD: What are some of the challenges and trends in our industry?
VA: We are finding the lead times for domestic conference and incentives are considerably shorter than past experience, which leads to challenges with availability, so we need to make sure we are agile in our thinking and what options to present for these types of requests.

MJD: What is new with Corporate Traveller Groups?
VA: Exciting times really. In Victoria, we are opening our second dedicated Groups and Conference team in Geelong in November, which will be a great result for business growth and servicing the region in a more personal way. In Sydney, the Gold Coast and Adelaide, our offices have recently expanded hiring BDM’s to expand their reach in those markets.

MJD: What makes a great client & supplier?
VA: Good question. We have been lucky to have many great repeat clients, we could not have expanded nationally and be a large dedicated team in Melbourne CBD without clients who see value in partnering with them to expand on their conference or incentive plans. We view our clients as our partners and we hope they view us that way as well. What makes a great supplier is someone who has similar philosophies on customer service and experience. Someone who is not in it for one booking but for long term relations, someone who is an extension of Corporate Traveller in the client’s experience.

MJD: What advice would you give to someone at the start of their career incentives and events?
VA: I strive to hire people who think outside of the box, who look for solutions when they hit roadblocks and love to take pride in great customer experiences. If this is not in their DNA then I would advise them this is not the right industry for them.

MJD: What makes a great event or incentive?
VA: The experience of the planner and the delegate. There is little point in a delegate having a great time, if the client/planner found it stressful or hard to deliver the experience to them. Our job is to make the magic seamless and to help our client be as stress free in the process. If everyone can enjoy the process and the outcome than that is a successful experience.

MJD: What are the current trends do you see in our industry?
VA: I think the ability to offer the client a holistic solution is on trend.

MJD: What are the key challenges and changes do you see in the future of our industry?
VA: I think more and more of the Small & Medium Enterprise (SME) market purchasing decisions are moving through a process of formal procurement.  So working with those new stakeholders in a manner that is adjusted to their process is key.

MJD: What do you enjoy the most about creating memorable conference, incentives and events?
VA: Being given the privilege to be part of someone’s experience and seeing the reaction to the little things or sometimes the big surprises that take place in a program gives our team the reason to come to work and do it again!

MJD: What do you love to do on your weekends?
VA: Like most people in our industry I think the ability to spend time with our friends and family and be on the other side of the planning helps us recharge. I love a sunny day with my daughter and husband and a great dinner party too!

Thanks Vanessa for your insights and pearls of wisdom, we look forward to seeing the next installment of Corporate Traveller growth.