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Q+A with Ron DiLeo

Ignite goes one-on-one with ACTE's executive director.

This past July, Ron DiLeo stepped into his role as executive director for the Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE). As a 30-plus year veteran of the travel industry, he comes to ACTE with a potpourri of global experiences in private and publically held companies and a bent toward entrepreneurship with, In The Black, the consulting interest he founded in 2007.

Ignite:  If you could squeeze your skills down to the top three, tell us what they are and how they will advance the interests of corporate travel managers?

DiLeo: Creativity, idea execution and ability to attract new talent. The last two points I feel particularly passionate about because I believe they are key to the survival of our industry. New material is out there; we just need to actualize it. As for talent, the average age in corporate travel is north of 55. We are largely an industry that is not hiring; when we do, we hire from within. With fresh faces come fresh ideas.

Ignite: What can the industry do to address these challenges?

DiLeo: We conducted a survey and received some interesting results and comments. One of the most telling was this: “Programs are being designed by the over 50s, built by the over 40s and for use by the under 30s...there is a disconnect.” We need to bridge the gap. We have set a six-to-nine month goal to implement a new university-accredited program called Around the World in 80 Hours. It will be a two-semester yearly program and will cover 18 countries/markets, with over 80 hours of classroom time plus three days in each market. Courses will be available individually, in packages or full semester across the globe. Singapore will be our first locale but I don’t have much more information on the ATW80 program as it relates to Canada, but will have a great deal more to share by the end of the year.

To help bring fresh ideas to fruition, we are creating Angels Investors Lounge, a virtual portal that will pair-up idea people with investors. The idea person can go in with their vetted concept and create a profile with specifics and contact information. We will target niche venture capital companies and those with an affiliation to travel.

Ignite: When you first got into this business, what did a corporate travel manager do and how has that changed today?

DiLeo: Thirty years ago there were no travel managers. We had in-house travel departments. In the 80s travel managers made reservations, educated travellers and RFPs were three pages; now they’re 50. The 90s was a buyers’ profile, the Jack Welsh (shareholder value) era. Today it is a complex business. For every one transaction, there are 150 opportunities to make a mistake: 135 data points, expiration codes and hand-offs from one system to another. As a travel manager, you’re responsible for everything from lost bags to flight delays.

Ignite: Looking into your crystal ball, what do you see as the most pressing issues for corporate travel managers in the years to come?

DiLeo: Attracting new talent, utilizing technology and emerging markets. You’ve heard the term, "new normal"? In the travel business there never will be a new normal because things change so much. We need to embrace change and we ourselves need to be change makers.

ACTE is a not-for-profit association that provides executive-level global education and peer-to-peer networking opportunities. Members come from all areas of business travel, from corporate buyers to agencies to suppliers. ACTE serves more than 6,000 executives in over 80 countries. www.acte.org

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