HTM On The Line with BRYANT HAWKINS SR.

River Dohm on Pioneering a Unique Service Model in HTM Travel

November 20, 2023 Bryant Hawkins Sr. Season 1 Episode 46
River Dohm on Pioneering a Unique Service Model in HTM Travel
HTM On The Line with BRYANT HAWKINS SR.
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HTM On The Line with BRYANT HAWKINS SR.
River Dohm on Pioneering a Unique Service Model in HTM Travel
Nov 20, 2023 Season 1 Episode 46
Bryant Hawkins Sr.

Get ready to revolutionize the way you travel as a HTM professional. Promised in this episode is an enlightening chat with River Dohm, the founder of River Tru Travel. She's not just another travel agent, but an innovator who's shaking up the industry with her unique no-fee service model, configured to meet the demands of healthcare technology management professionals. An in-depth exploration of her strategic partnerships with travel suppliers opens up a world of traveling smart. Don't miss out on uncovering the secret sauce behind her success and how you too can reap the rewards of her approach.

The landscape of travel within the HTM industry is changing and we're right here to guide you through it. From rising travel costs to strategic decision-making, and the evolving role of travel agents, no stone is left unturned. River Tru Travel's unique service model is dissected, revealing the benefits of their services for HTM professionals. Also, the role of technology in simplifying travel arrangements is put under the microscope, with hints of what future advancements may hold. To top it off, River Dohm shares her personal journey into becoming a travel agent, laced with career advice for those aspiring to follow in her footsteps. Just when you think it's over, we close with an intriguing tale of River's adventurous escapade in Hawaii. Let's navigate the journey of smart travel together!

This podcast is sponsored by The College  of  Biomedical Equipment Technology. You can find out more information about this outstanding institution at CBET.EDU.

River Tru Travel website: 
https://rivertrutravel.com/

Support the Show.

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Get ready to revolutionize the way you travel as a HTM professional. Promised in this episode is an enlightening chat with River Dohm, the founder of River Tru Travel. She's not just another travel agent, but an innovator who's shaking up the industry with her unique no-fee service model, configured to meet the demands of healthcare technology management professionals. An in-depth exploration of her strategic partnerships with travel suppliers opens up a world of traveling smart. Don't miss out on uncovering the secret sauce behind her success and how you too can reap the rewards of her approach.

The landscape of travel within the HTM industry is changing and we're right here to guide you through it. From rising travel costs to strategic decision-making, and the evolving role of travel agents, no stone is left unturned. River Tru Travel's unique service model is dissected, revealing the benefits of their services for HTM professionals. Also, the role of technology in simplifying travel arrangements is put under the microscope, with hints of what future advancements may hold. To top it off, River Dohm shares her personal journey into becoming a travel agent, laced with career advice for those aspiring to follow in her footsteps. Just when you think it's over, we close with an intriguing tale of River's adventurous escapade in Hawaii. Let's navigate the journey of smart travel together!

This podcast is sponsored by The College  of  Biomedical Equipment Technology. You can find out more information about this outstanding institution at CBET.EDU.

River Tru Travel website: 
https://rivertrutravel.com/

Support the Show.

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the latest episode of HTM on the Line, the podcast that is for HTM by HTM. I'm your host, bryant Hawkins Sr. Today we're thrilled to bring you an exclusive conversation with River Dome, the innovative founder of River True Travel. Her agency, uniquely tailored for HTM professionals, offers a revolutionary approach to travel management, one that's efficient, safe and highly rewarding. In this episode, river shares her unique perspective on the travel industry, emphasizing the importance of no-fee services while ensuring clients don't miss out on their travel rewards. We explore how River True Travel maintains its client's first culture, performing strategic partnerships with travel suppliers, allowing them to offer top-notch services at no extra cost to the traveler. So buckle up and join us on this enlightening journey with River, as we explore the art of traveling smart in the world of healthcare technology management. Hello, river Dome, welcome to HTM on the Line. How are you doing today?

