Today, my Small Meeting Secrets series focuses on Travel Directors (TDs). TDs work with groups of all sizes but, for small groups that don't have the budget for an event planner to accompany them, local TDs are an affordable option that adds tremendous value.
Maureen M. Mulvaney, Marketing & Operations Manager with Executive Travel Directors, clarified that:
"Travel Directors are independent contractors who serve as a Meeting Planner’s right-hand-man. They coordinate all on-site logistics before, during and after meetings, retreats, or sales incentive trips (e.g. transportation, food & beverage (F&B), rooms, registration)."
They even man hospitality desks if there is no hotel concierge and the group is not large enough to warrant a dedicated meeting concierge. They execute the full briefing, itinerary, and agenda provided by event planners.
Ideally, Travel Directors stay onsite but, if there are budget constraints, the role can be fulfilled with the Travel Director returning home at night. Under that scenario, there needs to be designated rest space such as a lounge or a guest room. (Some hotels will comp rooms, offer a day rate or provide significant discounts for staff.)
Travel Directors fulfill some of the same functions as dedicated meeting concierge but their role is much more over-arching. For example, while meeting concierges attend pre-cons and perform specific, onsite tasks as assigned, Travel Directors co-coordinate all aspects of the meeting and interface directly with the hotel team, clients. and all suppliers.
For small meetings, Travel Directors typically arrive onsite 2-3 days in advance. Interfacing with the event planner to keep abreast of the seemingly inevitable last-minute changes is a key part of the role. (Changes to the rooming list, last-minute requests for special meals, and agenda changes are to be expected.)
During the pre-con meeting, Travel Directors review all aspects of the itinerary with the hotel team (including food and beverage, check-in and check-out, luggage transfer, meeting room set-up, housekeeping). For group check-ins with orientation lunches or teas, they review the presentation agenda. The transportation company, AV professionals, and all other suppliers also attend and their roles are reviewed.
Travel Directors inspect guests room (with special attention to VIP rooms), ensure that function rooms are set up based on the event planner's floor plan, verify that all audio-visual is in place, and check that signage is correct.
Travel Directors also unpack all material and supplies and check to make sure that was shipped for the meeting has arrived.
Travel Directors accompany transportation companies to the airport to meet the group.
During the Meeting
An important part of a TD's role is to interface with the designated client contact and ensure that all glitches or issues are addressed promptly.Pre-scheduled check-point meetings are essential to ensure that all concerns are surfaced and resolved.
Rennette Grace, an independent Travel Director who was formerly with Maritz and Explore America, stressed the importance of:
"...regularly checking food and beverage set-ups to make sure all items ordered are set out and labeled to identify ingredients that could cause allergic reactions."
Travel Directors ensure speakers and facilitators have everything they need. They involve the AV technician to resolve AV issues promptly .
Onsite debriefs with the client and hotel team are important even if they are short. According to Rennette Grace:
"Frequently, travel directors are expected to review hotel and supplier bills. If needs change on-site, a savvy Travel Director can save the client money by making sure charges for unused items such as AV are taken off the bills."
The event planner will have fuller, more in-depth post-mortem after the group returns to home base.
Travel Directors make certain that all meeting supplies are packed and shipped back to the client. They ensure that check-out and transfers to the airport go smoothly.
Where to Find Travel Directors
You can source Travel Directors through the International Network of Travel Directors (INTD), which has a LinkedIn group. Companies like GCG Event Partners, Executive Travel Directors, and On-Site Travel Directors also specialize in providing Travel Directors and Onsite Event Managers.
Photo Credit: Arthur