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Are travel solutions ready for the energy sector evolution?

Reed & Mackay Hall: BTSE Stand: K50
Are travel solutions ready for the energy sector evolution?

This month we ask Reed & Mackay General Manager Energy & Marine Graeme Fyvie what challenges will face the Energy & Marine sector’s travel programmes in the coming years; how TMCs can deliver travel solutions to those challenges in the sector; and why the evolution of travel technology needs to go hand-in-hand with personalised service.

During your 30 years’ experience in travel for the Energy & Marine sector, what’s been the most notable development in that time?

The evolution of technology has been the fundamental change. When I first started in this business, airlines would post fares fortnightly to agencies. Marine and offshore fares were monthly. Tickets were written by hand and delivered by couriers.

Crew changes came through by fax. Clients were contacted using landline phones. Emergency responses outside of regular hours were handled through a pager system. From an environmental perspective, the amount of paper used was excessive!

The team handled a huge volume of manual work and built trust with the client through many years of service. Now, with the evolution of tech, there are many more tools available to self-service, which will continue to change how travel programmes work for this sector.

Are both booker and traveller needs also changing in this sector?

The self-service piece isn’t yet as far advanced in the Energy & Marine sector, as it involves many contractors and the vessel, the platform and the front-end customer still make a lot of the decisions. The crew schedulers’ priorities are sourcing the right people for the job with the right qualifications, finding out who’s eligible to travel, who has the right visas, what will the tax implications be for booking those crew members. There are multiple people involved in that process, including HR teams.

But the changing energy sector needs evolving travel solutions; they will start expecting more sophisticated technology for crew changes. As multiple people are involved – especially on the visa and tax side – the integration of technology is going to be essential as the sector itself evolves. Bookers and travellers will need that one source of truth available in one database that is easy to maintain.

How can a travel management company (TMC) support this?

Our current focus has been to streamline the booking process as much as possible.

We’re working with current crewing systems to hand off to us correctly, as well as sourcing accurate fare quotes for crews as quickly as possible. Travellers in this sector often have complex routes that require multiple tickets for one trip. To make booking easier, we are automating the entire process. That then flushes the information through to crew sheets and provides the customer with live, up-to-date information.

We are investing in more improvements based on customer needs to make it more efficient. That also applies to the travellers themselves; our mobile technology ensures they have all the information they need for travel at their fingertips.

And marine and offshore airline fares via NDC content will soon be available, via our own tech innovations. We position well to deliver this, as we already offer it to corporate travel clients in other sectors and there will be more enhancements for the Energy & Marine sector.

What external challenges will this sector face in the coming years? What travel solutions can a TMC deliver?

The Energy & Marine sector has many visa requirements – where a TMC supports is keeping ahead of any regulations around re-entry requirements for all destinations.

Sustainable travel will play a big part of the travel solutions for the energy and marine sector. Clients will want sustainable options to be available on quotes for informed decision making, plus work with a TMC that has the ability to report on carbon reduction. We’re also seeing airlines moving to more green energy fares to support the renewable sector, which continue to offer flexibility such as around additional baggage.

And the management of disruption caused by extreme weather events, strike action and geopolitical events will continue. This is where we can support with our global 24/7/365 Incident Management Unit; the tracking of people and duty of care to travellers is fundamental. Our technology also supports in providing this peace of mind; the mobile check-in facility, for example, equips travellers with multiple layer check-in at different points through the trip, for total visibility.

Do you envisage the Energy & Marine sector switching to tech-driven booking only in the future?

No, it will be a combination of technology and the continued need for consultants’ dedicated service and expertise.

Our technology has the ability to deal with everything from Energy & Marine crew changes and corporate travel to VIP travel and meetings and events, all from one hub. Being able to have visual access to the multiple itineraries and quotes in one user-friendly view helps drive efficiencies across travelling tracking, cost containment, duty of care and sustainability. The tech allows for more productivity, more visibility and more accountability.

Nevertheless, technology won’t replace the expertise of travel consultants. They understand the challenges with crew changes. Yes, technology is evolving, but a TMC’s consultant knows where you can save money on travel, they have that expertise to find the right route that suits each traveller and find the right travel solutions for the energy and marine sector.

And we bring essential knowledge to customers with any new projects they’re working on. Sourcing hotels in new locations, pre-empting what the visa process for those locations will be, helping establish how the project can work more efficiently when onboarding new crew members.

That human connection will remain crucial for Energy & Marine as technology evolves – the two go hand-in-hand.

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