Speaker 2:

I'm doing great, Bryant, appreciate you having me on.

Speaker 1:

Right, I'm excited. Before we get started, River, can you please take a moment to tell our listeners a bit about yourself and give us a little background on you?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, certainly so. I am the founder of River True Travel Agency. We provide comprehensive travel management services for business travel and vacation travel completely free of charge, without any fees or contracts. And leading up to this point is starting my journey with the travel agency. I spent a decade in the healthcare industry. I specialized in process improvement, technology development and implementing best practices.

Speaker 1:

All right, awesome. So River True Travel. Why did you come up with that name?

Speaker 2:

Oh yeah, very creative, very creative. Using my first and middle name. I could have spent months circling around trying to think of something creative, but I just want to dive into getting this company off the ground, so we went with that. It seemed like it fit at the time.

Speaker 1:

I heard you mentioned that before you became into the River True Travel business, you was already involved with healthcare technology management.

Speaker 2:

Yes, that's correct. So healthcare technology management. Specifically prior to starting River True Travel, I worked at Crawl for several years working on their new client startup project. So inventories across the country and also process improvement and some best practice implementation with their clients.

Speaker 1:

So obviously the reason you're on the podcast because your travel agency is something that can be of an advantage to the HTM industry. So how does River True Travel specifically cater to the needs of professionals in the HTM industry?

Speaker 2:

Great question. So yes, having been an HTM myself in healthcare, I have a really good understanding of why people are traveling, what they need and ways that we can improve their travel experience on top of just providing our everyday services. So, to be able to cater to HTM specifically, I think the number one thing is being conscious of time. People get service calls and they need to be out the next day or the same day, and so for HTM, that's a big thing being able to have folks available to book travel or reschedule travel anytime of the day. So we handle hotel flight transportation reservations, as well as meeting space with internal teams or meeting with clients once they're on site, and restaurant reservations and expense reports.

Speaker 1:

How much would this cost?

Speaker 2:

I'm so glad you asked. We offer all of our services completely free of charge. We don't have any service fees or contracts.

Speaker 1:

Wait a minute. Wait a minute Now. How are you able to offer your services for free?

Speaker 2:

So we actually sign partnership agreements with travel suppliers like hotels, rental car agencies, and they compensate us for any travel that we support. So whenever you go, brian, and schedule a hotel through your Hilton app or your Marriott app, you're going to see a set price. If we book that hotel for you, we're going to see that same price. On our end, you're paying for that travel agency support, regardless of if you use it or not. That's built in just across the board with all travel suppliers.

Speaker 1:

Does using your services increase the cost of the flight, hotel rooms or rental cars?

Speaker 2:

Nope, since that commission is already built in there and that's industry-wide. You're not going to pay a higher price. If you actually travel for a longer stay, more than four or five nights, or if you're traveling a group with more than about three to five people, depending on the hotel brand or the rental car agency, we're actually able to negotiate and obtain lower prices than you would be able to see online.

Speaker 1:

As a traveler, will I still be able to earn all of my travel rewards, even though you're making all of the arrangements for me?

Speaker 2:

Yes, we book everything and you still benefit. You earn all of your travel rewards for airlines, hotel, rental, car companies and we actually boost those rewards for you. If you have to travel outside of your preferred travel suppliers so you typically fly Delta and you have to go to the American or changing up the hotel brand we'll actually make sure that we get you that frequent flyer or that rewards numbers that for those one-off instances, you're still earning those rewards. On top of that, if you use your own personal credit card, if you're reimbursed for your travel, you'll still earn all of your credit card points. If you get the 12 times points with Hilton, your payments are still made directly to the travel supplier. You're going to see Hilton on that credit card statement and you're going to see the 12 times the points.

Speaker 1:

Let's take a practical scenario to understand how RiverTruTravel operates. Suppose I'm in a situation where I need to arrange a flight for my technicians who have to be in Houston, Texas, by tomorrow morning. Could you walk us through the process that RiverTruTravel would follow to make these travel arrangements?

