with Cassie Edwards, Travel and Expense Coordinator, CAA ICON
Before becoming Travel Coordinator with the Houston Rockets and then CAA ICON, Cassie Edwards spent the majority of her career in sales with Continental and United Airlines. Although her travel industry experience proved a valuable foundation for a travel manager role, she also needed to learn the intricacies of overseeing a corporate travel program.
To do that, she leaned on her professional relationships, travel industry resources and her travel management company.
Cultivate Professional Relationships
In fact, Edwards’ first travel management role with the Houston Rockets came about through her United Airlines sales relationship with the NBA team. During the airline’s downsizing, many of her accounts reached out with new travel-related job opportunities. “That was when I realized the true value of the relationships,” says Edwards.
She continued to rely on those relationships as she built the Rockets travel program. “I obviously utilized my airline contacts and also got in touch with those I knew in the hotel world to start negotiating contracts,” Edwards says. “Looking back, I utilized all the relationships I had previously developed to help build the Rockets travel program.”
Edwards was able to dive deeper on travel management topics and build new professional relationships by attending local Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) chapter events. When she was first tasked with building the travel program at CAA ICON, a consulting firm that oversees the planning, development, design and construction of sports and entertainment venues, she knew her GBTA contacts could help her out. In fact, it was at a Rocky Mountain GBTA chapter event where she first connected with her future travel management company. “I was talking with another travel manager about some issues we were having and the person next to me made some suggestions to us,” Edwards remembers. “Turns out it was a Fox World Travel representative who followed up with me to help resolve our problem.”
Connect with Travel Industry Resources
During her first weeks as a travel manager, and even well into her tenure, Edwards found a number of industry resources that assisted in the development of her travel program. Edwards recommends checking out some of these for general education or specific topic research:
- Global Business Travel Association a membership organization focused on providing business travel knowledge through education, research, networking and advocacy
- Supplier Sites like hotels and airlines to gain information on status and individual supplier actions to keep travelers safe
- Industry Publications like BTN, Skift and Travel Weekly for reference articles and webinars
- US Department of State for US and International travel requirements
Rely on Your TMC
Edwards leverages the experiences and resources of her Travel Management Company to benefit the CAA ICON travel program. One particularly beneficial area is supplier negotiations. “When I started our program, I knew our travel spend was at a level where we wouldn’t be able to negotiate huge agreements.” So in that arena, she relies on Fox World Travel. “Your TMC has relationships that can work in your favor rather than going it alone,” says Edwards.
Edwards also benefits from an attentive Client Solutions Manager who shares her knowledge and is proactive in communicating information useful to the CAA ICON travel program. “It seems like every week I get new information from her that’s resulted in something positive for our program,” says Edwards. “I appreciate her inviting me to attend industry calls and virtual tradeshows that are helpful to increase my knowledge as a travel manager as well as giving me an opportunity to meet other travel managers.”
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