is going all out in a bid to reposition itself as a digital travel management company – labelling the initiative as “CWT 3.0”.
The move to overhaul its brand proposition, structure and overhaul of products comes nine months after theof ex- chief commercial officer, Kurt Ekert, to replace Doug Anderson as CEO.
In its most basic form, Ekert says the company wants to “leverage technology to transform the business travel service we offer to become an experience”.
It will do this in a number of ways, Ekert says, but with a heavy swing towards a better slicing and dicing of data (it recently recruited Eric Tyree as its first chief data scientist) and “getting to a consumer-grade experience” with its customer-facing tools and services.
Understanding that the corporate travel sector is going through massive change as business travellers seek more independence and services on-the-go is at the heart of the rethink, Ekert claims, not least with a new generation of people (Millennials) entering the marketplace and demanding the same type of experience from their management company as they do when they travel for leisure.
Perhaps the most noteworthy change to the customer-facing proposition that CWT will provide to business customers is a wholesale rethink about how it handles accommodation.
For the first time, CWT will feature other providers of content into the search and booking platform for hotels.
This will include existing CWT-negotiated rates for properties alongside prices from consolidators and, initially,.
Essentially it has created a consumer marketplace (Ekert will not call it that) for hotel rates within the booking area, although content suppliers will not be vying for position in search results through a metasearch or online travel agency-type media model.
Ekert says TMCs have “traditionally provided very chain-centric solutions” when it comes to securing hotel content, whereas the experience that consumers want now is more akin to an OTA with a wider breadth of options.
Although content may come from third party providers, such as Booking.com, the new platform will continue to provide CTW’s own duty of care and policy protocols over the top.
So-called alternative accommodation options, such as Airbnb, will be included in the platform as long as the end user’s company has authorised the compliance with the provider of the content.
But the most important element, from an accommodation supply perspective, Ekert believes, is that it will be bringing together what has been a range of “fragmented content and fragmented rates” under one roof.
The other major element of the 3.0 project will be how the company says it will transform the “experience” with better use of customer and travel service data.
The company sits on a mountain of data but has yet to fully realise the benefits of what it can do with it.
For example, on the accommodation platform, it wants to be able to notify travel buyers when a hotel is already booked by other members of a company.
Recommendations, personalisation and other data-fuelled tools will also be gradually introduced into the CWT platform, covering the desktop engine, CTW-To-Go mobile app and other “touchpoints” between it and the end user.
“We want to move from being an important service to an invaluable one”, Ekert says.
One downside of the 3.0 initiative will be a reduction in headcount within the global CWT business (currently around 18,000 people).
Ekert says over the course of the next 12 months there is likely to be a reduction of around 0.5% in the net staff figure – approximately 100 people – with the “traveller services” division taking the brunt of the fall, although other departments are expected to increase their headcount.