Speaker 2:

Okay, certainly. First of all, when we make the engagement with someone, we have you fill out a couple of forms, very easy to do, even from your phone. Most difficult thing is collecting all of those frequent flyer numbers so you earn your rewards. But we collect all that information. We collect all of your travel preferences. Which airlines do you prefer? Where do you want to fly on the plane? Do you want insurance? The whole nine-yard. Same thing with hotels, rental cars. Get all of your preferences so that when we're booking it it will be just as good as if you were going and booking it. You'd feel like you booked it yourself. We have you fill all of that out in the beginning and then we have an online form Accessible from any device. You just complete that form and it goes to one of your dedicated travel managers who's familiar not only with those personal preferences of yours but also with your company travel policy. If there's any additional guidelines they need to be aware of they've been trained on those They'll use that to put together a quote for you for the area.

Speaker 2:

In that initial form, you're just going to have said a point of interest that you need to stay near. So the client site, a hospital or if you know the exact hotel you want to stay at. So you give them that information, they'll put together a quote with some options for you and then, as soon as they hear back from you, they'll use your preferred preferences to book that travel for you using your credit cards. We also allow you the flexibility to use multiple credit cards, so if you want to use a different card for your flight versus your hotel, each transaction can use a different credit card to maximize your rewards. So they'll go ahead and book that for you, and all that is accessible through our app. So the form is online on our website and then you'll get your quote and your itinerary, which is also accessible offline when you're traveling on our mobile app.

Speaker 1:

What if my flight gets canceled? Will we have to call you in the middle of the night to see about getting another flight booked, or how do you handle situations like that?

Speaker 2:

Great question. So flight delays and cancellations are actually a major reason why we choose to not be compensated by airlines. So we will book flights and reschedule flights for all of our clients. However, we do that completely free. We are not compensated by the airlines, because we are more than happy to help. If we get the notification, or if you reach out and you want us to reschedule it, your travel manager will be notified as soon as the cancellation comes in, the same way you would be if you were looking at your travel app or your email. They'll reach out to you and start trying to coordinate If it's extremely the last minute and you would just prefer to do it right there on site with the airline. That's why we don't sign partnership agreements with the airline. That way you can make that change on your app or in person with the airlines, which you're not able to do with other corporate travel agencies who earn compensation from airlines.

Speaker 1:

Earlier, you touched on Rivertruel Travel's expertise in managing travel arrangements for various events. I'm interested in learning more about this. Could you explain how your team would handle travel arrangements for HTM professionals attending an event or even for the event itself?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, certainly. So just like we would arrange travel for you, brian flying, we also do the same if you were traveling in a group. So if you had an on-site meeting or if you were going to a client presentation for a potential new client, which we book, solo travel, group travel and then also events. For the events, we typically work with the group or society hosting the event. A lot of times, especially in the HTM world, you have a society and a group of people who are a bunch of unpaid board members with a lot on their plate on top of their regular 9-to-5 job, and so we help them by securing the meeting space, the catering involved with that and the room blocks. So we take care of all those negotiations for them, and then we also offer the service of any attendees coming to their event. We will handle their travel completely free as well.

Speaker 1:

I know you've been in the industry and now you're in a travel side. Do you see any type of changing as far as it comes to traveling within the industry?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, certainly. I think the biggest change that's impacting HTM and every industry is just the cost of travel increase that we're seeing and that's taking away from everyone's bottom line. As COVID, every year we've been seeing 20 plus percent increases on the cost of flights, hotels, rental cars, and I know that that's just making it more difficult and more strategic. It's making it more difficult for HTM companies to have people traveling around frequently to serve us all of their clients and they're needing to make more strategic decisions about when to send people and where to send people, with those increases constantly taking away from their revenue.

Speaker 1:

A lot of people now are traveling internationally for conferences. Do your travel agent assist with international travel also?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, certainly All of our partnerships are with international brands and companies. All of the hotels and rental car agencies airlines that you'd be used to flying on in the US have properties international. There are some hotel properties in particular. They're still used to working with travel agencies. If we have a big enough heads up, we can reach out to them. We can negotiate partnership agreements to where we're still compensated and still able to offer our services for free.

