Not so long ago, a travel manager’s job was shrouded in the minutia of expense lines, compliance, and duty of care. But as we explore in our Why Business Travel Is the Center of the New Company Culture report that we have produced with cultural analysis firm CULTIQUE, new ways of working and living are expanding the role of business travel and those who manage it.

No longer a commodity, business travel is seen as an investment in creating meaningful connections and resilience that future-proof the way we work – so much so that a company’s ability to thrive now will largely hinge on its ability to manage travel and mobility.

This phenomenon has transformed the travel manager’s functions to the point that we have a new term to describe the role: chief journey officer.

Stepping into this new role, a travel manager emerges as a leader who strategically manages business travel as a way to cultivate a winning company culture and reinvigorate a dispersed workforce.

As business travel becomes integral to the success of a company’s goals and culture, travel managers are strengthening cross-departmental collaborations – including those with stakeholders from human resources, finance, sustainability, and the C-suite.

“Over the last 18 months, the travel team played an extremely important and elevated role. We became a point of critical information and the business very much relied on us for counsel. We’ve built/strengthened our relationships with stakeholders across HR, business continuity management, and the workspace team. I have no doubt that these relationships shall be maintained,” Mark Cuschieri, global head of travel, UBS, said in the report.

With remote and hybrid work models reducing in-office interactions that once had dominated corporate culture, companies now are looking to travel managers to connect and move all employees – not just those historically associated with business travel.

Organizations that have reduced or given up their office space are redirecting money saved on real estate toward travel, mobility, and experiences to spur meaningful interactions among employees and keep them engaged. Increasingly, a travel manager’s role isn’t only about getting people from Point A to Point B safely and efficiently but also the experience once employees get there.

The travel program has been viewed as a recruitment and retention tool for some time, but now it’s a crucial ingredient in the overall employee experience. With the challenging circumstances of the past couple of years provoking people to recalibrate their priorities and adjust their lives, there’s a renewed focus on personal growth, quality of life, and interpersonal relationships. Because of the intrinsic rejuvenating quality of travel, the travel program is seen as an instrument to boost employee well-being and combat stress. Travel managers increasingly are developing ways to make work trips an even more pleasurable experience, including special perks like spa services and meditation app subscriptions to help travelers nourish their physical and mental well-being.

Travelers now crave more options and flexibility in the way they travel for work that meets their preferences, schedule, and inclinations. As the travel program evolves to meet these new expectations, travel managers are moving away from acting as policy enforcers to giving employees more choice and sway over trip decisions and itineraries.

As environmental, social, and governance priorities climb corporate agendas, travel managers also are becoming instrumental in this change as they work to adopt policies and programs that reflect more inclusive and sustainable travel. By assessing the vendors, partners, locations, technology, food, and fuel that are entwined in the travel program, travel managers have many opportunities to exercise and exemplify company priorities.

On the whole, travel managers may be in a prime position to fuel the transition businesses are undergoing today by becoming stewards of company values and employee experiences – two things now largely driven by travel.

To learn more about the trends impacting the travel manager’s role and how travel can be used strategically to drive corporate goals and business success, download the white paper.