I worked in a TMC for over 20 years, before the days of ‘just Google it’, where you shared information face to face, and you worked on problems collaboratively, in the same office location. Fast forward to 2020 and the world has changed largely to a ‘work from home’ model. The office comradery has gone but ultimately there is still a job to do and whilst most answers in life can simply be Google’d, you can’t put your ‘part flown, route change reissue with a cabin change’ into Google and find out what you need to do with it.

Of course, you can phone the airline, but with airline waiting times sometimes up to four hours in recent months, you really need alternative options and that’s exactly what we provide via the Focus Extranet.

A hub of information and knowledge, you can spend hours on the site, exploring and learning so much. Before Coronavirus, our Extranet was updated approximately 10 times a day with new pieces of information coming in from various suppliers or trade bodies, but in the height of the first wave of Coronavirus, we were updating over 400 pieces of information every day and had three people constantly working on the site to ensure that we provided our TMC Partners with a single source of information. Airline refund and reprotection policies were changing on such a regular basis which was causing a lot of confusion to consultants and therefore our Fares Executive Laura quickly put together policy ‘cheat sheets’, with flow charts containing all the important information and links needed so that users knew what the latest information was or where to find it on the airlines’ own sites for each individual scenario. In addition, where consultants were still stuck and needed more information, our support staff were also available to help.

We have received amazing feedback over the continual updates and information provided – a ‘one stop shop’ for everything needed by front line or admin staff. Not wanting to stop there, we developed further knowledge ‘hubs’. We analysed data to see what pages were accessed the most and the routes that users had taken to get there. For those that were frequently accessed, we created quick-links to these pages straight from the home page and these currently include Coronavirus, Brexit, PSD2, NDC, OBT, Rail and News.

Within Focus, we regularly review these pages and make sure that they are as user-friendly as possible, looking engaging and most importantly, that information is easy to find. We never want pages to be out of date nor that they are so saturated with information, that nothing is clear, and this has been one of our key goals for the benefit of our TMC Partners.

Whilst I was on furlough last year, I tasked myself with learning how to edit videos and I am delighted to be bringing this new skill to the Extranet in creating video content for our TMC Partners. We maintain our relationship with suppliers in lots of ways, one being via recorded interviews or training sessions, ensuring that our Partners are kept up to date and engaged with the continual changing landscape of busines travel. Considering that we were so used to visits from our suppliers, it feels weird not to have been in the same room as them for over a year now!

Earlier this year I had the honour of working on setting up the ‘Steve Murray Future Leader’ award. I had the pleasure of working with Steve for over 10 years but if you didn’t know him, he absolutely cherished young talent and relished opening doors and opportunities within our industry for younger people, to help them with their careers in the industry he loved so dearly. We’re excited to be able to offer the winner exactly what Steve would have wanted – providing networking opportunities and introductions to new areas of knowledge within the travel sector as they spend a day with Focus’ central team and separately with United Airlines, learning all about an airline’s operations which I am sure they will find incredibly interesting – we welcome any nominations for this award which we are so proud to be supporting