Speaker 1:

I don't know if you mentioned this, but I'm going to ask it anyway. How do RiverTru travel ensure that all of my travel arrangements will comply with my company's standard and regulations for travel?

Speaker 2:

Great question. So when we onboard a traveler or a company with all of its travelers, we collect those guidelines and we have that programmed on our side to flag for all of your travel when we're booking that. Every company is very different. Some things are rules, some things are guidelines. There's some flexibility there, but we store all that information in our system. That way, whenever you're working with one of your dedicated travel managers, they're aware of those guidelines and can use those to select the options to provide you for their quote.

Speaker 1:

Now, when you're booking international travel, do you take into consideration the global health climate at the time and probably do you make measures to ensure that the health and safety of your client is the top priority during their travel?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, certainly so. Internationally, we definitely are always looking at the guidelines put out by the US government for health and safety concerns in other countries when to be traveling, when not, or what might be of concern at the time and pass those along to travelers as we're aware of them. In terms of what we saw a couple years ago with COVID, that was prior to our agency being up and running, but it's definitely something that we have conversations about a lot in terms of being aware of restrictions Most countries don't have those right now but staying on top of those, as when those situations arise, it changes daily and hourly and making sure that we're communicating that to our travelers.

Speaker 1:

I'm a client. I'm talking to RiverTruTravel. Tell me why I should use RiverTruTravel.

Speaker 2:

Great question. So Riverview Travel is going to allow your travelers to earn all of their travel rewards, earn those credit card points like they want, but it's going to save them all of the time of doing that themselves. If you have administrative support that's doing that and supporting them, it's going to save your administrative support personnel time as well, which, in turn, is going to save you money. If you're not spending your resources and having your people take their time to book travel, to review the travel, either for themselves or others, you're going to be able to allocate their time towards more important priorities and you're going to do that with dedicated support, people who know your travelers and know your company policies, so that everyone feels like their expectations are being met without having to repeatedly ask it every time they go to book a trip. You're going to have that personalized travel where we track everything for preferences and guidelines.

Speaker 1:

In this industry here? Are you aware of any other travel agencies that deal with HTM professionals?

Speaker 2:

That's a good question. So I like to live by the motto that do what you're doing and just work to be the best at it. So one thing that I did not do maybe surprising to some while starting up this agency was a lot of research into my competitors. I did a lot of research into how we could offer the best solutions at the lowest price, which I think it's hard to beat free, and we're very confident with what we're offering everyone in each industry. I know that there are corporate travel agencies, I think, who cater to every industry. However, I do think that understanding HTM and healthcare specifically helps myself and our dedicated travel managers create more customized and personalized travel for HTM travelers. The competition that's out there typically is going to charge a lot more for the same services that we're offering, so they earn that compensation and charge fees on top of that or have contractual requirements that we don't put in place with our clients.

Speaker 1:

Now, what's the technology that we have today in 2023? You mentioned how they can do a lot of traveling from their cell phone. Do you see technology evolving even more, or you think it's at its peak as far as travel arrangements go, or you see it getting even more easier to do from the phone?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I definitely think that technology is going to continue to increase our efficiency and reduce the need for back and forth communication. We're already at a great place within our agency for ensuring that there's as few touch points as possible for our travelers so that they're staying focused on what they need to do and we're not burdening them. We are continuing to work and build our proprietary software so that we can continue to meet that need and do even more for our travelers while asking for less from them.

Speaker 1:

Can you give advice to maybe a young person listening who may want to become a travel agent?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, certainly. I think that becoming a travel agent is a amazing career choice for younger people, especially someone who doesn't like to put myself in the young, older category yet. There's a lot of flexibility and if you love to travel, there's a lot of perks. And so I think that understanding the options for employment there is a lot nowadays and looking at the couple of categories of options for how to be employed or how to do that yourself, is a great place to start to make sure that who you're going to work for, if you're going to start it yourself matches their goals for what they're trying to do with their life and with their flexibility. The more you take on yourself, you get a little bit less flexibility, but the more of your compensation you give up if you're working for someone else. So it's definitely a balance, and I think that starting with determining who would be the best type of employer for you is definitely where to start in their research.

