< PrevNext > Cheryl Benjamin Dart Container travel services manager Share Benjamin went to school for accounting, on the insistence of her father, but then a friend said, “Hey, take this travel class with me.” A founding member and former chair of the Corporate Travel Department Association, she’s been in the business for 30 years, the past 16 of them at Dart. She spoke with BTN assistant editor Dawit Habtemariam.You run a Corporate Travel Department rather than outsourcing to an agency. Did you implement the CTD at Dart or was it in place when you took the job?I actually did implement the CTD here. When I came to Dart, we were operating as a rent-a-plate; we had agents that were on the Dart payroll, and we were doing [almost] everything internally [except ARC and owning our reporting]. Over the years, as the financial model for TMCs changed and they lost commissions from airlines, they had to start charging for their services. We were already positioned to manage the process, so it just made sense to implement the CTD. The benefits from implementing the CTD are transparency into the data [and] ability to customize reporting—GDS reporting, booking tool, etc. are contracted directly with the vendor so we can configure them to our needs—and the most important is being able to respond quickly to industry changes.That was then. This is now. What are you working on?One of our big projects right now centers around the incredible amount of data we have available and then learning from it. Your data tells a story, and if you are not looking at that data and paying attention to what it is telling you, you really miss an opportunity. As a CTD, we have data from a number of different points. We’re looking at our booking data. We’re looking at our expense data, credit card information. We’re looking at even the data our suppliers send back to us, and we’re looking for trends that will help us forecast out so we can be a little more proactive instead of reactive.One of our other big things: Our department has been tasked with building a true travel risk program and fine-tuning the processes we have and educating our travelers. With traveler security, we’ve educated and provided resources to so many of our travelers, making sure that they have the information that they need: In the case of emergency, who do they contact and what do they do? If you can give them information and arm them with a way to stay safe, that’s a success.What are younger travel managers expectations, and what is important for them to know? At the same time, are you learning from them?For so long, we were wondering who was going to be the next generation, and it’s fun to see the younger travel managers coming in. Their ideas are so different than us seasoned professionals. If I can make dinner reservations on Open Table on my phone, they expect hotels are going to allow me to check in to my room without having to stop at the desk. They have a fresh set of eyes on things. They wouldn’t think twice about booking an Airbnb for a business trip. Four years ago, I would never have had Lyft or Uber as part of my travel program. I do today. We’re all changing with their expectations, and there is nothing wrong with that.You’ve always been active in sharing your work with BTN audiences and CTDA. How do you continue to learn in this industry?By talking to other people—the buyers and the suppliers—and finding out what new things they are doing. Our suppliers can tell us so much. They see so many other programs, and it’s truly about the networking. We are so fortunate the industry as a whole has so many incredible conferences and one-day events. You could sit next to a stranger, and they are willing to share with you what they are doing and ask a question. It’s a very open industry, and I just love it and that’s how I continue to learn.