Eleftheria is a passionate travel management expert, who is currently handling ATPI Griffinstone’s Door to Deck new project. In this interview, she explains the role of a Travel Management Company in today’s challenging travel industry, as well as its budgetary and logistical implications on big organizations. Eleftheria also shares what she has learnt in life by growing up in different countries.
Muriel: “How would you define a Travel Management Company (TMC) and how can it help travellers nowadays?”
Eleftheria: “A Travel Management Company (TMC) adds a strategic focus to balance the needs of the traveller and its company and increase the end-to-end service provision towards larger and/or global clients. This involves the total administration of the company’s travel management including forecasting, planning, organizing, commanding, coordinating and controlling, all terms related to proactive ‘management’, into the service portfolio, according to the clients’ needs.
A TMC offers customized services using a large variety and diversity of tools, systems and networks to accommodate different needs.
Since travel is within the top 3 largest expenses of large / global companies, TMCs may take up the responsibility to develop a strategic approach to travel, using systems, tools and policies, and enforce them to secure and control this cost using their expertise, knowledge and data analysis. And, what is more, global / international companies can consolidate travel when using a truly global TMC and control, manage and optimise travel related costs at HQ level.
Muriel: “Why do you think that Shipping Companies need the services of a TMC? What are the challenges Organizations go through and what can a TMC offer them, to ease their traveling process?”
Eleftheria: “Although demand for shipping services started improving slightly in 2016 and the reduce of oversupply has started bringing balance between supply and demand, challenges such as industry consolidation (mergers and mega alliances), operational adjustment to meet changing customer needs and increasing trade competitiveness, is putting pressure on ship owners and managers to reduce operational cost without discounting on regulations, duty of care and quality, in order to remain competitive and profitable at the same time.
This is where a specialist and well established TMC with an in-depth understanding of the shipping industry can help them cope with the vulnerable market conditions, and more specifically decrease and control travel expenditure, which is their number three (3) cost, and therefore ultimately, keep them afloat.
The industry is looking for innovative business process outsourcing (BPO) solutions, which allow shipping and ship management companies to focus on their core business and their critical processes, whilst having a specialist take over travel related functions. These solutions have been shaped and implemented based on the demanding needs and requirements of some of our major clients, entrusting us to take part of their daily business and allowing us to feel part of their own successes and growth.”
Muriel: “How did the travel industry change over the years?”
Eleftheria: “Ever since we have entered the internet era in the late 1990s, products and services have become widely available to purchase online, bringing consequential changes in the wider travel. Travellers now have public access to all airlines, hotel, car hire companies and any other services they may require for arranging a leisure or a business trip. Furthermore, the internet has brought another change in the travel industry: Low Cost Carriers / web-airlines which are firmly established in the airline industry and probably rate high in leisure travellers’ awareness.
But there are possible risks (no 24/7 support, no responsibility for connecting flights, hidden costs) and collateral implications to making complex travel arrangements online, especially the business-related ones, be it to travel for meetings or to join / leave a vessel.
As we are in the middle of one of the biggest technology transitions, the ‘digital age’ which some also call the ‘digital disruption’, large and established specialist TMCs must continually transform and stay restless during this critical moment in the history of technology.
Muriel: “Based on your experience so far, how do you see the future of marine traveling and travel management in the Shipping industry?”
Eleftheria: “Throughout the 13 years I have been in this industry, I have not seen the changes of the travel industry I mentioned earlier strongly affect marine / crew travel. In the shipping industry, which cannot function without people travelling around the world, and where travel date and itinerary changes are frequent and 24/7, routings are more complicated and have increased baggage allowance, yet the internet era has not managed to affect the business as far.
The change that has been obvious since the shipping and later the energy downturn hit our clients, is the constant and increasing pressure for cost savings and cost and time efficiencies, to which we responded with our BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) solutions and improved MI (Management Information) and data analysis, which at ATPI Griffinstone are key for our clients to achieve reduced travel and FTE (Full Time Equivalent) expenditure, which in turn shall increase our client’s profitability.