Speaker 1:

What type of scales is required? I'm just curious. To be a travel agent.

Speaker 2:

I would say organization is definitely the number one thing. So you're juggling a lot of different things in terms of timelines and options and different clients going to different places. We leverage technology a lot to help our travel agents, but I still think that if you're someone, when you travel, you were always making itinerary for everyone else in the group or in the family, or you're that person in your designated work group who always tends to be communicating the plans to everyone else and keeping the timeline of where you're going, it probably means that it's a good fit for you. If you were the traveler that just shows up and doesn't know how you got there, doesn't know how anything got booked or when you need to be where probably not the right career choice, but I think it's something that comes naturally along with the passion for travel. So I think that having that desire to travel frequently is something that helps our travel agents understand, not only from a work but a vacation perspective, what our clients want and need while they're traveling.

Speaker 1:

Can you share maybe a good experience that Rivertru travel may have had from a client that you perhaps made their travel arrangements seamless?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, we make everyone's travel seamless every day. I will tell you something that just happened. Last week. We had a new traveler come on who had yet to complete their onboarding, so we didn't have all the information about how. They would maybe prefer everything to be done, but they need to trip booked for 48 hours, so we were able to get that trip booked without having all of the information we typically would. Then, once they were on that business trip, they ended up needing to come home a day early. We're able to successfully overcome those obstacles without having all of the information on hand. I think it was a good encouragement for that traveler to get back home and provide that information to us, but we're able to juggle things as they come in and handle everything seamlessly with and without all the information that we typically prefer.

Speaker 1:

What changes in travel have you experienced being on the travel agent side? That's probably wasn't there pre-COVID that you see today.

Speaker 2:

We had our inception post-COVID. But I am an avid traveler myself and I think the biggest change that traveler should be aware of is the flexibility with airlines. So they used to be different across the board, more flexible than not, and that changed during COVID. I think there was a period where no one was flexible and everyone lost their money and then they came back and seemed to have a period of a lot of flexibility and that is now gone. So anyone who hasn't really been traveling since that period of flexibility should be very aware that they have created more tiers of ticketing options than used to exist.

Speaker 2:

So making sure that you're selecting that flexible ticket option, especially in business travel, is something that we always recommend. We always think that the trip is set, it's going to happen until another priority comes up or things need to be rearranged within the group that you're in and someone else can go and you have something else you need to get done. So definitely always keeping in mind that those lowest costs, those lowest fares, are usually not flexible and we even see things from economy to a main cabin and you have main cabin non-refundable fares and stuff. So that's something we keep track of so that our travelers don't have to, but if you're not using our services, definitely be mindful of those non-refundable, non-flexible fares.

Speaker 1:

Now I heard you mentioned that you're an avid traveler. Now let's kind of get a little personal here, if we can. What is your most memorable travel experience and why?

Speaker 2:

I'll tell you, I have so many.

Speaker 1:

So I'll tell you the first one that.

Speaker 2:

I thought of when you asked that I was eight months pregnant and we were in Hawaii, one of my favorite places, but it was our first time to the Nepali Coast, which I don't know if you've seen the Nepali Coast, but it's the Jurassic Park looking like just amazingly green, lush mountains, mountains yes, and we were hiking through that. I was eight months pregnant, somehow still making it, and I was thinking through this business plan of River Street Travel and the more time I was there on that trip and hiking I was just falling in love with the idea. So one holds a special place in my heart in Hawaii and the Nepali Coast.

Speaker 1:

Eight months pregnant hiking.

Speaker 2:

Yes, yes, I'll have to send you all, have to send you the picture when we get off the podcast here I look like I was probably being pushed up the mountain, but hiking is my favorite thing to do, so I made it through just fine. Did not deliver the baby while hiking or while on the boat tour.

