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Open Innovation: Is there room for a consumer-grade experience in corporate travel? (1/3)

Blog post   •   Sep 20, 2018 09:35 GMT

Travel management companies must evolve from service providers to experience creators

In the quest for a consumer-grade experience, business travelers too often report that there’s much left to be desired. The complexities of competitive shopping, client policy, sort-order preferencing, market variances, carrier differences, hotel rate policies, GDSs, mid-offices, back-offices, and so on - has left the question of user-experience firmly on the backburner.

In the first of a three-part series on CWT’s collaboration with startups to deliver a consumer-grade experience for travelers, I'll be looking at how we evolve in a changing environment.

Fast-forward to 2018. Global travel management companies are facing mounting pressure to lower prices and increase savings while vastly improving the traveler experience. They're finally ready to innovate. But big, global companies move slowly, right? Not this one.

We’re investing in products and services for the modern-day traveler, whose experiences—and more crucially, expectations—are dictated by their everyday, personal interaction with digital brands like Amazon and Uber.

A company that aims to be a global leader in digital business travel must innovate fast. We believe in putting our money where our tagline is. We're investing heavily in technology, up 61% in 2017, and concentrating our firepower on traveler experience. Through our initiatives like Open Innovation, which brings the best ideas from internal and external sources, we’re able to spot the hottest technologies that will shape the future of the travel industry.

As CWT reinvents itself to thrive in this new environment of personalization and consumerization, startups are likewise waking up to a segment of the travel industry that wasn’t on their radar before, armed with the consolidated buying power and the volume, velocity, and richness of data to power their algorithms.

Out of the thousands of startups attacking the business travel space, CWT evaluates several hundred each year as we search for the diamond in the rough. Only a small percentage are invited back into our lab to collaborate on a product or service. This is followed by rigorous testing to find valuable solutions that we can bring to market at scale. We take clients to workshops, partnering with incubators like Plug and Play Tech Center in Silicon Valley, to experience first-hand emerging technologies we are piloting and the difference they can make to travel programs and travelers.

The result is game-changing innovation we have leveraged to improve traveler experience throughout the trip continuum. We’re finding new ways to save money without inconveniencing travelers and are delivering new services for travelers that help them anticipate everything from better times to buy and potential travel disruptions. We are striving for a concierge-level of service for every traveler whether they’re a new hire on a first business trip or a veteran road warrior.

In this new and exciting chapter for corporate travel, travel management companies must be more than service providers. We are experience-creators who ultimately connect people so their businesses succeed.

Blog author: Brandon Balcom, Senior Director, Open Innovation, Carlson Wagonlit Travel

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