Attracting the Next Generation of Corporate Travel Executives

Young happy couple of professionals chatting during a coffee break

Recently, a few interactions I had made me think about how we are attracting the next generation of corporate travel professionals to our industry. The first was a discussion at GBTA with an industry colleague who talked about their interaction with college students looking to enter the hospitality industry. According to this person, the vast majority of students aren’t aware of the corporate travel sector as a potential career path; instead, most students interested in travel/tourism are focused solely on the leisure sector.

The second instance was during the interview process our team recently conducted in hiring for a new employee. It’s been a really exciting time in our company as we’ve expanded a lot over the past year. One thing that seemed to be commonplace among those we interviewed, however, was the lack of awareness of the corporate travel industry as a career path. Although pretty much everyone agreed it sounded cool (it is cool!), before the interview it was pretty rare anyone had conducted a corporate travel focused job search.

Both of these experiences led me to wonder, “What are we doing as an industry to attract and foster the next generation of corporate travel executives and leaders?” 

I’ve had personal experience with a few programs but decided to do a little research to compile a more comprehensive list. That being said, there are some I may have left out. Please drop us a line if you have more and I’ll add them as I’m able!

Here’s a short synopsis of what’s out there for young professionals or those who are new to the industry:

GBTA Ladders
Full disclosure: this is a program that’s near and dear to my heart as I’ve been involved since 2016. Ladders is a unique team mentor program that offers GBTA members an opportunity to not only expand their professional development within the travel and meetings and events industry but gain true lifelong colleagues and friends. GBTA Ladders is a group of managed travel’s emerging industry leaders joining together for the dual purpose of: mentorship, education and collaboration; and leveraging collective talents to help shape the next generation and the evolution of the industry. Learn more here.

WINiT 1:1 Mentoring Program
I have also participated in this program, which has greatly expanded since my involvement. WINiT 1:1 Mentoring is a self-service program for Mentors and Mentees across all categories and locations in the travel, meeting, event and exhibition industries and is open to women and men. Both Mentors and Mentees can ‘hand pick’ their selection based on a quick match questionnaire. Learn more here.

Phocuswright Young Leaders Summit
Each year, Phocuswright brings together the industry’s best and brightest travel leaders aged 35 and under to be part of an elite group of Phocuswright Conference participants. This elite program is a launching pad for the next generation of travel luminaries to connect, debate and collaborate. Check out the eligibility requirements and find more information here.

SITE Young Leaders Conference (prior to IMEX America)
The SITE Young Leaders program prior to IMEX America presents an opportunity to meet young professionals from around the world and gather to learn, energize and focus on both personal and career goals. This opportunity is focused on those interested in, or within the first five years of, pursuing a career in the incentive industry. Learn more here.

ACTE Around the World Traineeship and Development Programs
The ACTE Around the World Traineeship Program is open to soon-to-be college graduates and recent college graduates looking to dive into the world of Corporate Travel Management through a six-week comprehensive training experience that develops future professionals for careers in the global business travel industry. The Around the World Development Program is open to business travel professionals looking to gain one-of-a-kind, hands-on immersion training focused exclusively on how corporate travel is practiced and managed in one or more distinct regions of the world. Learn more about both programs, including FAQs, here.

Professional Certifications
Like many other industries, managed travel has a few commonly recognized professional certifications. Two are available through GBTA, the GTP® (that stands for Global Travel Professional) and GLP® (Global Leadership Professional). There are others that are more specific to certain verticals, for example, the Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) designation from MPI. Depending on your reporting structure there are certifications outside of travel that may be of value, such as the CSCP (Certified Supply Chain Professional) for procurement specialists.

All in all, there are a lot of great opportunities available for young professionals or those new to travel, but the first hurdle we still need to overcome is a lack of awareness. It’s up to us to be ambassadors for our industry, to communicate not only the opportunities available today, but the potential offered for a long and full career in the space. 

How can you help?
Reach out to local universities and high schools in your area. Offer to come in and give a short lecture, or (if you are feeling ambitious) offer to develop a course. Take every opportunity to talk to young people you encounter in your everyday life about your career. Make sure you are making an effort to talk to young people in your organization and imparting advice to them before you retire (young people, make sure you’re actively reaching out to more senior peers in your organization as well – it’s a two-way street!).

The reality is, our industry is an aging one. If those of us in the industry today want a say in the direction it takes and who’s at the helm, we need to be active participants. 

Did I inadvertently overlook any great opportunities? If so, please drop us a line!

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