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INTERVIEW: How Rachel Tonge is connecting communities at American Express Global Business Travel (GBT)

We sat down with Rachel Tonge, UK Vice President & General Manager at American Express Global Business Travel (GBT), to talk about her role and the company’s ambitions for 2022…

How did you first get into the world of business travel?

Business travel really found me. I was keen for a career change, having worked in management consultancy for several years, and an exciting role came up at American Express Global Business Travel. 

Travel is such an emotive sector. It powers progress across many facets of life. It brings people together and connects communities, helps break down barriers – as well as driving trade and economic growth. The opportunity to work in this space jumped out to me. The industry has also been going through a substantial amount of innovation and change, and the challenge excited me. 

What excites you most about taking on this role at GBT?

Being able to make a difference to customer experience. GBT has been through significant transformation over the past couple of years, through acquisitions, investing in products and technology, diversifying our business model, and through improvements in our internal processes. 

I’m excited to bring these improvements directly to our customers and travel bookers. It’s key for us that we provide value, through access to the world’s largest B2B travel marketplace content, experienced through our hands-on servicing teams and robust technology, and choice, of a diverse range of brands and offers. 

What are the three main areas within your role you are focusing on?  

Firstly, our customers – I want to ensure every touchpoint our travel bookers have with us is seamless and simple, and that with our service, tools and expertise we can take the stress out of booking travel. 

Secondly, our employees – the wellbeing of our colleagues is paramount, particularly given the ups and downs we’ve all faced throughout the pandemic and particularly in the travel sector. The happiness of our employees in turn impacts the level of customer service we’re able to deliver for our bookers. 

Thirdly, diversity and inclusion – I believe that we have more work to do across the industry to ensure we have adequate representation from people of all backgrounds and when attracting new talent. We are also doing excellent work helping our customers look at increasing supplier diversity across their travel and expense spend categories. 

How is your new role helping companies to return to travel as pandemic restrictions ease?

We are working side by side with our teams – with both account managers and travel counsellors – to bring our customers up to speed on frequently changing travel requirements, and how to adapt travel policies according to shifting business needs and priorities. 

Gaining traveller confidence is key to helping get people back on the road. We launched our Travel Vitals tool during the pandemic to give travellers and bookers essential ‘know before you go’ information. You can easily search up-to-date travel guidelines by destination, airline, airport, hotel group, rail and ground transport operators. It shows relevant travel restrictions, regulations and safety protocols. Timely communication is important to make travellers feel in touch and supported, via whichever channel they prefer using – whether notifications in the mobile app, itinerary-specific info at point of booking, webchat or on the phone with our travel counsellors. 

What kind of support can GBT offer to PAs and EAs as travel demand grows again in 2022?

Simplicity is key to what we’re offering – simple, easy-to-implement solutions designed to make life easier for travel arrangers as well as their travellers. We want you to feel supported and have confidence in an efficient process that’s user-friendly and takes the stress out of business travel. 

Just one example, we recently integrated expense reporting and reconciliation into the AMEX GBT mobile app. An end-to-end solution all in one place makes things easier and avoids having to sort through expenses and organizing paper receipts after a trip. 

Are there any new and exciting services you have lined up for this year?

This year we are expanding our professional services programme. This programme offers a high-touch, personalised service to travel arrangers and the senior executives they support on a daily basis. 

This is a service where your travel counsellors know your name – and you know theirs. Again, simplicity is key, with one booking taking care of everything, and 24/7 traveller care with proactive servicing, updating and rebooking if there are travel disruptions.