Data analysis is currently becoming very important in all industries and plays a crucial role also in the travel industry. It is more and more expected to be linked to the 5Vs: value (quality), volume, velocity (speed), variety and veracity (accuracy). But having 5V data and lacking the expertise to understand and drive conclusions and corrective actions of it, may lead to poor or even wrong decision-making. A specialist TMC has the required skills to inspect and exploit data to reveal booking patterns, explain unknown correlations and ambiguities to airline yield management and market trends and transform data into useful information, to decrease cost and / or loss and increase savings, safety and security.
As an Account Manager of some of the largest and most demanding clients in my territory, this is one of my most interesting tasks and at times I offer advice to clients that they, in turn, use towards their own clients, to win or retain business in tenders and audits, or make important additional travel cost savings by changing their travel habits. Because ‘performance and efficiency are everything; don’t assume that your travel cannot improve’.”
Muriel: “You were born in Greece, you briefly lived in Argentina then in Germany, you studied in Switzerland and you worked in Greece. Now that you moved to Cyprus, how does this traveling experience feel to you and what did you learn from your exposure to different cultures?”
Eleftheria: “When I think about it, my life has been very interesting in terms of experiences and seeing and exploring different parts of the world and their cultures. Up to the age of 14, when I first came to live in Greece, I did not feel Greek at all. But I did not feel Argentinian or German either after having lived in each country for 7 years. At that time, I remember how I blamed my parents and their job for having to leave my home and friends twice in my life and having to start from scratch (you see, Skype was not broadly used at that time).
It was only years later that I realised how blessed I was compared to many people of my age. I had travelled around South America and South-West Europe, had seen so many different places and cultures and I had learned some of the most spoken languages, just by growing up in different countries. Most of my friends have only started travelling, seeing and experiencing places (mainly Europe) and cultures, when they started working and before the crisis hit Greece.
Although now I feel Greek, obviously these experiences have transformed parts of my character, the non-DNA related ones. I am mostly thankful for having learned to follow and obey rules, something I initially learned in Germany and then elaborated and further developed during my Hotel & Tourism Management studies in Glion, Switzerland. This is something I value a lot and I am proud of, since I believe it has, still does and will always play an essential role in my professional life.
So, after my studies I returned to Greece to start my professional path. Being multicultural minded, I found myself only able to settle down after a few years, when I joined an international / multinational company dedicated to the international Shipping industry. At ATPI Griffinstone, we have a diverse breadth of multinational clients and offices in over 50 countries. I sense that being part of a multinational environment is where I feel comfortable.
Cyprus, and especially Limassol, is such an interesting environment. Therefore, moving to Limassol recently, to escape the Greek instability, has not been a difficult decision. I want to be able to live in a stable and robust environment, to be able to progress in my professional and personal life. Where other people find problems and walls, I like to think that I find solutions and build my goals around them. Having young children at home, I have recently come to learn that above all techniques and managerial skills, the meaning of life is not to be happy with what you have, but have what makes you happy. And this is what I strive to achieve.”
Eleftheria Letsiou is an experienced Sales & Account Manager at ATPI Griffinstone with a demonstrated history of working in the maritime industry where she started in 2004. Prior to that, she had worked in sales departments of 5* hotels, after she graduated from one of the top 3 Hotel Management Schools, Glion Institute of Higher Education, in 2001 with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) focused on Hospitality Management.
Her duties in the past 13 years have been mainly to grow and retain regional clients. Today, with her knowledge of the industry, systems and tools, she applies expert knowledge, industry experience and relentless energy to solving possible issues or give advice for improved processes and cost savings to the clients she takes care of. She has been successfully involved in writing proposals and implementing new projects with her ability to work effectively with any client, listen to their concerns or ideas and help implement the changes necessary for successful completion of the project.
Passion and excellence are things that drive Eleftheria and she likes to be at the forefront of developments in business and technology, which is why she is the project manager of ATPI Griffinstone’s Door to Deck project currently being tested.
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Muriel Matta (BSc, MSc, MPhil, Cert CTT Practitioner) is the Founder of Maravilhosa.
She is a multilingual Human Resources Management expert, with extensive cross-cultural experience, spanning 26 years in MENA, Europe and CIS.
Through her work with Organizations and Individuals, she helps solve the toughest HR challenges by customizing unique training and coaching solutions to inspire change, positive thinking and transformation.
Muriel can be contacted via email: Muriel@maravilhosa.net