Travel Management, Meetings Management. What’s the Difference?

Travel Managers Are Being Asked to Manage Meetings

More and more often, travel directors are being asked to manage strategic meetings management programs.


But do travel management and meetings management require the same skill sets and subject matter expertise for travel management professionals to take on these added responsibilities?


This is part one of a two part article outlining the tasks that travel and meeting managers are responsible for, and identifying similarities between the two roles.  Part two of the article will follow next week and will identify the differences between the two roles.


Business Travel News recently reported in its 2013 Travel Manager Salary and Attitude Survey (page 54), that by 2015, 59% of all Travel Managers responding to the survey will be involved in strategic meetings management.  This result is similar to GBTA’s 2012 Travel Management Compensation and Benefits Survey, which determined that 55% of all travel directors responding to the survey said they are responsible for developing strategic meetings management programs in their companies.  So the trend is definitely here, but is it a net positive for the management of meetings?


Common Roles and Responsibilities

Travel and meetings management have nine responsibilities in common.

  1. Policy Development and Administration – the Meetings policy has to put much more focus on regulatory and duty-of-care compliance than the Travel policy, because the opportunities for violations are greater at meetings and events
  2. Program Design – Travel and Meetings both require program design, but entail completely different processes and procedures
  3. Corporate Social Responsibility – both are focused on diversity and green programs
  4. Technology Selection and Deployment – Travel is concerned with online booking tools, while Meetings is concerned with sourcing, budgeting, attendee management and reporting technologies
  5. Data Management and Reporting – No GDS (Global Distribution System) in meetings, making data management more difficult
  6. Supplier Management – Travel oversees air, hotel, car, GDS and technology, while Meetings oversees hotel, technology, audiovisual, ground transport and production
  7. Compliance Management – there are greater opportunities for regulatory and duty of care violations in a meetings program
  8. Payment Program – payment mechanisms are similar for travel and meetings, but reconciliation processes are different, i.e., expense reports versus central bill folio level reconciliation
  9. Change Management – similar audiences, although resistance to change much greater in  meetings programs


While many of the roles and responsibilities are similar, the subject matter expertise required in a meetings program diverges considerably from travel, especially in the areas of policies, processes, risk management, and technology.


Differences Between Travel and Meetings ManagementDifferences TM and SMM

There are six areas where there is a significant divergence between meetings management and travel management.  Some of the divergence is due to differences in the subject matter, and some is the result of the number of risks associated with meetings, leading to the need for increased focus on regulatory and duty of care compliance issues in the meetings space.


This article will continue next week, where I will expand on the discussion of the differences between travel and meetings management.  Please make sure you register (in the registration form below this article or at the top of the right hand column) to receive next week’s installment.


Please let me and your fellow readers know your thoughts on the similarities between travel and meetings management.  You can add your thoughts in the comments box directly below.


Thanks for joining me!




  1. Great perspective, Shimon! It is a good idea for travel managers to manage meetings as they have a fresh perspective.

    • Thanks Debi. I originally came to strategic meetings management from travel management consulting, and I agree that travel managers bring unique experience to the table. It will be interesting to see what conclusions I arrive at next week when I post the second half of the article on the differences between travel and meetings management. Stay tuned.

  2. Ten years ago OBT was the corporate buzz. OBT today is a given. SMMP is today’s buzz. In less than ten years, I believe events management in large organizations will mature to a controlled self-service process similar to travel online booking tools. Though a meeting system needs are more complex than a travel system, it is the people that have worked with OBTs who will bring parallels into the development and implementation of the future meetings self-service platforms.

    • Marty – I completely agree with you on the direction of meetings technology with respect to finding and booking venues. I wrote an article about touchless meeting technology systems a couple of months ago, describing the few remaining obstacles to developing such systems. On your second point, I welcome travel managers into the world of meetings management, and I am certain that they will have a lot to contribute to the field. However, as you will see in the next installment of this two-part article, larger and more complex meetings can not be treated as commodities, and therein lies the main difference between travel and meetings.


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