South Africa’s annual Mining Indaba remains the world’s largest mining investment conference, connecting a global mining community and shaping the agenda for the year ahead.
This time last year, Travel Management Companies (TMCs) booked flights, transport and accommodation as thousands of investors, mining companies, stakeholders and government officials from around the globe descended on Cape Town.
This year feels very different. As a result of COVID-19, the 2021 Investing in African Mining Indaba was 100% virtual. But as Bonnie Smith, general manager of FCM Travel Solutions explains, travel bookings to the conference are just a drop in the ocean – as mining multinationals continue to send their teams through Africa and around the world.
“Mining travel is essential travel,” says Smith. “COVID-19 has just added an extra layer of complexity to an already difficult industry. TMCs need to think on their feet. You might have found a solution to a problem, but the next day – or the next hour – some government somewhere changes a rule, and you have to start over. A strong TMC partner will advise you and keep you up-to-date on a country’s changing processes and regulations – so that your team is in place, up and running, and productive as soon as possible.”
When it comes to navigating travel in the mining industry, Smith believes that the following five elements are key:
- Unique mining expertise
Managing travel for businesses and employees in the mining sector requires unique industry expertise. Mining sites are often harder to access, crew changes rely on roster cycles, accommodation options in remote mining areas limited, and site regulations mean that car hire is not as straightforward as it is in other industries.
“A team like FCM,” says Smith, “understands that the mining industry is all about boots on the ground – which means less time in the air, less time travelling between accommodation and site, and a happier, more productive team. Look for a TCM with a wide range of accommodation options, including a far-flung guesthouses with all the necessary health and safety protocols in place.”
- Round the clock availability
Everyone likes the prospect of 24/7 service, but for an industry which is always on the go (spanning a multitude of destinations and time zones) it is non-negotiable. Pick a TMC with an after-hours team, who can act fast without compromising cost or compliance.
- Crisis know-how
At the moment, the world is fixated on COVID-19, but with a million moving parts in the mining industry, clients know only too well how quickly things can go wrong.
“COVID aside,” says Smith, “In the event of an emergency affecting your crew or personnel (from weather events impacting an individual to large-scale evacuations) a TMC should do all they can to minimise any distress and coordinate quickly to get them to safety”.
Of course, crisis management is just a small part of a larger commitment to Duty of Care. “To ensure your duty of care responsibilities are being fulfilled, FCM will enhance your pre-trip processes and put a plan in place for quickly and safely responding to anything affecting your people on the go,” says Smith.
- Controlling costs
In a cost-conscious time, travel managers face significant pressure to cut costs. “Before you force your employees to use discount airlines, cheap hotels or tin cars, make sure you speak to your TMC,” says Smith. “ FCM has helped some of its largest mining clients significantly reduce its travel liability simply by adopting a more holistic approach to travel management.”
Smith explains that if the data reveals that a client is using 500 different hotels in 50 cities, the FCM team would advise reducing this number to say 100, and negotiate a discount with the remaining hotels. “It is about creating efficiencies,” she says.
- Access to tech and real-time data
Although most clients are shying away from online booking tools during the COVID pandemic, technology still has an important role to play. FCM’s traveller centric mobile app Sam :] engages with travellers from door to door, helping them to prepare for their journey and keeping them updated on the go.
“Having quick and easy access to technology can significantly reduce stress by ensuring travellers know exactly where they need to be and how to get there safely,” says Smith.
Perhaps even more significant, new tech platforms allow TMCs to track data, giving them the ability to analyse a company’s travel behaviour, pulling up-to-the minute reports for cost analysis, budgeting and planning. A tech-enabled TMC is an agile partner – one who can provide seamless automation from booking to reporting, quick changes when necessary and a holistic overview at a moment’s notice. A powerful advantage in the mining sector.
“FCM is excited about the insights and ideas shared during this year’s mining Indaba. We can’t wait to partner with our clients for a successful year ahead,” concludes Smith.