Meet John Keichline, Reed & Mackay CEO US, who has been with Reed & Mackay since 2018. Here he shares his insights into the changing needs of clients in the US, driven by the evolving travel landscape, and how the US team aims to deliver on those client expectations.
How long have you worked in corporate travel?
Although I’d been a business traveller myself throughout my career, this was my first role in corporate travel. I laugh now because when the recruiter called to tell me about the role, I had to ask what TMC stood for!
What motivated me to interview for this role was the chance to join a company with a well-established reputation and track record in another market and was looking to grow in the US. I had a real desire to see a business grow in this market.
And key to all this was Reed & Mackay’s culture. Everyone I interacted with and spoke to during the interview process assured me this is a company that really cares about its people – and that’s a place I wanted to work.
What excites you about corporate travel in general right now?
It’s exciting to see travel back. And the prognosis is that it will continue this way. What happened during the pandemic, with consolidations and acquisitions, really reshaped how the corporate travel market operates. As a global company, we’re well positioned to provide travellers with whatever they need and, as part of Navan, we offer great solutions across the whole spectrum of corporate travel.
Reed & Mackay delivers extraordinary personal service, smart tech and global reach – are these the top priorities for US clients right now?
Absolutely, clients in the US are looking for these key elements from their TMC. Corporate travel managers are seeing that business trips may have changed; for example, doing less of them but covering more destinations in one trip. That has added a level of complexity. So they need our high-touch service even more.
On the other hand, some clients are focusing on just a couple of trips a year; for that, they need smart technology through which they can go ahead and book everything themselves. And we’re excited that we have made recent investments in new technology that will help support that even further.
Are clients asking to hear more about how we can provide cost savings?
It’s true that prices have risen in the travel industry post pandemic, especially with hotels and airlines. That’s because there’s a lot of demand and other external factors that are affecting travel spend.
Where we can add value is helping clients look at how they’re travelling to cut costs. Are there different ways they can take advantage of group deals? Are there opportunities for us to help with reducing costs by assisting with hotel RFPs? It’s across these areas that we can add real value.
And how is Reed & Mackay US guiding clients on sustainability?
We’re certainly seeing a lot more requests on the sustainability side in travel programmes in the US. We answer those requests by showing them what sustainable choices are available, how our technology supports those choices and how to report on them effectively in both the short and long term. And we’re also going to clients and prospects talking about how we can help them make those sustainable travel choices. That then piques their interest and it becomes a priority.
What challenges does the corporate travel sector still face to meet the changing needs of clients?
Challenges evolve because the supplier landscape has changed. These companies are looking to recoup what they lost while providing a level of service where travellers come first.
Take travel technology; New Distribution Capability (NDC) for example. A year ago, no one was talking much about NDC. Now it’s here to stay and there are many conversations around it. We, as an industry, need to be flexible, we need to adjust to what suppliers are doing.
And, as a TMC, we need to ensure we have the technology that can ingest new content, as well as educating ourselves and understanding the pros and cons of what’s new in travel.
From an employee perspective, we are making sure we support our Reed & Mackay colleagues and give them the tools they need to manage the changing landscape. Everyone went through a tough time in the pandemic and jobs have changed so much as a result. By keeping our people supported and motivated, they can provide great service for our clients.
Can you share a topline summary of Reed & Mackay US’ objectives in 2023 and beyond?
This year is about stability and sustained growth. Last year, no one could have predicted how quickly travel came back so, in the US, we concentrated on that, bringing people back to the team and hiring new people as the business grew.
Now, with fully functioning teams, including the Client Success Team that’s now bigger and stronger, our goal in the US is to get that client experience to the level it was pre-pandemic, delivering high-touch service across the board.
Travel is definitely back…what are the top three destinations you personally would like to visit?
Firstly, Hawaii. I last visited 26 years ago on my honeymoon. It’s such a beautiful destination; the food, scenery and weather are all fantastic.
On my wish list is a trip to Rome. My mother is from Italy, everyone I speak to who has been has loved it and my family are very artistic and would love to absorb its history and see its architecture.
And, while I travel to London frequently for work, my family has never been so I would like to take them there too…possibly combine it with the Italy trip!