RSCE Hosts Virtual Global Travel Symposium

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16 Aug 2023

RSCE Hosts Virtual Global Travel Symposium

Mark Kaheru

25 July 2023, Entebbe; The United Nations (UN) community of travel experts came together between 17 and 21 July 2023, for the annual Global Travel Symposium (GTS), a forum to exchange ideas and best practices to make travel in the UN better.

For the first time, the GTS was a virtual event hosted by the Regional Service Centre Entebbe (RSCE) and led by the Travel Service Line under the theme Opportunity.

On the first day, Mr. Paulin Djomo, Director of the RSCE, in his keynote address, conveyed to the community that they played a very important role in enabling the United Nations to carry out its mandates.

“During the Covid-19 pandemic, travel staff were the most sought-after people as everyone was clamoring to find a way back home to spend time with their families and needed the fastest routes,” he said. “Because of the nature of your jobs, you are the most patient people because you do your job while dealing with many people in varying situations.” Mr. Djomo concluded his remarks by stressing the importance of embracing opportunity and change, remarking that the travel community “need[s] to provide trusted advice to clients and make them understand how to manage travel amidst all these changes.”

Colleagues from the Human Resources Services Division in the Department of Operational Support set the scene for the policy and procedure changes coming to travel in the coming months, followed by a round-table discussion including travel offices from Bangkok, New York, and Entebbe sharing their experiences in implementing the changes in the Staff Rules from earlier this year.  These sessions, plus one on the importance of the advance purchase compliance policy and how to track performance from the Business Transformation and Accountability Division, identified the areas of opportunity for attendees.  

The latter half of the symposium focused on tools and information to help travel offices take on new opportunities, including a comprehensive overview of cost recovery from the Office of Programme Planning, Finance and Budget, the crucial role data and reporting plays in daily operations, and a refresher session on delegation of authority. The Claims Service Line from the RSCE, in collaboration with travel finance colleagues in New York, provided a seldom-seen view into the expense report process, and shared tips to make the process smoother for travelers and their offices.

With over 146 participants from 45 represented entities in 10 different time zones attending, the symposium concluded with a call for attendees to embrace the opportunities for collaboration, operational input, training, and outreach. Stephen Banea, the lead organizer for the 2023 GTS, and Travel Officer at the RSCE, encouraged attendees to use the tools discussed and the knowledge gained from the symposium to make the travel experience more consistent, accessible, and responsive to client’s needs.

The 2024 Global Travel Symposium will be held in-person at a location to be determined.