The Challenge: A multinational distributed observatory, with a mission to build and operate telescopes that transform our understanding of the universe, required a TMC with truly global reach for its travel management. As the observatory’s international project progressed at pace, it needed an advanced travel management system befitting its position on the cutting edge of science.

The Solution: Work in partnership with Reed & Mackay to streamline business travel management and embark on a global travel policy that helps meet the observatory’s goals.

Photo credit: SKAO

Reed & Mackay client, the SKA Observatory (SKAO), is a next-generation radio astronomy-driven big data facility that promises to have a major positive impact on society, in science and beyond. The SKAO operates from three main locations: its global headquarters in the UK, plus its two telescope host countries, Australia and South Africa.

The SKAO’s principal travel destinations are to and from its offices in Manchester, UK, Cape Town, South Africa and Perth, Australia. However, its employees also travel frequently to multiple locations that are members of the Observatory and contribute to telescope construction.

“We also visit other observatories and partner institutions and attend many conferences across the globe,” SKAO Travel Support Manager Karen Evans explains. “We manage around 200 travellers, some of whom will travel regularly – especially the leadership, science and construction teams. And we expect those numbers to increase in the next 18 months as the project progresses and the teams ramp up further in Australia and South Africa.”


The SKAO had worked sporadically with Reed & Mackay over the last eight years for its travel management. Then, when Evans joined the organisation at the start of 2023, she began working more closely with Reed & Mackay Client Success Manager Donald Munro, to focus on implementing a global travel policy across all of the SKAO’s locations.

Each of the SKAO’s teams has different travel requirements and, with responsibility for overseeing the Observatory’s entire travel programme, including managing costs, traveller tracking, duty of care, sustainability, invoicing and travel policy adherence, Evans needed a TMC that could consistently advise and support across the entire travel management spectrum with its products and services.

“Before I joined the SKAO, corporate travel was booked offline and a lot of self-booking took place,” Evans says. “So, over the last few months, we’ve introduced Reed & Mackay’s proprietary online booking tool, R&M/Book, for the UK and Australia sites, for ease and visibility of the customer journey.”

Evans highlights how the traveller tracking feature in R&M/Portal is also ideal for the organisation. It’s particularly beneficial when weekly updates are required to be sent to Australia and South Africa on new visitor arrivals to the telescope sites.

“Nevertheless, I wouldn’t be without the personalised offline service we also receive from Reed & Mackay,” Evans adds. “We will always need to have great offline support from our TMC. I believe having the expertise of good travel management consultants is essential. That has been proven on a number of occasions.

“Having trust and confidence in your TMC is paramount and it’s important to have a good working relationship with its operations team and the account manager too – which we have.”


As an intergovernmental organisation, costs are hugely important to the SKAO. “We’re not-for-profit and tax-payer funded and have to manage our budgets effectively. It means creating a global travel policy for everyone to adhere to and adopt better buying behaviours. This has been a focus already this year,” Evans says.

“Moreover, the SKAO is committed to incorporating sustainable travel practices, in line with the Observatory’s values,” Evans adds.

“Reed & Mackay demonstrated its enhanced sustainability toolkit that presents granular CO2 data for air, rail, car hire and hotel in R&M/Book, empowering us to make more sustainable choices. The biggest challenge and top priority will be around awareness among our travellers of why it’s so important. Travelling responsibly has got to happen so I’m excited about the technology Reed & Mackay offers to help us achieve this goal.”


Heading towards 2024, Reed & Mackay will continue to support Evans and the team as the SKAO’s global travel policy is being implemented across the Observatory. “We still have a lot of work to do as there are so many things to focus on – cost-savings, sustainability, reporting – but I’m sure with Reed & Mackay’s support we will be able to achieve all of this,” Evans says.

“While myself and my colleagues have a vast amount of travel knowledge and the capability to book online, a lot of our travel continues to need to be booked offline. We therefore need to have confidence in the TMC team who is looking after us. We certainly have that with Reed & Mackay and have built a great working relationship together.”