Speaker 1:

That's funny. So you said you're an avid traveler, you've been to Hawaii. I was thinking about going to Hawaii, but when they had the fires I thought that, mike, is it still worth going over there?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, of course. So the fires were on Maui and I would say two things. I think that if you're interested in going to Maui specifically, which is going to be the island that was impacted just being respectful of the community that was impacted, obviously everyone on that island and all of the islands is going to feel the impact. But it was a very tourist driven area and I think that there's probably still some appreciation for people coming to the island, putting that money back into the economy and not all that disappearing at the same time, but probably having that respect to give those people the space and not, you know, trying to make it back up there or go in that particular area. But there's a lot of other beautiful places in Maui the road to Hanna, other resorts, other areas, lots of things to do there, and then outside of Maui, the rest of the islands as well, are just as beautiful and don't have that same impact right now.

Speaker 1:

Can you share some unique or off the beaten pad travel experiences that you may have arranged for a client?

Speaker 2:

Right now, on the vacation side, we have set destinations so we handle cruise lines, theme parks, all inclusive resorts and we have a partnership with Adventure by Disney and National Geographic. So those are international trips that go to all the wonders of the world and some of the most amazing places, but those are set itineraries so that, through the travel agency, that's what we offer. However, personally, I have always been everyone that I know is personal travel agent- hey, you better be careful.

Speaker 1:

You may get a lot of calls from HTM professionals wanting some travel arrangements taken care of for them.

Speaker 2:

We're prepared for it and we are definitely in the future. You know we're not quite two years old, so we're definitely trying to get there where we also do those custom travels to different locations. For me as a traveler, I think the most important thing when you're utilizing a travel agency is being able to know that you're working with someone who's been there. You know you can get the Google reviews, you can get what everyone else says online and get that handed to you, and sometimes that is super helpful for the busy professionals out there. That's definitely helpful, but I think that it really can, you know, make or break a trip to have those personal recommendations for where someone's been, their perspective and where they would, what they would recommend you doing, based on your personal preferences as well. So we're going to get there with those offerings. Anyone who wants that, just hold on tight. We need to increase our bandwidth first and be able to take care of all of our business client needs, as well as the set vacations that we have.

Speaker 1:

How do you see the future of travel in the HTM industry evolving?

Speaker 2:

In the HTM industry. I think that it's going to continue to evolve with remote monitoring and, luckily for all those HTM professionals who want to break, who don't want to keep flying around all the time, I think that that is going to be a huge shift in the coming years and make it so that there's actually less of a travel requirement. I also think that with HTM servicing the healthcare industry prior to COVID-19, the healthcare industry was very slow to get on board with virtual meetings and I think that has changed and I think that will continue to evolve and change as the younger generations come into leadership in healthcare and we'll see even less travel. So hang on tight. I think it's coming the decrease in the need for travel.

Speaker 1:

Well, I don't know if that's a good thing for you.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, for what we're offering. Maybe not for us, but I empathize with those folks who are traveling every week to a different place, staying in a different hotel, or coming back home for four days to be gone for five days. So I think that there is a positive side to every story.

Speaker 1:

Well, River, I really appreciate you coming on HTM on the line and I wish you luck with the best with RiverTru travels agency. Now, before you leave, can you just share some type of advice for the HTM industry when it comes to making travel arrangements? What advice can you give to those companies who may be handling they travel arrangements in the office?

Speaker 2:

The number one advice I can give them is give us a call. We will expand your administrative support staff, give you that dedicated support and allow your support staff and your travelers more time to do what they need to do the higher priorities for getting your company deadlines and expectations met, and we will take that off their plate for them. So yes, give us a call. Number one advice hands down.

Speaker 1:

Thank you once again, river, and like I said before, you always welcome to come back anytime. I wish you luck and much success with RiverTru travel. Thank you for coming on.

Speaker 2:

Thanks, brian, take care.

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